Energy and Transportation Science Division

News and Events

 

News Archive

This news insert contains our monthly activities for the current year. Please visit our ETSD News and Events Archive for old topics

News Archive

December 2011

Lowering Energy Costs

The New York Time

With energy prices having gone from bad to worse and back to just bad in the last couple of months, homeowners are more determined than ever to find ways to save on heating bills.

The solution, experts say, is simple. “Adding insulation is the first thing a homeowner should do,” said Jeff Christian, of the United States Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

In fact, he said, because of volatile energy prices, the agency has revised its Insulation Fact Sheet, which provides recommendations for insulation in the home. It takes into account insulation and energy costs, dwelling type and amount of existing insulation to arrive at the optimum amount, based on a structure’s location. (You can find the sheet by typing “Insulation Fact Sheet” into the search box at the home page of ornl.gov.)

“And the part of the house that most people can do something about is the attic,” he said.

The television host Bob Vila said that houses built 20 to 40 years ago probably have fiberglass insulation 6 to 9 inches deep, either blown in or in fitted batting, between the attic floor joists. But that does not produce a high enough total R-value, he said, referring to the measurement of a material’s ability to resist heat flow. So most houses probably need more insulation.

There are a couple of options. One, he said, is to blow loose insulation — either cellulose or fiberglass — over the top of the existing insulation. Most home centers will lend a machine to blow the insulation from outdoors, where it is loaded, up through the house and into the attic. The insulation itself costs about $11 a bag for cellulose and $27 for fiberglass, but the ultimate cost to the homeowner is about the same, as fewer bags of fiberglass are needed. A 100-square-foot space would need about 2.5 bags of cellulose or 1 bag of fiberglass.

Another option is fiberglass batting, precut lengths of fiberglass insulation that fit between floor joists.

Gale Tedhams, of Owens Corning, a fiberglass-insulation manufacturer in Toledo, Ohio, said that for most houses, attic-floor insulation should be 19 inches deep if batting or 22 if blown. “Adding what you need is very easy,” she said. Usually, she said, it is best to apply “unfaced” batting perpendicular to the floor joists. Faced insulation has paper or foil on one side as a vapor barrier. If insulation is already there, unfaced is better to use to avoid condensation between barriers.

Owens Corning retailers also sell loose fiberglass and provide a machine to install it, the AttiCat, which is free if part of a promo- tion or up to $100 a day to rent, based on how much is needed.

If the attic is a living space, it is necessary to insulate between the roof rafters instead of the floor joists. The traditional way is batting; another option is spray polyurethane foam insulation.

Alex Wilson, the president of BuildingGreen of Brattleboro, Vt., said there are two types of spray-on polyurethane: closed- cell and open-cell. Closed-cell is mixed as it is sprayed and then quickly expands to fit. Open-cell, a newer product, is also sprayed but expands even more. Closed- cell is about $1.20 for a one-inch- thick square foot, including prof- essional installation; open-cell, half that. Open-cell has a slightly lower R-value, but Mr. Wilson said it is comparable to closed- cell, since a thinner layer of closed-cell is usually applied.

Open-cell is available in a slow- ly expanding form that can be poured into a cavity and used to retrofit uninsulated walls in ex- isting buildings. Whatever is used, optimal insulation is a must. “The price gyrations over the last couple of years have de- monstrated how vulnerable we are,” he said, referring to fuel. “We just can’t depend on low prices sticking around anymore.” 


What motivates spending on energy efficiency studied

By Larisa Brass
Posted December 5, 2011 at midnight

Amy Wolfe, an anthropologist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is one of the few researchers focused on the consumer mindset regarding energy efficiency.

Utilities are launching incentive programs, companies are hawking products from LED light bulbs to Energy Star-rated HVAC systems, the government has poured millions of dollars into ad campaigns — all designed to encourage customers to become more energy efficient.

So what makes them bite?

That’s what Amy Wolfe, researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is working to find out.

An anthropologist among the engineers, biologists and other scientists in the lab’s environmental sciences division, Wolfe is studying the behaviors that make consumers embrace or reject energy efficient technologies and practices.

“In general, it has proved difficult to get people to sign on to do these programs,” she says. “What we’re trying to do is figure out other channels with which to appeal to people.”

Wolfe is working with colleague Jeff Christian, an engineer, to retrofit local homes with technologies and renovations that will result in energy savings of 40 to 50 percent. Each participant’s home undergoes an energy audit, performed through TVA’s Energy Right program, which is followed by recommendations from Christian.

Wolfe is conducting two to three interviews with the homeowners, asking why they decided to adopt certain technologies and not others, about any change in behaviors related to efficiency and how they feel about their choices when the renovations are complete. The 11 homeowners range from those who have exceeded the recommendations to those who have yet to do any work. Although incentives are included in the program, homeowners signed on expecting to pay for the bulk of the work themselves.

While the homeowners don’t represent the population as a whole — it’s a very small group of homeowners who have both the desire and wherewithal to carry out the retrofits — the project will offer insight into what motivates customers to embrace energy efficiency or discourages them from following through with their intentions, she says.

“I find it really interesting to see, even in this set of people that you might think is similar … there’s a tremendous amount of variation, not just in what they do but in what they think,” Wolfe says.

For example, one homeowner went beyond Christian’s recommendations for home improvements and “kept adding and adding and adding on,” she says. “They’re extremely happy with what they’ve done, but if you were thinking about any kind of payback, there’s just no way. They see it as their patriotic duty.”

Others were motivated by cost savings, while one homeowner was simply tired of living in a drafty house. “She didn’t care what money she saved down the road,” Wolfe says.

Wolfe’s work represents the kind of research that’s needed in a sector that’s been dominated by an engineering and utility mindset, says Susan Mazur-Stommen, who was recently appointed to the new position of director of behavior and human dimensions at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, based in Washington, D.C.

“One thing I’m finding is that, as I’m prepping my research and reviewing literature and looking at numbers, there are still a lot of untested, ungrounded assumptions baked into a lot of people’s previous research or findings in terms of people’s behavior,” she says. “Anthropologists are late to arrive on the scene.”

She relates a conversation with a fellow “soccer mom,” in which the woman revealed that, although she lived in a home half the size of Mazur-Stommen’s, her electricity bill was twice as much.

“This is an educated woman, working for the school district,” she says. “This whole messaging business has never gotten to her. She just lived with it like it was the weather.”

One problem, Mazur-Stommen says, is the way energy efficiency is promoted.

“Often times utilities position it as, ‘You can save energy,’ ” she says, but without context, this message has no meaning for consumers.

Another issue, she says, is that while utilities across the country are introducing programs to improve energy efficiency, no studies examine their effectiveness as a whole. And the research that’s being done often doesn’t incorporate terminology that people understand, she says. For example, someone asked in a questionnaire whether they carpool might say, “no.” But if asked whether they “get a lift” to school or work, “there may be a verydifferent finding,” she says.

Regional differences existing as well. Next year, ACEEE will be traveling to the South — with planned stops in Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and possibly Tennessee and other neighboring states—to talk with consumers in a variety of settings to better understanding energy consumption and consumers’ mindset.

The upshot is coming up with methods for encouraging energy efficiency that actually work.

For instance, Wolfe says, while TVA and local utilities may promote energy efficiency, actually getting the work done can be an overwhelming prospect to their customers.

“One of the things (study participants) value almost uniformly in this project is the access to an unbiased source of information,” Wolfe says, referring to ORNL’s involvement in the projects. “They’re not sure what they should do first, and rather than taking a very expensive chance that they might do something wrong, they do nothing.”

Larisa Brass is a contributing writer to the Greater Knoxville Business Journal.

© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

November 2011

Technology Partnerships Are Yielding Reliable, Cost-Saving Appliances

By Roland Risser
Program Manager
Building Technologies Program
ENERGY.GOV

 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory's facility tests several water heaters at one time. Because of ORNL's accelerated durability testing, they estimate that 10 months of constant operation in its testing facility is comparable to 10 years of service life in a typical residential setting. | Photo courtesy of the Building Technologies Research and Integration Center, ORNL


Out of sight and out of mind, the humble water heater goes mostly unnoticed until the day it quits and you miss that hot morning shower.

Despite its inconspicuous role in your home, heating water for bathing, cleaning, and laundry can be the second largest household energy expense. In fact, Americans spent a whopping $33.8 billion on residential water heating in 2010 -- anywhere from $200 to $600 per household. And the market for innovative water heaters that will save consumers money by saving energy is continuing to grow. In the U.S., the demand for energy-efficient water heaters grew from 625,000 units shipped in 2006 to 1 million in 2009.

Energy Department partnerships with industry are driving many of the product innovations that have made reliable and efficient water heating an affordable option for consumers.

For 35 years, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Building Technologies Program has spearheaded research and development activities resulting in more energy-efficient residential water heaters. Technology advances such as electric heat pump water heaters (HPWH) are making it easier and cheaper for manufacturers to design and produce reasonably priced, reliable, efficient  water heaters for homes across the country.

One of the first successful electric water heater products to come to market is General Electric’s GeoSpring heat pump water heater. Before the company moved forward to introduce the technology to market, GE entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in 2008 to rigorously test the new product. Final test results showed the GeoSpring water heater used less than half the energy of a conventional 50-gallon tank water heater and could last at least 10 years. Because of the R&D investments made through this successful public-private partnership, families can now save more than $300 per year on energy bills by using the GeoSpring water heater.

Along with many other electric and gas water heaters, the Geospring is ENERGY STAR-qualified, meaning it delivers important energy and cost savings.  The ENERGY STAR program is a partnership between the Energy Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that highlights the benefits that can come when the country’s public and private sectors work together to accelerate the development and deployment of energy-efficient technologies.

The many partnerships between the Energy Department, national laboratories and consumer product companies get to take the credit for the broad market adoption of many of these advanced technologies. By providing independent verification of energy efficiency claims, the ENERGY STAR and national laboratory programs help manufacturers, retailers, builders, and plumbers offer their customers reliable, affordable products that save money without sacrificing performance. 


 

October 2011

Have Politics Battered Climate Change Talk?

By Margaret Ryan
AolEnergy.
Published: October 11, 2011


Climate change solutions were battered by the recession and political shifts have pushed the issue to the sidelines of the US energy debate, while international climate talks remain mired in the same arguments that have derailed consensus for years.

That was the message from speakers at the US Association of Energy Economists conference October 11 in Washington, DC. In the US, they say the only climate-related action in the next few years will probably come from the Environmental Protection Agency, while internationally, there's no sign of any progress for December's UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Durban, South Africa.

Margot Anderson of the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank said there is "no national bipartisan narrative on energy and climate" in the current political landscape. While the 2009 stimulus program supplied $42 billion for climate-related research and projects, now Congress is cutting DOE programs.

Dallas Burtraw of Resources for the Future said states and localities are key players in climate change issues, since they control land use and implement many environmental rules under the US system of "environmental federalism." At issue now is whether states will be leaders in climate change, like California and the northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or will be pre-empted and stopped by federal fiat.

Stephen Eule of the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy said the EPA's pending regulations tightening limits on pollutants like sulfur, nitrogen and mercury will also cut carbon.

He said the 2009 Waxman-Markey bill, at 1,400 pages, was far too complex to be workable. Cap and trade only works by making energy more expensive, he said, and that's "bad for the economy."

Burtraw said there is no economic gain if energy is nominally cheap but has a "hidden tax" of negative health effects.

Internationally, Burtraw noted that much of the $100 billion in climate aid promised by the US at Copenhagen by 2020 was to come from the private market purchasing carbon off-sets in emerging nations. "That will not happen without cap and trade," he warned.

Eule said the most important number for climate negotiations is 67 – the number of US Senators required to ratify any new US treaty commitment. The developed nations in the Kyoto Protocol are balking at extending their carbon-cutting commitments unless the US and China both adopt parallel commitments. The US has always rejected Kyoto, and China contends it is a developing nation with no obligation to take on carbon cuts.

The developed and developing nations remain at loggerheads over climate adaptation and mitigation aid, with some developing nations demanding 0.5-3% of developed nations' gross domestic product – "a wealth transfer that no Western government will agree to," Eule said.
"Essentially, the talks are stuck," he said, not just for the upcoming Durban meeting but for the foreseeable future.

A related factor, said David Greene of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is the public's being led to believe that there is no scientific consensus on climate change. In fact, he said, that consensus is "overwhelming," but a "deliberate attempt to misinform the public" has been "a success."

Eule said there had also been deliberate misinformation by climate advocates about the scale and difficulty of what has to be done to reduce emissions enough to make a difference.

Anderson said "the jury is still out" on whether many "green" measures will prove to be job creators or not in the long run. "That's why we're struggling," she said.

Photo Caption: Former US Vice-President and environmental activist Al Gore speaks during an environmental summit in Guayaquil, Ecuador on March 17, 2011.

EPA offical: the future of the internal combustion engine is bright and clear

Green Car Congress
Energy, Technologies, Issues and Policies for Sustainable Mobility

5 October 2011

The future of the IC engine is bright and clear; I don’t think that could be any more obvious to all of us,” said Byron Bunker, Director, Heavy Duty Engine Center, Office of Transportation and Air Quality, US Environmental Protection Agency during his remarks in a panel discussion on the role for internal combustion engines in the energy future at the US Department of Energy’s 2011 Directions in Engine-Efficiency and Emissions Research Conference (DEER) in Detroit.

Even while projecting to the future and talking about batteries and electric vehicles, he said, “when you look at our actual analysis and you look to our projections for the future, 95% or more of the vehicles, all of the heavy-duty vehicles in our analysis are relying on IC engines. The future that we point to [is] very conventional-looking engines.”

Bunker spent the bulk of his presentation describing the new medium- and heavy-duty fuel economy and greenhouse gas regulations from EPA and the Department of Transportation. (Earlier post.) However, in closing, he shared some thoughts on attributes of future engines:

  • Engine should become more robust to fuel variation;

  • Engine should trade elastic power delivery for higher peak efficiency;

  • New engines need to be able to be produced in high volume to control costs but tailored to individual duty cycle to optimize performance—especially in the heavy-duty vehicle sector; and

  • Sophisticated adaptive control schemes and new sensor technologies will be critical.

While many over time have grown dismissive of radical new engine ideas, remember that they have the opportunity to change the dynamic...we should not discount novel engine designs.

—Byron Bunker

Bunker’s emphasis on the general ongoing importance of the internal combustion engine—along with the different technology pathways for improving their efficiency—were echoed by a number of DEER speakers, looking at light-duty as well as medium- and heavy-duty sectors.

Hugh Blaxill, Managing Director of Mahle Powertrain, for example, said that the current surge in volume of 4-cylinder engines along with the rapid ramp in direct injection and variable valvetrain technologies across all manufacturers marks the start of a sharp increase in downsized applications and hybrid powertrains.

In the longer term (out toward 2030), Mahle sees increasing downsizing, with a surge in 3-cylinder applications, increasing electrification, and increased use of bio- and gaseous fuels.

In his talk during the opening plenary, Dr. David Greene of Oak Ridge National Laboratory put the importance of improving efficiency in the transportation sector in the broader context of an ultimate transition to a different form of energy—i.e., non-petroleum-based—for transportation.

He suggested that in the face of the three major energy challenges for the global transportation system—climate change mitigation, energy security, and sustainability—“the number one priority, I think, is and should be improving the energy efficiency of the global transportation system.

