Nissan LEAF is first Electric Car to Earn 5-Star Safety

Nissan LEAF is first Electric Car to Earn 5-Star Safety

LEAF IIHS Side TestBy John Addison (7/29/11)

Nissan LEAF is the first electric car to earn five stars from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

The 100-percent electric Nissan LEAF earned a 5-star overall vehicle rating for safety as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). The Nissan LEAF is the first fully electric vehicle to earn this highest distinction from the program. Starting with 2011 models, NHTSA introduced tougher tests and requirements in order to earn 5-star ratings.

The Insurance Institute also gives the Nissan LEAF a Top Safety Pick for Highway Safety in all these crash tests:

  • Frontal impact
  • Side impact
  • Roof strength
  • Rear crash protection / head restraint

Standard Nissan LEAF safety systems include Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (AABS) with dual-stage supplemental front air bags with seat belt and occupant classification sensors, front seat-mounted side impact supplemental air bags, roof-mounted curtain side impact supplemental air bags for front and rear-seat outboard occupant head protection, 3-point ALR/ELR seat belts (driver’s seat ELR only), child seat upper tether anchor, LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system and child safety rear door locks. Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Traction Control System (TCS) are also standard on all LEAF models. Safety features include vehicle dynamic control (stability control), traction control and six airbags. Nissan has included a number of safety features in the Leaf including:

  •     3-years of roadside assistance including in price
  •     Advanced air bag system (AABS)
  •     seat-mounted driver and front-passenger side-impact supplemental air bags
  •     front-seat active head restraints (AHR)
  •     pipe-style steel side-door guard beams (all side-doors)
  •     Zone body construction with front and rear crumple zones
  •     Energy-absorbing steering column
  •     Tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS)
  •     Vehicle dynamic control (VDC)
  •     Traction control system (TCS)

My wife and I have been driving our Nissan LEAF for over three months. This electric car feels safe to us on city streets and on freeways.  The LEAF is easy to charge. It won’t let us drive anywhere if we forget to disconnect the charge point. When backing out of our shared condo parking, the mirrors and backup camera are helpful. When a pedestrian jaywalks in front of us, the silent EV emits an audible sound.

The LEAF accelerates well on to freeways, even in the range-extending ECO mode that we almost always use. OK, it’s not zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds like a Tesla Roadster; acceleration is fine. Visibility is fine when driving. At times, the hands-free GPS/map system is helpful.

Anecdotally, we find the electric range to be about 120 miles when driving under 40 miles per hour, but only 60 when driving 70 mph. With the LEAF, we are careful to drive the speed limit, which probably adds to the safety.

The 2012 Nissan Leaf SV starts at $35,200 or leases for $369 per. This five-door hatchback seats 5. The drop down back seat has made it comfortable to fill with bicycles for a fun trip or with groceries and goodies when shopping.

The Nissan LEAF is the first electric car to receive the NHTSA top 5-star rating. A pioneer in zero emission mobility, Nissan made history with the introduction of the Nissan LEAF, the first affordable, mass-market, pure-electric vehicle and winner of numerous international accolades including the prestigious 2011 European Car of the Year award.

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Largest Solar Parking Structures Provide MW Electricity

Largest Solar Parking Structures Provide MW Electricity

(7/12/11) By John Addison

It takes a lot of electricity to run Dow Jones, one of the world’s largest publishers and information providers. Dow Jones is now generating 3.6 MW of its own electricity with Solaire Generation Solar Parking Canopies. Solar parking structures allow organizations to reduce their utility bills, get more control of their own electricity generation, convert asphalt heat islands into attractive demonstrations of sustainability, and protect employees, customers and their cars.

I met with Solaire Generation CEO Laurence Mackler here at the Intersolar conference and exhibition being visited by over 22,000. Mackler explained that he founded the business because it made economic sense for his customers. They run the numbers and approve projects. Solaire is completely focused on parking structures with a patented dual-incline roof, the main surface south sloping for greatest efficiency. All Solaire parking structures use PV panels, not thin-film, to capture enough sun in the constrained space of the structures.

Increasingly, customers are also including solar electric car charging. Johnson and Johnson included 5 Coulomb Technology charge points in their 1.1 MW Solar Parking Canopy which uses SunPower panels. General Electric has a new Solaire parking structure that includes a number of the new GE charging stations.

