What do Canadian pop star Justin Bieber and California-based cleantech start-up Envia Systems have in common? Both delivered big wins to the electric vehicle industry last week: the latter with the news of a battery breakthrough that could triple the range and halve the cost of electric cars; the former, simply by turning 18 and receiving a Fisker Karma – a $100,000 luxury sports hybrid EV – as a birthday gift, live on television.
Bieber, who came of age last Thursday, was presented with the car – which Fisker describes as “the first true electric luxury vehicle with extended range and the freedom to plug in or fill up” – during a birthday appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “We wanted to make sure, since you love cars, that when you are on the road you are always looking environmentally friendly, and we decided to get you a car that would make you stand out a little bit,” Bieber’s manager, and the giver of the gift, Scott Braun said. And what’s good for Justin Bieber’s image could only be good for that of the EV industry, right?
But what about the car? According to CleanTechnica, the Fisker Karma’s “a bit contentious in the green car scene.” It certainly looks good – it was awarded Automobile Magazine‘s Design of the Year, the editors saying it “stands to become an icon, even without mention of its range-extended electric powertrain.” But about that range: running on the 180kW, 274kg lithium-ion rechargeable battery alone (which the LA Times‘ car reviewer described as being “roughly the size and a shape of a real-life Gumby”) the car only gets about 30-50 miles, compared to the standard 100 miles of pure electrics. Add the four-cylinder gas engine, and it gets another 250 miles of range.
And did we mention the rooftop solar panel? Well the Karma has one, which charges the battery “just a bit,” says the LA Times. Although, according to Fisker, for drivers in sunny places, like LA, it could add an extra 200,000 miles of range a year. Still, according to various reviewers, the fact that Fisker has been a recipient of big federal loans as part of the Obama administration’s green-energy strategy, is a potential negative. Some have argued the money would be better spent on companies developing electric cars with range and performance that can compete with conventional internal combustion engine cars.
An unlikely alliance of the Federal Coalition and the Greens is putting pressure on the federal Government to reverse its decision to bring its solar hot water rebate scheme to a sudden close last week. The Coalition is set to introduce a bill into parliament that will require the Gillard Government to commit to the remaining funding allocated to the scheme, which provided for a $1000 rebate for solar hot water systems, and the Greens have indicated their support for the move. “We have the numbers in the Parliament to ensure this scheme goes ahead,” Greens Leader Bob Brown said.
Positive take on AquaGen
Aspiring wave energy company AquaGen says its SurgeDrive technology has been validated by an “independent report” from engineering consultants Worley Parsons, which suggests it will be able to compete with other renewable energy technologies on cost. According to AquaGen, the report indicated that the levellised cost of energy (LCOE) for SurgeDrive will be between 8c/KWh and 24c/KWh, depending on the location, meaning i could be competitive with onshore wind energy in certain regions, and cheaper than the current estimates for solar energy.
“The report represents a major milestone for the company as it demonstrates that our unique philosophy of getting the power conversion equipment out of the water enables a reduction in the cost of energy to levels which make it possible to compete with the likes of wind and solar power,” AquaGen CEO Nick Boyd said in a statement. The report was released as the company pursued a multi-million dollar capital raising.
Ergon predicts solar rush
Ergon Energy is predicting a rush of installations of solar PV in the lead-up to the flagged reduction in the federal Government’s Solar Credits rebate from July 1, when the multiplier is reduced from three to two, Energy Matters reports. “We are expecting a significant increase in the rate of IES applications prior to 30 June 2012, when the Federal Government’s Solar Credits rebate is reduced”, states the bulletin. “Ideally, all applications for systems intended to be installed before that date should be lodged by Monday 30 April 2012.” Ergon says this is particularly important if the inverter to be used in a system is of large enough capacity to require a further technical assessment. Energy Matters says Ergon has flagged that due to the volume of solar PV applications and the growing complexity of requirements, it is experiencing some technical assessment delays.