Other things are important as well, eventually bringing alternative energy...into the transportation system. Electricity, hydrogen, biofuels. But for right now, our top priority should be what you all are working on which is improving energy efficiency. To do that cost-effectively—which means to do it at all—requires both advanced technology and effective pubic policy.

...At the end of the day, if we are going to get to a sustainable transportation system, for 2050 and beyond, and if we are going to get to petroleum independence...I mean shrinking the problem to a manageable size which we can do without getting completely off of oil, if we are going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level to avoid dangerous climate change, ultimately almost certainly we are going to have to introduce a different form of energy to run our transportation system.

As I said, this will be a whole lot easier if we can double the energy efficiency of transportation at the same time. Let’s shrink the size of that task by a factor of four. That’s very important.

There have been major energy transitions in the past...they have all be driven by market forces. We are facing a much more difficult challenge, I believe, which is to induce a transition to alternative energy for public goods. For energy security, for protection of the environment, and for sustainability of energy for future generation. These are not going to be achieved by market forces.

So we are embarking on something that is new and different and hasn’t been done before by human society. Improving energy efficiency will shrink the size of that task by a factor of four, and it is our number one, most important priority today.

—David Greene

Story Tips from the DOE's ORNL – P.T. Jones

Released: 10/4/2011 1:30 PM EDT
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory


Newswise — To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications and External Relations staff member identified at the end of each tip. For more information on ORNL and its research and development activities, please refer to one of our Media Contacts. If you have a general media-related question or comment, you can send it to news@ornl.gov.

RACING -- Green checkered flag . . .

Getting to the finish line quickest with the least environmental impact is what’s driving the Green Racing initiative that has made its way to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Through the program, fans of racing and the environment are learning about fast cars, energy efficiency and emissions. “Green Racing incorporates a scoring formula that takes into account the amount of fuel consumed, the number of laps completed, speed, energy efficiency and the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during the race,” said ORNL’s P.T. Jones, who heads the project for the Department of Energy. Making the learning more fun is the Green Racing Simulator, developed at Argonne National Laboratory. The simulator provides an arcade-like experience and generates a score based on information that mirrors the metrics of the Green Challenge competition. Jones noted that another goal is to support industry’s efforts to accelerate the transfer of efficient automotive technologies from the track to the driveway. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]


August 2011

Live Green At Heart: Home Energy

 

As the cost of energy increases more homeowners are looking for ways to make their houses more energy efficient. With the help of the Oak Ridge National Lab, a Rockwood man has gone all out to cut his utility bills.

John Shaw decided that when he did a kitchen makeover and fixed a roof problem, he would tackle a bigger issue. He invested an additional $8,000 to use less energy. 

The first job was to seal up the air leaks and add insulation. He then replaced his old air conditioner with a different design. Eliminating the outside ductwork makes the entire system more efficient.

He bought new appliances and installed LED and florescent lights. "Everybody can do this. You can call your utility, wherever that bill is going to and have a home energy evaluation. Take about 90 minutes of your time. Somebody walks through and customizes your long term plan for that house," said ORNL Building Researcher Jeff Christian.

John's house is one of ten retrofitted energy upgrades being studied by ORNL. Temperatures, Humidity and electric use are monitored by computers at the lab in a year long study. 

Shaw's electric bill for July was $106, which is 35% less than July 2010. With those kind of savings it will take ten to eleven years to pay for the improvements. 

The Department of Energy said investment in home's energy improvements will not only reduce the country's need for oil, but create jobs as well.


UT receives $18 million award to study nation's power grid

By Megan Boehnke
knoxnews.com
Post: August 18, 2011

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2011 // Buy this photo

University of Tennessee researchers Kevin Tomsovic, left, and Yilu Liu discuss their five-year $18 million federal grant to study the nation's energy grid during a news conference Wednesday at the Science and Engineering Building. They will head a new center that will focus on finding efficient methods of transferring electric power that could be used to build a new "smart grid" to deliver the nation's power. (MICHAEL PATRICK / NEWS SENTINEL)


Even before he accepted the job at the University of Tennessee, Kevin Tomsovic was accessing how to assemble a dynamic team that could lead the country in finding solutions for the nation's outdated power grid.

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2011
Buy this photo »

A frequency disturbance recorder developed by the University of Tennessee which was partly responsible for them being awarded an $18 million federal award to lead a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center that will study the transfer of electrical energy. The new center, called CURENT or Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electrical Energy Transmission Networks, will focus on finding efficient methods of transferring electric power that could be used to build a new "smart grid" to deliver the nation's power. (MICHAEL PATRICK / NEWS SENTINEL)

Three years later that vision came to life when the National Science Foundation announced Wednesday that UT was chosen to lead a prestigious Engineering Research Center to study the transfer of electrical energy. The five-year, $18 million joint NSF and Department of Energy award has positioned UT to be at the forefront of President Barack Obama's plan to overhaul the nation's energy grid.

"It's a chance to really make a difference in how the power grid is operated in the future and will allow us to more easily integrate renewable (energy)," Tomsovic said. "We put together a very, very good team. It's first and foremost about the people."

Tomsovic, head of UT's electrical engineering and computer science department, and colleague Yilu Liu, a Governor's Chair and top researcher in the country on power transmission systems, will lead the new center at UT.

The Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electrical Energy Transmission Networks — or CURENT — will work with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee Valley Authority and more than 40 industry partners to find efficient methods of transferring electric power that could be used to build a new "smart grid" to deliver the nation's power.


This is the first time UT has been selected to lead a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center and only 33 schools have been selected to lead a center since NSF founded the program in 1984.

Though Tomsovic and Liu have been conducting research in the field of power transmission since the 1980s, the combination of increasing population and the introduction of renewable energies like solar and wind have put stress the current grid not designed to handle either. The resulting blackouts and lost energy has thrust the issue of revamping the system into the national conversation, making this a good time to be a researcher in the field, said Tomsovic.

"I think the thing is if there's more investments then actually things are going to get implemented. So you really have a chance to start seeing research have an impact on the system," Tomsovic said.

Obama announced in June new policies to accelerate the development of a "smart grid," including loans to deploy new technology, partnerships with private industry and resources for the public at http://www.smartgrid.gov.

Liu, who Tomsovic recruited from Virginia Tech two years ago, has been monitoring the power production and use through thousands of frequency disturbance recorders installed in different parts of the nation's grid. New investments mean expanding the monitoring to help better understand the

"Before you take any action, you need to see what's going on, so monitoring is an essential first step, then this will lead to better information knowledge and eventually control," Liu said.

Though the grant is guaranteed for five years, it can be renewed over the next 10 years.

"It also opens up a lot of other opportunities, and by the nature of receiving these things you become the place for doing this sort of research," Tomsovic said. "We're already being contacted by people who want to be associated with it."


Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.


Dr. David Greene's Comments (Obama Claims Connection Between Fuel Standards, Jobs, But Reality is Complicated)

By: Amy Harder
Uodated: August 12, 2011
NationalJournal

President Obama speaks Thursday on fuel efficiency and new jobs at Johnson Controls advanced battery facility in Holland, Mich.

President Obama says his new automobile fuel economy standards will create jobs.

Not so fast.

What he doesn’t say is that those standards will lead to sustained job creation only if Americans choose to buy more fuel-efficient cars in the coming years. And if recent history is true, the driving decision behind that will be the price of gas.

Over the past two weeks, Obama has repeatedly touted his ambitious new fuel-economy standards as good for the environment and good for the economy. While the first part of that statement may be self-evident, the second is open to debate.

On Thursday, Obama again claimed a nexus between higher mileage vehicles and jobs, this time while touring the Holland, Mich., plant of Johnson Controls, which builds advanced batteries for hybrid and electric cars.

“I brought together the world’s largest auto companies who agreed, for the first time, to nearly double the distance their cars can go on a gallon of gas,” Obama said. “That’s going to save consumers thousands of dollars at the pump. It’s going to cut our dependence on foreign oil. It’s going to promote innovation and jobs, and it’s going to mean more groundbreakings and more job postings for companies like Johnson Controls.”