The Arizona VA Hospital is installing 2.9 MW of solar panels from Kyocera and REC Group covering several parking lots. To research this article, I meet with Dr. Angiolo Laviziano, the CEO of REC Solar who is managing all aspects of this solar project.

The installation will add to a 302 kW single-axis tracker mounted system that REC Solar. Following the angle of the sun through the day, single axis systems are often 30 percent more efficient than fixed panels. Dr. Laviziano states that REC has 4.1 MW of added solar parking under contract from other VA Hospitals.

Like many organizations, the VA Hospital considered locating the solar panels on its roofs. This approach would have been more expensive; a uniform surface was not available due to rooftop located air conditioning and other equipment. Solar parking had the added benefit of giving employees and patients shading parking, instead of exposure to the blistering Arizona summer sun. Highly visible, the solar parking provides a positive public image which is often lost when solar is installed on roofs of high buildings.

REC Solar CEO Angiolo Laviziano is now expanding business for his 600-employee firm. REC plans to partner with several makers of electric charging equipment. Customers are expressing a growing interest in including electric car charge points in their electric parking structures. The least expensive time to install charging stations is when the power electronics, panels, and other equipment in being installed for the solar power, parking lighting, and other electric demands.

An informal REC survey of early adopters of electric cars, such as the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt, showed that these drivers also use solar power. Another 50 percent are interested in solar power. Angiolo is a perfect example of an early adopter of both. Years ago, he converted his Subaru to be an electric car using added lead-acid batteries in the trunk. He charges his car with his REC Solar system, a highly efficient two-axis system. He is the only owner I’ve met of an all-wheel drive electric car and certainly the only one who charges with a two-axis solar system.

Thousands of Parking Spaces Now Solar Shaded Globally

California State University Bakersfield (CSUB), Dr. Horace Mitchell and Sun Edison LLC, a leading worldwide solar energy services provider and a subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE:WFR), co-hosted a “Flip the Switch” ceremony to commemorate the activation of the 1.2 megawatt (MW) solar parking canopy located on the CSUB campus.

The oil industry is one of the world’s biggest users of electricity. Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company has covered 4,500 parking spaces with 10 MW of thin-film CIGS solar from Solar Frontier, a company in which they are a major investor. Nikolai Dobrott, a Managing Director with Apricum estimates that the nation of Saudi Arabia may need as much as 30GW of added electricity in this decade, currently using natural gas, oil, and diesel for virtually all power generation; solar is an attractive form of diversification.

Solar developer Belectric is managing the solar project at Saudi Aramco’s headquarters in Dhahran. Over 120,000 CIS (Copper Indium Selenide) photovoltaic modules cover 4,500 parking spaces at the North Park offices parking lot, sheltering vehicles from the desert sun.

Automakers Massively Deploying Solar Parking Structures with Electric Car Charge Points

Envision has made its business focus to offer pre-configured and custom solar parking structures. Many offerings are designed to be attractive, converting asphalt urban heat islands into beautiful urban forests. The structures were originally designed by Envision founder and architect Robert Nobel.

In 2010, General Motors selected Envision to install its CleanCharge™ solar powered electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations integrated into EnvisionTrak™ tracking Solar Trees® at prominent GM locations.

Renault is not only working with Better Place to put 100,000 Renault Fluence electric cars on the streets of Israel and Denmark, it is also implementing a world record 55 MW of solar parking structures at various manufacturing facilities.

Whether an organization is providing for patients, students, or employees, solar parking structures are creating clean energy, shaded electric car charging, and attractive urban forests.

New Ford C-MAX Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid Challenge Prius V and Volt

New Ford C-MAX Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid Challenge Prius V and Volt

By John Addison (updated 11/22/11)

SUV Drivers Can Now Get Over 40 MPG

Ford is actively competing with Toyota to give crossover SUV buyers new record fuel-economy. Active families get passenger and cargo space and flexibility and the 5-seat, 5-door, 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid will compete head-to-head with the new larger Prius V crossover SUV.

The new Ford C-MAX Energi takes fuel economy to the next level. Average trips will be in 100% electric mode using garage and public chargers. Longer trips in this new plug-in hybrid will engage a small gasoline engine to extend the range by hundreds of miles. The Ford C-MAX Energi will challenge the Chevrolet Volt by supporting 5 passengers to the Volt’s 4 and by offering much more cargo flexibility. Both Ford C-MAX models go on sale in the U.S. in 2012.

Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid and C-MAX Hybrid are based on the new Ford C-MAX five-passenger multi-activity vehicle, which has already gained over 100,000 new customers in Europe. Many times I saw this aerodynamic car gliding by on my recent trip to Spain. Both models are using new Ford lithium battery packs that are smaller and lighter.  Starting with 2013 models, all Ford hybrid and electric cars will use lithium batteries. By 2013, Ford may be selling 100,000 cars per year with lithium batteries.

“C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid will be perfect for families looking to maximize their hybrid car experience,” said Nancy Gioia, Ford director of Global Electrification. “Thanks to the versatile interior, these cars are going to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers who need room to grow.”

Ford proclaims the C-MAX to be a new category of multi-activity vehicles. Toyota proclaims the Prius V to be a new category of versitile vehicles. We call both small crossover SUVs because they have the passenger and cargo room and flexibility that people want when they buy a crossover. Speaking of versitility, Ford originally planned to give the U.S. C-MAX the sliding side doors that are popular in minivans, but decided not to be placed in the minivan category. Ford considered giving the C-MAX Hybrid 7-seats, but decided to leave that option for larger SUVs.

C-MAX Hybrid is targeted to deliver better fuel economy than the 41 mpg Ford Fusion Hybrid, the most fuel-efficient sedan in America today. It builds on the success of the critically acclaimed powersplit architecture Ford uses in its current hybrids, allowing it to operate in fuel-saving electric mode beyond 47 mph. The C-MAX Hybrid will use a third less fuel than the Ford Escape Hybrid, the current SUV mileage champion. Because the C-MAX only seats 5, some will insist on buying larger SUVs. Official EPA numbers have yet to be issued for the C-MAX Hybrid. They may or may not best the Toyota V 42 mpg combined rating.

In a powersplit hybrid, the electric motor and gasoline-powered engine can work together in blended mode or separately to maximize efficiency. The engine also can operate independently of vehicle speed, charging the batteries or providing power to the wheels as needed. The motor alone can provide sufficient power to the wheels in low-speed, low-load conditions, and work with the engine at higher speeds.

Both the C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid models will be built alongside the all-new 2012 Ford Focus and Focus Electric at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. The plant’s production is powered in part by one of the largest solar energy generator systems in the state. The C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid vehicles sold in Europe in 2013 will be built at Ford’s plant in Valencia, Spain, starting in 2013.

C-MAX Energi is Major Addition to Plug-in Hybrid Market

Targeted to achieve AT-PZEV (Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) status, C-MAX Energi provides maximum fuel efficiency by pairing a high-voltage lithium-ion battery and electric traction motor with a high-efficiency Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine. This allows it to run in electric mode before using the gasoline engine.

C-MAX Energi will offer more than 500 miles of overall driving range using the battery and engine – more than any other plug-in or extended-range electric vehicle. C-MAX Energi delivers better charge-sustaining fuel economy than Chevrolet Volt. Plug-in hybrid vehicles offer several benefits:

  •     Electric driving range, perfect for emissions-free and silent city driving
  •     Potential consumer savings on energy and fuel costs thanks to improved fuel efficiency over a standard hybrid
  •     Reduced dependency on petroleum and increased energy independence
  •     Reduced environmental impact through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
  •     Increased use of electricity from renewable energy sources (e.g. wind and solar), where available, for vehicle recharging

“A plug-in hybrid owner may make fewer trips to the pump to refuel because of its all-electric mode capability,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford vice president of Global Product Development. “Conveniently, they’ll be able to recharge their plug-in hybrid at home overnight. And they’ll never have to think about the vehicle’s electric range, because the plug-in hybrid seamlessly shifts to fuel power when needed.”

The development of Ford’s first-ever production plug-in hybrid leverages more than 200,000 miles of road testing conducted in collaboration with a coalition of 10 utility companies, the U.S. Department of Energy, the New York State Energy Research and Development Administration and the Electric Power Research Institute.

Ford’s Lithium Battery Advantage

C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid will use advanced lithium-ion battery systems developed and assembled in-house by Ford in Michigan. Each system is smartly designed to maximize use of common, high-quality components, such as control board hardware that has proven field performance in Ford’s current, critically acclaimed hybrid vehicles.