The new fuel-economy standards apply to cars and light trucks through 2025 and – for the first time – to heavy trucks through 2018. Cars and light trucks must reach an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 (up from the current 28 mpg). The truck standards require cuts of 7 to 20 percent in fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions for trucks between 2014 and 2018.

But an underreported aspect of the standards is that they’re based on what automakers sell, not what they build. And Obama included a possible escape clause for automakers: A 2018 review of the car standards that could let automakers argue for reducing the miles-per-gallon targets if the most fuel-efficient cars aren’t selling.

“It all boils down to figuring out what the consumer is going to do,” said Dean Drake, president of the Defour Group, a consulting firm that advises the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “They don’t value fuel economy the way the government values it.”

Experts say most car buyers don’t base their decision exclusively or even primarily on greater fuel economy – especially if the most fuel-efficient cars are more expensive.

“It would take an extraordinary combination of high gasoline prices and unexpectedly low cost of technology to even make this [new fuel economy standards] jobs-neutral,” Drake said. “It’s very, very difficult to imagine a circumstance in which you could add thousands of dollars to costs of new cars and create jobs.”

Consumer behavior changes when gas prices are consistently high.

In March, hybrid car sales jumped 46 percent above the same month in 2010, spurred by this spring’s soaring gasoline prices, according to auto market analysts Baum & Associates.

“When the price of fuel is high, it encourages consumers to demand more fuel-efficient cars and enables the use of more expensive technology to make cars more fuel-efficient,” said David Greene, an expert on this subject at the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Still, the growth in hybrid sales is relative. The 30 gas-electric hybrids on the market combined accounted for 2.4 percent of all U.S. auto sales last year – and were outsold by the single best-selling pickup truck, the Ford F-150, said Gloria Bergquist of the Alliance, a coalition of most of the world’s biggest auto manufacturers.

Greene says that the one sure way to ensure high gas prices, and thus prompt sustained hybrid sales and job growth, is through a new federal gas tax.

Good luck getting that through Congress.


30th edition of the Transportation Energy Data Book is online

The Transportation Energy Data Book (30th ed.) debuted on the website on July 25, 2011. The Transportation Energy Data Book is a compendium of data on transportation, with an emphasis on energy. Designed for use as a desktop reference, the TEDB was first published in 1976 and has continued to the 30th edition. The TEDB is produced by the Center for Transportation Analysis for DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The TEDB's most current electronic version is available in Excel and PDF formats and can be found here. Hard copies of the book are currently being printed. To receive a hard copy of the book once they are available, e-mail Stacy Davis at davissc@ornl.gov


June 2011

ORNL researchers win seven R&D 100 Awards -- ETSD wins three of the seven R&D 100 Awards

Media Contact: Miriam Kramer
Communications and External Relations
865.241.9515
News Release

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., June 22, 2011 — Scientists and engineers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have received seven R&D 100 Awards presented by R&D Magazine.

These awards, sometimes referred to as the "Academy Awards of Science," honor the 100 most outstanding advances in technology for the year and are chosen by an expert panel of independent judges and the editors of R&D Magazine.

"I want to congratulate this year's R&D 100 award winners," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said. "The Department of Energy's national laboratories and sites are at the forefront of innovation, and it is gratifying to see their work recognized once again. The cutting-edge research and development done in our national labs and facilities is helping to meet our energy challenges, strengthen our national security and enhance our economic competitiveness."

The seven awards bring the total number of R&D 100 awards won by ORNL researchers over the years to 164.

"Winning seven of these prestigious awards is a testimony to the talent and creativity of a remarkable staff," ORNL Director Thom Mason said. "Our researchers do a tremendous job of delivering our mission of scientific discovery and innovation."

ORNL / ETSD researchers were recognized for the following technologies:

Mesoporous Carbon for Capacitive Deionization Electrodes for Desalination, developed and jointly submitted by ORNL's Sheng Dai and Richard Mayes of the Chemical Sciences Division, David DePaoli and Costas Tsouris of the Energy and Transportation Science Division, James Kiggans Jr. of the Materials Science and Technology Division, Craig Blue, director of the Energy Materials Program, Charles Schaich of the Measurment Science and Systems Engineering Division, former post doctoral researcher Xiquing Wang and Frederic W. Seamon III of Campbell Applied Physics. This novel technology makes it possible to desalinate large quantities of water more effectively than conventional technologies. Instead of using thermal or membrane separation—which can be costly and consume high amounts of energy—this desalinization tool can absorb salt ions by running brackish water through mesoporous carbon, inexpensively making the water fit for human consumption. This technology could make it possible for large numbers of the world's population to create safe drinking water at a relatively low cost. The DOE's Office of Science and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy provided funding for this research.

Isaac Mahderekal, Abdolreza Zaltash, Randall Linkous, Randall Wetherington, Ed Vineyard, Patrick Geoghegan 

NextAire Packaged Gas Heat Pump, jointly developed and submitted by ORNL's Ed Vineyard, Abdolreza Zaltash, Randall Linkous and Isaac Mahderekal of the Energy and Transportation Science Division, Randall Wetherington of the Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division, Patrick Geoghegan of the Neutron Facilities Development Division and Southwest Gas, an investor-owned utility serving customers in Arizona, Nevada and portions of California and IntelliChoice Energy, headquartered in Phoenix. The gas heat pump technology is used to heat and cool small and medium sized buildings using fuel—typically natural gas—instead of electricity to power the compressor. To operate conventional electric heat pumps, fuel is converted to electricity at power plants, resulting in waste heat discharged to the environment. In addition, further energy losses occur as the electricity is transmitted over power lines and converted to mechanical power by the compressor. By reducing conversion and transmission losses, the NextAire unit significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. By converting fuel at the gas heat pump location, waste heat to the atmosphere is dramatically reduced and exhaust heat given off by the engine can be used to supplement the heat provided by the unit. The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Industrial Technologies Program and the National Energy Technology Laboratory funded this joint venture.

CermaClad, jointly developed and submitted by MesoCoat of Euclid, Ohio, Edison Materials Technology Center of Dayton, Ohio, and ORNL. The ORNL team consists of Craig Blue, director of the Energy Materials Program, Art Clemons of the Energy Materials Program, Nancy Dudney, Chad Duty, David Harper, Adrian Sabau and Vinod Sikka of the Materials Science and Technology Division, Ron Ott of the Energy and Transportation Science Division and John Rivard of the Global Security Directorate.


May 2011

Gas tanks are draining family budgets

WATE.com

By JONATHAN FAHEY
AP Energy Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - There's less money this summer for hotel rooms, surfboards and bathing suits. It's all going into the gas tank.

High prices at the pump are putting a squeeze on the family budget as the traditional summer driving season begins. For every $10 the typical household earns before taxes, almost a full dollar now goes toward gas, a 40 percent bigger bite than normal.

Households spent an average of $369 on gas last month. In April 2009, they spent just $201. Families now spend more filling up than they spend on cars, clothes or recreation. Last year, they spent less on gasoline than each of those things.

Jeffrey Wayman of Cape Charles, Va., spent Friday riding his motorcycle to North Carolina's Outer Banks, a day trip with his wife. They decided to eat snacks in a gas station parking lot rather than buy lunch because rising fuel prices have eaten so much into their budget over the past year that they can't ride as frequently as they would like.

"We used to do it a lot more, but not as much now," he said. "You have to cut back when you have a $480 gas bill a month."

Alex Martinez, a senior at Arcadia High School outside Los Angeles, said his family's trips to San Francisco, which they usually take once or more a year, are on hold. As he stopped at a gas station to put $5 of fuel in his car - not much more than a gallon - he said the high prices are crimping social life for him and his friends.

"We're always worrying, 'How are we going to get home. We've got less than half a gallon left,'" Martinez said. "We definitely can't go out as much, and we can't go as far."

As Memorial Day weekend opens, the nationwide average for a gallon of unleaded is $3.81. Though prices have drifted lower in recent days, analysts expect average price for 2011 to come in higher than the previous record, $3.25 in 2008. A year ago, gas cost $2.76.

The squeeze is happening at a time when most people aren't getting raises, even as the economy recovers.

"These increases are not something consumers can shrug off," says James Hamilton, an economics professor at the University of California, San Diego, who studies gas prices. "It's a key part of the family budget."

The ramifications are far-reaching for an economy still struggling to gain momentum two years into a recovery. Economists say the gas squeeze makes people feel poorer than they actually are.

They're showing it by limiting spending far beyond the gas station. Wal-Mart recently blamed high gas prices for an eighth straight quarter of lower sales in the U.S. Target said gas prices were hurting sales of clothes.

Every 50-cent jump in the cost of gasoline takes $70 billion out of the U.S. economy over the course of a year, Hamilton says. That's about one half of one percent of gross domestic product.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that consumer spending rose just 0.1 percent in April, excluding the extra money spent on more expensive gas and food, while wages stayed flat for the second straight month.

Mike Nason, a marketing consultant from Laguna Niguel, Calif., says he's clipping coupons to save money for gas and cutting back wherever else he can. His daughter Chandler, 17, recently settled for a prom dress that cost $170 instead of asking her parents to spend $400 for another that caught her eye.

"In prior years we would have spent more money on the dress, but money has become a big object," he says.

The tourism industry is bracing for an uncertain summer. AAA predicts the typical family will spend $692 on its vacation, down 14 percent from $809 last year. Many of those surveyed said they are planning shorter trips and expect to pinch pennies when they arrive.

AAA estimates 34.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this weekend, an increase of about 100,000 from last year. But they will have to do more complicated math to make the summer budget work.

The median household income in the U.S. before taxes is just below $50,000, or about $4,150 per month. The $369 that families spent last month on gas represented 8.9 percent of monthly household income, according to an analysis by Fred Rozell, retail pricing director at Oil Price Information Service. Since 2000, the average is about 5.7 percent. For the year, the figure is 7.9 percent.

Only twice before have Americans spent this much of their income on gas. In 1981, after the last oil crisis, Americans spent 8.8 percent of household income on gas. In July 2008, when oil price spiked, they spent 10.2 percent.

Average hourly earnings, meanwhile, have risen just 1.9 percent in the past year. That's only just enough to keep up with inflation.

The good news is that analysts expect gas to fall to $3.50 a gallon in the coming weeks. In order for household gasoline expenses to return to their historical place in the family budget for the year, gas prices would have to fall by about half and stay that way for the rest of the year.

Demand for gasoline has fallen for eight straight weeks as drivers try to cut back, but higher prices can't keep drivers parked for long. Even with high prices this year, the government expects gasoline demand to grow slightly for the year.

"Drivers try to do what they can, but they have to go almost all the places they go," says David Greene, a researcher at the Center of Transportation Analysis at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and manager of the Department of Energy website fueleconomy.gov. "There's no magic gizmo that will drastically change someone's gasoline use."

Mike Siroub clutched his heart as he described the experience of filling up lately. He owns a Union Oil gas station in Arcadia, Calif., but one of his cars is also a 1975 Oldsmobile.

"Think about it," he said. "If you've got a car with a 30-gallon tank and gas is $4 a gallon and you fill it up, you're out $120."

He says high gas prices will keep him home this weekend. And he runs a gas station for a living. As he greeted a steady stream of customers at his station, he laughed and said, "I have to pay for gas just like everyone else."

___

Associated Press writers John Rogers in Los Angeles and Brock Vergakis in Norfolk, Va., contributed to this story.

Jonathan Fahey can be reached at http://www.facebook.com/Fahey.Jonathan .

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Inventor Maxey recognized at Battelle event

ORNL Today

Curt Maxey

Curt Maxey was recognized as ORNL's Inventor of the Year at the Battelle 2011 Achievement Awards Banquet, held Friday evening, April 29, at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio. Jeff Wadsworth, Battelle President and CEO, and former ORNL Laboratory Director, presided over the event, in which 37 individuals or teams were recognized for their contributions to Battelle's success in The Business of Innovation . Each of the National Laboratories Battelle manages was invited to send their most recent Inventor of the Year for recognition. Ron Townsend, Executive Vice President of Global Laboratory Operations, and former ORAU President, presented the awards to the National Laboratory participants.


April 2011

Story Tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Released: 4/5/2011 2:20 PM EDT
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Newswise

SENSORS -- Thwarting tax evaders . . .

An estimated $1 billion in lost revenue each year is fueling an effort by Oak Ridge National Laboratory to prevent fuel tax evasions. The system being developed by a team led by Gary Capps will use evidential reasoning techniques, fuel markers, sensor and vehicle tracking devices to monitor, track and detect the movements of petroleum products. “We’ll be able to determine the legitimacy of the movements and fuel loading and unloading, thereby enabling shippers and regulators to better keep track of the disposition of taxed and non-taxed petroleum-based products,” Capps said. The system is being developed with assistance from Pilot Oil, based in Knoxville, Tenn. Money collected through the federal fuel tax funds the Highway Trust Fund, which is in turn apportioned to states for highway projects.

VEHICLES -- “Just in time” . . .

A newly patented technology from Oak Ridge National Laboratory can help extend the lifetime of batteries in plug-in hybrid vehicles by optimizing the battery’s state of charge while driving. Developed by ORNL’s Robert DeVault, the computerized control uses data about recharging locations to improve the coordination of the battery and engine operation for trips beyond the vehicle’s electric range. Knowing where charging stations are located can improve how the vehicle rations its battery power for longer battery life. By maintaining a higher state-of-charge during most of a trip, the patented control ensures that the battery enters a final discharge mode at the end of a trip “just in time” to obtain maximum recharging from the electric grid. “If you don’t know where the trip is going to end, the engine’s generator will make more electricity then you need to get to where you plug in. That lowers efficiency, reduces capacity for getting electricity from the grid, and wastes fuel because you’re operating the engine more than needed,” DeVault said. Patent variations include the ability to implement the “just in time” control method without a navigation system or driver input.


Ullman Award Winner

Dr. David Greene has been selected as the 2011 winner of the Edward L. Ullman Award from the Transportation Geography Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers.


February 2011

Is Knoxville Ready for Electric Cars?

Nissan rolls out its new battery-powered vehicles to an unlikely test market: East Tennessee
By: Cari Wade Gervin
Metro Pulse

photo by David Luttrell

Plug In, Turn On: Leslie Grossman gets ready to charge her Jeep Wrangler, which she had retrofitted to make it all-electric.


There it was.

There, just behind the row of television cameramen and still photographers, all lined up for the big moment. There was no red carpet; there were no sexy models like at the Detroit Auto Show. But there it was, under a giant white cloth in the middle of Nashville’s Action Nissan showroom: the state of Tennessee’s first Nissan Leaf. The state’s first next-generation mass-consumer all-electric car. And, if you buy into the hype (or hope), the first of thousands of such vehicles that will soon be flooding East Tennessee roadways.

“This truly is a historic day for Tennessee,” says Ryan Gooch, the director of energy policy for the state of Tennessee, just before the Leaf is unveiled and the non-keys handed over to its lucky owner. (Like an electric appliance, the Leaf starts with the push of a button, not the turn of a key.)

“As we look back on our clean energy future, this trend of sustainable mobility, it really is an important one,” Gooch continues. “And you all will be able to say you were here the first time in Tennessee when somebody drove this off the lot … [Y]ou will be able to say you were part of the movement that helped changed really how we drive, and how we move people from place to place in the United States.”