Li-ion battery packs offer a number of advantages over the nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries that power today’s hybrid vehicles. In general, they are 25 to 30 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter, which makes them easier to package in a vehicle, and can be tuned to increase power to boost acceleration or to increase energy to extend driving distance.

While C-MAX Hybrid will operate much like today’s hybrid vehicles, C-MAX Energi will benefit from daily charging to maximize its all-electric range. Thanks to the efficiencies of its right-sized battery system, the plug-in hybrid easily recharges 100 percent overnight on a 120-volt outlet.

On start-up, C-MAX Energi will operate in charge-depletion mode, providing electric driving range. When the battery has been depleted or certain conditions are met, it switches to charge-sustaining blended hybrid mode for continued optimal fuel efficiency

Smarter Dash

C-MAX Energi owners will have access to a suite of driver information systems – on-board and off-board – designed to help them manage the recharge process, manage the most eco-friendly route on-board, remotely control their vehicle’s charge and preconditioning settings, monitor battery state of charge and maximize energy efficiency to extend use of electric mode. C-MAX Hybrid owners also will benefit from the on-board features.

Among these tools is a unique execution of MyFord Touch™ driver connect technology, especially for electrified driving. It offers exceptional configurability of vehicle information, including fuel level, battery power level, and average and instant miles per gallon. The cluster’s new MyView feature allows drivers to access even more vehicle data such as the electrical demands of vehicle accessories, including air conditioning, which influences fuel economy and the electric driving range of the C-MAX Energi.

The Brake Coach feature helps to educate drivers to optimize their use of the regenerative brakes to recapture kinetic energy and send it back to the battery, also reducing wear on the brakes.

MyFord Mobile App

MyFord Mobile enables access to a secure Ford website and smartphone/feature phone app to get instant vehicle status information, perform key functions remotely, monitor the car’s state of charge and current range, get various alerts including when the vehicle requires charging, remotely program charge settings and download vehicle data for analysis.

The feature also allows the owner to program the vehicle to use electricity from the grid to heat or cool the battery and cabin while plugged in. For example, during hot summer months, owners can preprogram the car the evening before to be fully charged – and fully cooled to a particular temperature – by a certain time the following morning. Users can also locate the vehicle with GPS, remotely start the vehicle, and remotely lock and unlock the car doors.

Working with MapQuest®, MyFord Mobile can communicate charge station and other points of interest to C-MAX Energi using SYNC’s Traffic, Directions and Information (TDI) service. Turn-by-turn guidance is provided by the in-car map-based Navigation System. Drivers can also get up-to-date charging station information in their vehicle directly through SYNC TDI simply by connecting to SYNC Services.

Using the value charging feature, powered by Microsoft, C-MAX Energi owners in North America will be able to optimize their home’s energy use and vehicle recharging practices. Value charging allows Ford customers to reduce their electricity costs by taking advantage of off-peak or reduced rates from their utility without a complicated set-up process.

Ford Winning Globally

C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid are two of at least 10 new models or derivatives that Ford will launch around the world based on its new global C-car platform – Ford’s first truly global One Ford platform.

Ford’s new generation of C-segment vehicles will be sold in more than 120 markets and will account for more than 2 million units annually. The C-segment accounts for one in four cars sold worldwide today and, in conjunction with the B-segment, is expected to rise to 50 percent of all cars sold globally by 2013.

The previous European C-MAX achieved a balance of enjoyable driving and comfort. The all-new model is set to take that performance to a new level, giving drivers a class-leading combination of responsive, sporty handling and overall refinement approaching the standards usually associated with larger, luxury vehicles.

Although Toyota sells 4 hybrids to each one from Ford, Ford is the #1 domestic producer of hybrids. Ford has over 140,000 hybrids on the roads.

C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid are two of five electrified vehicles that Ford will bring to the North American market during the next two years. In addition, the Ford Transit Connect Electric small commercial van, built in collaboration with Azure Dynamics, has close to 1,000 sales. A Ford insider told me that Ford will be presenting a Fusion Plug-in Hybrid at the Detroit Auto Show.