But can a car that can’t even make it from Nashville to Knoxville on one battery charge really change the way people drive? (Even if there will soon be charging stations at Cracker Barrels along the way?) And can a state that leans so politically rightward ever embrace a car that’s even more of a leftist California yuppie stereotype than the hybrid Toyota Prius—and one that’s more expensive, at that?

Knoxville is one of a few select markets in the country in which the Leaf and an accompanying infrastructure of electric charging stations are being rolled out. But is there really a future for electric cars in East Tennessee?

Plugged-In

photo by David Luttrell

Black Market: Nissan has 20,000 potential buyers for the Leaf EV, but had only delivered and sold 106 through the end of January.

Let’s back up a bit.

At that press event in Nashville, which was just a few days before Christmas, there were a lot of people tossing around phrases like “the state’s first electric car.” This was, of course, an exaggeration.

Not only was there a second Leaf parked on the sidewalk outside the dealership, but at the party later that night at Nissan’s headquarters in Franklin, a couple of Leafs were plugged into charging stations in front of the building, while more were inside for attendees to ogle. Of course, those are Nissan corporate promotional vehicles; the Leaf under the white drop cloth was the first one actually sold to paying, regular customers in Tennessee. But that hardly made it the state’s first electric car.

No, the first electric car in Tennessee was sold over a hundred years ago.

In case you’re not a scholar of automotive history, here’s a brief refresher course. According to Curtis and Judy Anderson’s Electric and Hybrid Cars: A History, the first American-built automobile ever sold, back in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair, was an electric vehicle. In an 1899 issue of Scientific American, electric car manufacturer Colonel Pope writes, “The storage electric motor is clean, silent, free from vibrations, … and produces no dirt or odor. While it is not so cheap in such mileage as some other forms of motors, it is certainly not extravagant in proportion to service rendered, and its capacity has been proved to be more than equal to the demand of the average city or country vehicle.”

By 1904, one-third of the cars in Boston, Chicago, and New York were electric. By 1912, 34,000 electric cars had been registered across the country—and at least a few were probably in Knoxville. The 1912 Knoxville city directory has an advertisement for the automobile dealer Rodgers & Co. that lists Waverly Electric as one of the brands it carries.

But 1912 was the beginning of the end for the electric car. In that year, the electric starter was invented for internal-combustion engine vehicles. The starter replaced the dangerous crank, the lack of which had made electric cars much more appealing for the unathletic (i.e., women), despite their heftier price tag.

Around the same time, cheap oil from Texas made gas stations a possibility—Chevron opened the first one in 1913—and it was easier (and cheaper) to plop down a gas station in the middle of nowhere than to expand the infrastructure of the still-nascent electric grid.

By 1916, sales of electric cars had seriously declined. By the time Henry Ford had perfected the cost-saving assembly line enough to knock the price of his Model T down to $265 in 1923, the market for EVs (as they are called in industry-speak) was practically quashed. (Despite this, Ford’s wife, Clara, actually drove an EV.)

There have been sporadic bursts of interest since then, like during the fuel shortages in the World War II years and during the oil crisis of the 1970s, but EVs never reclaimed the interest of major automakers.

Until now.

Obviously, the electric grid has improved since 1912. But the key technological advance that has made EVs a somewhat attractive option once again is the creation of the lithium-ion battery. Just like in a conventional car, the electric cars of past eras utilized lead-acid batteries. But unlike conventional cars, in which there’s just the one heavy battery taking up a small part of the vehicle’s overall weight, EVs have a battery pack that’s comparable in size to some car engines. A vehicle’s weight affects how far one can drive on a single battery charge, and how fast one can drive while doing so. Lead is heavy. Lithium is not.

Lead is also cheap. Lithium is not. This is why the Leaf has a sticker price starting around $33,000, and the highly touted Chevrolet Volt starts around $40,000. (The Volt is technically a plug-in hybrid, not a purely electric car; see "Test Driving the Nissan Leaf" for more.) Even though right now there is federal tax rebate that knocks about $7,500 off that cost, in addition to state incentives, the price of a Leaf is still out of reach for many Americans.

Charged Up

photo by David Luttrell

All That Power: Oak Ridge National Laboratory has partnered with the Electric Power Research Institute to build the first of several solar charging stations, capable of recharging electric cars like the Leaf

“If you want an American to do something, hit him in the wallet,” says Jonathan Overly, excitedly tapping his foot as he takes another sip of coffee.

Overly is the director of the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition, which he helped found in 2002. He’s a former engineer who once researched advanced fuel technology for Saturn, but don’t let his sweater vest and hiking boots fool you—Overly is at heart a practical businessman. He sees the mass adoption of electric vehicles as a marketing problem.

“As much as I like talking about how it’s good for America, it’s going to have to come down to economics. Cost is king,” Overly says.

A Leaf might cost more upfront, but you aren’t buying gas, and you aren’t changing the oil. Yes, you are paying for the electricity to charge the car, but it’s nowhere near the same cost. Nissan estimates charging the car is 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is around $3 for a full charge.

That’s $3 to drive up to 100 miles. (However, using the air conditioner or the headlights affects your range, so it’s unlikely you’ll get that far on one charge; the EPA’s official range rating is 73 miles.) Even if 100 percent of that electricity is generated by the dirtiest coal-fired power plants, there are still dramatically fewer emissions produced than by driving a regular car. The United States Department of Energy reports that replacing a conventional vehicle with an EV reduces carbon monoxide emissions by 100 percent in urban settings over the life cycle of the vehicle. (In rural settings, though, EVs can actually increase sulfuric oxide emissions, the primary cause of acid rain, up to tenfold.)

Overly’s all about cutting emissions—as the director of the ETCFC, he works to promote a number of alternative fuel options, not only emission-free EVs. Overly himself drives a Volkswagen Jetta that runs on biodiesel, but he understands better than most the problem of making a compact car like the Leaf attractive to East Tennessee drivers, like men who love their trucks, even if they only use their truck beds once or twice a year.

“You know that guy in a [Ford] F-150, he can’t drive a Prius because he knows his friends would think he’s a pansy—they’d laugh at him,” Overly says. While he might not have many friends who laugh at him for driving a Jetta, Overly can empathize—his former vehicle was a giant Dodge Ram 2500 truck. Overly says he loved his truck, not the least because it intimidated other drivers.

Then the price of gas went up. One day, Overly says, it cost him $147 to fill up his tank.

“That was when I started planning to get rid of it,” he laughs. “I think with EVs, the more we can start showing savings, even without the federal grants, the more sales there will be.”

So how many sales could that be? In his recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for there to be one million plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2015, just four years from now. To that end on Tuesday the Department of Energy announced the president’s new budget will include a provision that would change the $7,500 tax credit to an up-front rebate, like the Cash for Clunkers program. (It remains to be seen whether Congress will approve the measure.)

Nissan seems to think Obama’s goal is not only possible but probable; Nissan Motors CEO Carlos Ghosn told The New York Times in December that he expects the company will sell one million Leafs in six years. But automotive industry analysts are skeptical.

Looking at the market for conventional hybrid cars, they point out it took over a decade for Toyota to sell a million Prius hybrid vehicles. (A Prius plug-in hybrid will hit the U.S. market next year.) A recent study by J.D. Power and Associates forecasts that there will be only 5.3 million electric and hybrid vehicles sold globally by the year 2020—just over 7 percent of all vehicles.

A similar study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance is more optimistic, estimating that plug-in EVs alone have the potential to make up 9 percent of U.S. auto sales by 2020 and 22 percent by 2030. But 9 percent is still only 1.6 million vehicles, and the study notes its estimate assumes both that gas prices rise and battery costs fall dramatically.

Right now, while Nissan has a waiting list of about 20,000 people who want to buy a Leaf, they’ve sold just 106 cars in the past two months. Although it should be noted, the car is available in only eight states at this point, and the company did announce earlier this week that it would increase production in Japan to speed up fulfilling those orders. (This was shortly after GM announced plans to double the number of its Chevy Volts on the production line for 2012, up to 120,000 cars.)

But, yeah. Tennessee is one of the few places in the country where one can buy what seems to be the first viable, mass-consumer, fully electric car in a century.

Of course, Tennessee did not land this exclusivity because it’s likely to be a top market, like Portland or San Francisco. Nissan declined to provide any specifics as to how many of those 20,000 Leaf pre-orders are in Tennessee, but Overly says his understanding is that there have been less than a thousand—“exactly what we expected.”

Tennessee will be one of the last states in which GM dealers begin to sell the Volt later this year. And there’s not a Tennessee city scheduled as one of the launch markets for the all-electric Ford Focus that will roll out this fall. (Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, and Richmond, however, are.)

No, the Leaf is here because Nissan is here, just outside Nashville. Starting in 2012, the Leaf will be built here, on the Smyrna assembly line, once Nissan finishes building a new manufacturing facility nearby that will construct the vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries.

And because those batteries were designed in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and because the Tennessee Valley Authority is one of the nation’s largest energy providers, the Leaf will be sold in Knoxville to a handful of buyers (who have been on the waiting list for months now) before it is sold in New York City.

Thus, even if there will be only a few EV owners eagerly waiting for them, Knoxville—along with Nashville and Chattanooga—will become one of the first cities in the country to experiment with the new electric charging station infrastructure.

Gridlock

photo by David Luttrell

Anti-Tree-Huggers: Gary Bulmer, left, and David Gill are interested in in EVs because they hate spending American dollars on foreign oil.

A 1914 Waverly electric car had a range of 75 miles on a single battery charge. The Nissan Leaf has a touted range of 100 miles. The battery may be lighter than a century ago, but if anything, the “range anxiety” has only gotten worse.

Range anxiety is the industry term for the EV equivalent of that sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you’re driving in the middle of nowhere and realize you might run out of gas before you find a filling station. Except no matter how far away from a city you are, you’re more likely to happen on a gas station than a charging station. If you do run out of gas, you can call someone to bring you a canister of fuel. Even though you can plug the Leaf into any regular 110-volt electric outlet, you’d be unlikely to find an extension cord long enough to be useful if you run out of power on the side of the road in, say, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Oh, and if you did happen to find a long extension cord and a nearby outlet, it might take you 21 hours to fully recharge your battery.

That’s why range anxiety is a real issue, and that’s another reason why EVs declined in popularity a century ago: suburbs. But Nissan’s director of marketing, Mark Perry, cites statistics that 95 percent of all Americans drive less than 100 miles a day, total. If you charge your car overnight (using a 220-volt home charging station cuts the time down to eight hours or less), Perry says most drivers can go to work and home again, with plenty of range left for a few errands. A similar statistic —that 78 percent of people drive less than 40 miles a day—is the reason for the Volt’s purported range 40-mile battery range. (GM’s marketing campaign is something along the lines of, “Look, most of you can commute every day emission-free, without even having to use the gas engine, so you’ll save a ton on fuel costs. But if you want to go on that road trip to the Smokies, you won’t have to worry about being stranded.”)

Yet, even if you do have a giant number flashing on the center console telling you exactly how many miles you can drive before your battery is completely drained, there’s still that anxiety. What if something unexpected comes up, and you need to run a few extra errands? Where can you charge your car?

These issues are why widespread EV adoption is problematic for a city like Knoxville, which sprawls and sprawls. But stimulus funds from the federal EV Project will place at least 10 (and likely more) municipal charging stations installed at points around town later this year—all at no cost to the city.

“We have this unique position to be cutting edge without having to spend the money to be cutting edge,” says Susanna Sutherland, the city’s sustainability program manager. The locations aren’t yet set in stone, but Sutherland says some possibilities could be the zoo, the airport, Ijams Nature Center, and select parks and libraries.

As part of a different partnership, with ORNL, there will also be two solar-powered charging stations downtown, most likely in the Market Square and Civic Coliseum garages; Sutherland notes non-solar charging stations in a handful of other high-volume locations downtown are also possible.

ECOtality, the company managing the EV Project, will also be providing charging stations to some local businesses—none yet confirmed, but Earth Fare and West Town Mall could be options—and they are installing 24 DC Fast Chargers at Cracker Barrels along the I-24, I-75, and I-40 corridors between Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. If the project stays on schedule, hypothetically you could drive your Leaf from Knoxville to Bonnaroo, charging it during three 30-minutes stops at different Cracker Barrels. But if you want to go to Memphis, you’re out of luck.

“Any time you introduce a new technology that involves infrastructure, it’s a big deal. It’s very complicated,” Sutherland notes.

Those complications are what TVA and ORNL are trying to figure out. Although he drove a Model T, Thomas Edison was a proponent of electric cars; he thought more electricity would eventually be sold for cars than for lights. That day is still far off, but having such a small potential test market in Knoxville gives TVA time to prepare for what could happen if EVs sales do soar.

“Can we shift loads so we don’t have to build new power plants?” says Chad McGhie, an energy efficiency expert with TVA. “What are the impacts on distributors? The purpose of the project is to understand charging behavior. Like, will there be clustering? We expect clustering.”

Clustering, when talking about the electric grid, is what would happen if you and your neighbors all bought EVs, and you all plugged them in at night, at the same time. While electric utilities want to encourage night-charging, when there is less demand on the grid, too much demand on one tiny segment of the grid could potentially have serious consequences, at least for those handful of people in that cluster.

McGhie was talking about this two weeks ago while in the parking lot of the Electric Power Research Institute off Dutchtown Road. It was another catered media event with a handful movers and shakers and a lot of people from TVA and ORNL: It was the launch of the Knoxville area’s first EV charging station.

The EPRI site is the first one of the solar charging stations, aka SMART stations (an acronym for Smart Model Area Recharge Terminal). There will be a second one open soon at ORNL; the two downtown stations won’t be built until several months of testing have gone by on the pilot projects. The design has solar panels that store electricity underground, which can charge any EVs plugged into the station or be directed back to the electric grid. And since it’s connected to the grid, you can still charge your EV on a cloudy day.

Home on the Range

David Luttrell

Monster Truck: Leslie Grossman’s electric 1997 Jeep Wrangler; She says there’s no reason why EVs can’t be macho.

Besides the suits at EPRI, there are a small handful of regular people poking around, examining the charging station and the EVs—although regular might not be precisely the best description.

Take Leslie Grossman, who proudly calls herself both a conservative and a capitalist. She drives a big black Jeep Wrangler, dangerously plastered with Alabama Crimson Tide decals. Under the hood of that Jeep are 12 12-volt lithium-ion batteries.

Or take Jim Coleman, who still seems a little bit in shock to actually be staring at a charging station in a parking lot. “After 30 years, I’m just glad to see this happening,” he says. “I really thought electric was going to take off, but the day the fuel crisis was over, it was all canceled.”

Coleman and Grossman are two of the 30-plus members of the Knoxville Electric Vehicle Association, a group dedicated not just to promoting mass-consumer EVs but also to making their own. Do-it-yourself EVs have been around as long as cars have, of course. But proponents now see a huge opportunity to increase their popularity—and in doing so, perhaps, convert some of those East Tennessee truck drivers who wouldn’t be caught dead in a Leaf.

“Why not a take a classic car, fix it up, and make it electric?” asks David Gill, standing in his workshop out in Heiskell. Gill’s a professional welder and a former aircraft mechanic in the United States Air Force. He served in Desert Storm, and that experience is part of the reason he’s now so excited about retrofitting cars to be electric.