Google’s 70 Charge Stations for Employee Electric Cars and GFleet

Google’s 70 Charge Stations for Employee Electric Cars and GFleet

Nissan LeafBy John Addison (7/5/11)

Google, Inc. has deployed more than 70 Coulomb Technologies charging stations at its worldwide headquarters in Mountain View, CA. Over 100 employees who own electric cars use the charging stations. The stations (EVSE) are also used by the company’s growing car sharing program for Googlers (GFleet), which includes Chevrolet Volts, Nissan LEAFs and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrids.

Many employees bought their own electric cars after using LEAFs and Volts in the GFleet. Employees who use transit get GFleet priority.

With plans for 250 more charging stations on its campus, and a goal to make 5 percent of its campus parking EV-ready, Google’s installation is the largest workplace charging installation for electric vehicles in the country. Much of the charging is done with renewable energy, including Google’s solar covered parking. No coal power is used in charging vehicles. Google has invested over one billion dollars in renewable energy, accelerating development of 1.7 GW of RE.

“By investing in new, green transportation technologies, Google is making a significant contribution to reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions,” said Rolf Schreiber technical program manager, Electric Transportation, at Google. “Our EVs and charging stations are part of our broader green transportation system that includes biodiesel shuttles that Googlers use to commute to work instead of driving their own cars. But we’re only one company among many, so we hope our green transportation initiatives serve as a model for other companies to incorporate sustainability programs into their own workplaces.”


Google manages its charging stations via the ChargePoint Network, the world’s largest network of charging stations and EV charging applications. The following workplace charging features are available through Coulomb’s ChargePoint Network:

· Controlled access: Via an online portal and smartcards, customers can control who accesses their charging stations (employees or guests), to control costs, eliminate electricity theft, and optimize station use.

· Measuring performance of green initiatives: Online station management provides tracking and reporting of energy usage, greenhouse gas and gasoline savings data. Reports are displayed by graphs that can be filtered by day, week, month, station attributes and energy usage/GHG range. Customers can also export their station data and combine the data with other system for further corporate sustainability analysis.

· Network Operations: The ChargePoint Network provides 24/7 station network monitoring to ensure network services are always available, Over the Air (OTA) station software upgrades to accommodate future advancements without onsite service, and the ability to tie into energy, building and other business management systems.

· Driver Services: Customers have access to the ChargePoint Network’s 24/7 driver telephone assistance, e-mail or text message driver notification alerts for charging session interruption or charging completed, and individual driver portals to customize notifications, track their energy usage and greenhouse gas savings, view charging history, and have access to the largest network of public charging stations in the world at

· Cost-saving utility programs and incentives: Charging stations contain utility-grade meters and the ability to communicate with other smart grid systems, enabling demand response, time-of-use pricing, and other smart grid programs provided by local utilities.

The company has been working over the last several years to deploy and experiment with new green transportation technologies.

· In 2007, Google launched RechargeIT, an initiative aimed at accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles.

· Google’s biodiesel campus shuttles use the latest clean diesel technology, reducing emissions 80 percent over engines from just a few years ago.

· Placing solar panels on buses to provide pre-cooling without having to run the engines.

· More than 3000 Googlers ride a shuttle bus to the company’s Mountain View headquarters every day.

· Google’s ChargePoint workplace charging system encourages more and more employees to commute using electric transportation.

Google’s transportation initiatives save 5,400 tons of CO2e emissions this year. Google is just getting started.

Google makes innovative use of electric vehicles and charging stations. For employees, Google took an early lead in converting Toyota Prii (yep that’s the official plural of Prius) to be plug-in hybrids. Then Google installed beautiful solar covered parking including charge stations so that electric cars can be charged with sunlight.

At its headquarters, Google is now showing us how to charge hands-free.  No plug. No cord. Using Evatran Plugless Power’s inductive charging system, one of Google’s maintenance short-range EVs parks in close proximity of the charger and charging begins. The Evatran unit is Level 2 (7.7 kW, 240V at 32A). The light EV was converted to use the inductive charging.

Google is also conducting other important pilots including testing the new Toyota Prius Plug-in, not a conversion, but the 2012 model from Toyota. Soon, Google will be testing the Honda Fit Electric  and other plug-in cars. Several Google founders drive Tesla Roadsters. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are Stanford University grad student “drop-outs.” They don’t regret the decision to make changing the world a priority over getting their PhDs.