“I do not like people who hate us, giving our money to them,” Gill says, complaining about spending his hard-earned cash on foreign oil. He hasn’t built his own EV yet, but he’s working on converting a 1989 bright red Blakely Bernardi on behalf of Gary Bulmer, a retired ship captain for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“I don’t think of myself as a tree-hugger,” Bulmer says. “It’s very important to me that we wean ourselves off foreign oil. I’m not the kind of person to sit back and just whine about it. … I don’t think we’d have a war on terror if oil weren’t a big issue.”

And here, according to Overly, is another way to sway the minds of East Tennesseans inclined to write-off EVs as akin to Obamacare: patriotism.

“At what point does pride in America become something you really give a shit about, and do something about it, instead of just waving a flag?” Overly says.


Lowering Energy Costs

The New York Time

With energy prices having gone from bad to worse and back to just bad in the last couple of months, homeowners are more determined than ever to find ways to save on heating bills.

The solution, experts say, is simple. “Adding insulation is the first thing a homeowner should do,” said Jeff Christian, of the United States Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

In fact, he said, because of volatile energy prices, the agency has revised its Insulation Fact Sheet, which provides recommendations for insulation in the home. It takes into account insulation and energy costs, dwelling type and amount of existing insulation to arrive at the optimum amount, based on a structure’s location. (You can find the sheet by typing “Insulation Fact Sheet” into the search box at the home page of ornl.gov.)

“And the part of the house that most people can do something about is the attic,” he said.

The television host Bob Vila said that houses built 20 to 40 years ago probably have fiberglass insulation 6 to 9 inches deep, either blown in or in fitted batting, between the attic floor joists. But that does not produce a high enough total R-value, he said, referring to the measurement of a material’s ability to resist heat flow. So most houses probably need more insulation.

There are a couple of options. One, he said, is to blow loose insulation — either cellulose or fiberglass — over the top of the existing insulation. Most home centers will lend a machine to blow the insulation from outdoors, where it is loaded, up through the house and into the attic. The insulation itself costs about $11 a bag for cellulose and $27 for fiberglass, but the ultimate cost to the homeowner is about the same, as fewer bags of fiberglass are needed. A 100-square-foot space would need about 2.5 bags of cellulose or 1 bag of fiberglass.

Another option is fiberglass batting, precut lengths of fiberglass insulation that fit between floor joists.

Gale Tedhams, of Owens Corning, a fiberglass-insulation manufacturer in Toledo, Ohio, said that for most houses, attic-floor insulation should be 19 inches deep if batting or 22 if blown. “Adding what you need is very easy,” she said. Usually, she said, it is best to apply “unfaced” batting perpendicular to the floor joists. Faced insulation has paper or foil on one side as a vapor barrier. If insulation is already there, unfaced is better to use to avoid condensation between barriers.

Owens Corning retailers also sell loose fiberglass and provide a machine to install it, the AttiCat, which is free if part of a promo- tion or up to $100 a day to rent, based on how much is needed.

If the attic is a living space, it is necessary to insulate between the roof rafters instead of the floor joists. The traditional way is batting; another option is spray polyurethane foam insulation.

Alex Wilson, the president of BuildingGreen of Brattleboro, Vt., said there are two types of spray-on polyurethane: closed- cell and open-cell. Closed-cell is mixed as it is sprayed and then quickly expands to fit. Open-cell, a newer product, is also sprayed but expands even more. Closed- cell is about $1.20 for a one-inch- thick square foot, including prof- essional installation; open-cell, half that. Open-cell has a slightly lower R-value, but Mr. Wilson said it is comparable to closed- cell, since a thinner layer of closed-cell is usually applied.

Open-cell is available in a slow- ly expanding form that can be poured into a cavity and used to retrofit uninsulated walls in ex- isting buildings. Whatever is used, optimal insulation is a must. “The price gyrations over the last couple of years have de- monstrated how vulnerable we are,” he said, referring to fuel. “We just can’t depend on low prices sticking around anymore.” 


Can GridEye Save America's Power Grid?

Forbes
by: William Pentland

GridEye, a complex grid-monitoring technology developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tenn., wants to do the unthinkable: keep the lights on in America.

By producing  granular data flows about the state of the power grid in real-time and prodigious volumes, GridEye is designed to predict – and thus prevent – power outages like the Northeast Blackout of 2003 and more mundane power disturbances of the sort that cause laptop-killing power surges.

The whole system depends on a distributed network of low-cost sensors, called “frequency disturbance recorders” (FDR), that plug directly into standard 110-volt outlets and are deployed at offices, school buildings and residences.  The ability to plug into 110-volt outlets makes FDRs far cheaper to install than other devices with comparable capabilities.

FDRs feed GPS-synchronized single-phase phasor measurements into the GridEye system. Phasor measurements track the amount of stress placed on the electric power grid by providing granular data about frequency, voltage and phase angle conditions in real-time. GridEye generates phase measurements at each sensor deployed in the network 1,440 times every second. The measurements are synchronize within one microsecond of GPS time. Greater phase angle differences imply larger static stress across that interface; larger stress could move the grid closer to instability. When deployed across an entire region or interconnection, phasors provide a precise picture of grid stability. This makes it possible to anticipate – and thus avoid – disruptions and disturbances.

By contrast, conventional monitoring technologies like supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) measure every two to four seconds without precise time synchronization. GridEye’s fast sampling rate provides insight into the dynamic behavior of the system under various conditions such as generator trips and line trips. Researchers are leveraging GridEye to gain insight about the impact of integrating renewable-energy sources like solar photovoltaics and wind power into the mainstream power grid.

“ORNL’s most recent deployment of GridEye sensors focuses on portions of the grid where high penetration of renewables is planned,” said Yilu Liu, a researcher at ORNL’s Energy and Transportation Science Division.

GridEye will produce dynamic system behavior data that will provide insight into how renewable generation assets change the dynamic behavior of the electric grid. These data can also be used to estimate dynamic modeling parameters for planning and operation.


2011 Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) excellence in Technology Transfer Award

Congratulations to Jim Parks and Bill Partridge of the Emissions and Catalysis Research Group and David Sims of the Partnerships Directorate who have won a 2011 Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) excellence in technology transfer award for the Laser-Induced Fluorescence Fiber-Optic Measurement of Fuel in Oil diagnostic.  This rapid on-line technique for measuring fuel dilution of oil in a diesel engine can help industry develop combustion strategies that improve fuel efficiency and emissions control.  Minimizing oil dilution also improves the durability of diesel engines by reducing oil consumption and engine wear.  The Fuel in Oil diagnostic was developed under a CRADA with Cummins and was later licensed to Da Vinci Emissions Services.


January 2011

Pat Hu named Bureau of Transportation Statistics director

Patricia Hu has been named director of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. She will assume her new duties in early February.

Pat has spent more than 20 years with ORNL's Center for Transportation Analysis serving as director of CTA since 2001. She has led programs that have positioned CTA as a national transportation research institution, including work on transportation survey methods and data quality, transportation analysis and model development, and visualization-based transportation decision-making tools.

Pat has also been an active member and leader on several Transportation Research Board committees, expert panels and advisory boards that cover transportation analysis, transportation safety, and transportation information systems and data.

She and her husband, Russell Lee of the Environmental Sciences Division, have two sons, Roddy and Ryan. Pat will be greatly missed by her friends and colleagues within ETSD and across ORNL.


Electricity—Eye on the grid . . .

Through a network that consists of hundreds of low-cost monitors that plug into standard 110-volt outlets, GridEye can play a role in ensuring the reliability of the nation's power grids. The system, developed by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, provides real-time information about dynamic responses to conditions and can provide warnings of impending failures such as the Northeast Blackout of 2003. The monitors, referred to as frequency disturbance recorders, are installed in offices, school buildings and residences. "ORNL's most recent deployment of GridEye sensors focuses on portions of the grid where high penetration of renewables is planned," said Yilu Liu of the Energy and Transportation Science Division. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; wallira@ornl.gov]