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Jack Hidary and Bioneers Conference

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Every year, for the last twenty years, a group of thinkers have gotten together to discuss breakthrough solutions for our world. This year I went there in a 2010 Toyota Prius to learn and be inspired.
©2009 Isaac Hernández
Given that the UN Climate Change Conference is happening in Copenhagen December 7-18, much of the conversation was dedicated to the idea of reducing carbon emissions. Everybody seems to agree that we can reduce our emissions by 80% by 2020, with the technology we have available today. Thousands of experts are saying that waiting until 2050 to reduce our emissions by 80% is not enough, causing irreversible damage. Unfortunately the US government thinks it is. But the people at Bioneers don’t despair, instead they get into action, with many solutions, some of which I will share here in the following months.
As Ken Ausubel, co-founder of Bioneers, said, “if your kitchen is on fire, you don’t just sit there depressed. It’s time to grab for the extinguisher.” It’s a fact that we humans produce 70 million tons of CO2 every 24 hours. Changing the light bulbs to low energy fluorescents and remodeling our homes with energy efficient windows is part of the solution, but not enough. We need to let our leaders know that we want more. And sometimes we have to become the leaders.
Take Jack Hidary, for example, he wasn’t happy with the amount of CO2 put into the New York air by the 13,000 inefficient Ford Crown Victoria pullulating on its streets and avenues. So he helped form, a coalition of health, civic, business and environmental organizations working together to improve our lives through innovative transport solutions. In just two years, their initiative has replaced 25% of the taxi fleet with more efficient hybrid vehicles. A hybrid taxi costs the same than a Crown Victoria and saves the driver about $5000 per year in gasoline. Even if the $2000 batteries have to be replaced after three years, it makes sense to drive a hybrid in the city, doing 30 miles per gallon instead of 10-12mpg for a Crown Vic.
Jack thinks that in two more years the full fleet of yellow cabs will be high efficiency vehicles. He didn’t stop there. He talked to dozens of executives about the pollution generated by their “black cars”, the Lincoln Town Car vehicles that sit in front of office buildings, idling. When Jack showed the executives photos of the cars emitting carbon dioxide, they agreed to replace their fleets with hybrids.
Mr. Hidary is happy with these results, but he wants more. “At the current ramp rates,” Jack says, “Green Vehicles won’t reach 5% of total US fleet before 2030. Even the Obama Administration’s goal of 1 million plug in hybrid electric vehicles by 2015 won’t represent more than .4% penetration.
Renewable energy for the creation of electricity in the US is in a similar situation, reaching less than 4% of the total, in a market dominated by coal burning, with 46% of the total. But Hidary thinks that it’s within our reach to change this very quickly. Thanks to social networks like Facebook, we’re becoming more connected, with many positive results.
Imagine that you’re driving your car and someone hits you from behind. You get out of the car ready to yell at the other driver. Imagine that there’s an application for your phone that allows you to see if you’re somehow connected to another person. This is something that will happen very soon, according to Jack Hidary.
So before you start screaming your lungs out, your iPhone buzzes and lets you know that the man who hit you has a common friend with you, and not only that, he’s also going to the same birthday party you’re going on Saturday. The relationship with that person suddenly transforms. You exchange phone numbers and look forward to seeing each other at the party. No need for police or insurance reports.
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” These are the words Chief Seattle said in 1854. They hold true now as much as ever.
This connectivity helps us communicate solutions much faster than ever. One solution that Hidary thinks is worth spreading is PACE, a system that started in Berkeley, California, from the hand of Cisco Debris and Dan Cayman, and is now in 15 states. What’s PACE? A great way of allowing everybody jump into the renewable energy bandwagon, permitting people install solar panels for very little, and ultimately allowing for the home owner to charge the batteries of their electric car at no extra cost to their pocket or the environment.
How does it work? PACE provides long term loans, payable over thirty years. The payments are tied to the property tax, so you just pay a little bit every month to wean yourself from coal, possibly the same that you would be paying for the old-fashioned electricity.
For $3500-4500 one can transform a Toyota Prius into a plug in version, thanks to Lithium-Ion kit made in China, with the installation made by 3prong power, which was present at the Bioneers Conference. The cheaper transformation allows only for 15 miles on fully electric mode, while the other doubles the range to 30 miles. Can you imagine if you could drive to work and then come home and charge the car with your solar panels?
“Yes, that’d be nice,” says a woman checking the Prius, “but if I live within 7 miles each way from my work, I think I rather take the bicycle.”
It’s true that the bicycle is still the most renewable energy available, but you cannot convince everybody to ride bicycles, that’s why every solution helps move us along towards the goal of reducing CO2 by 80% in 10 years.
Many people at the conference seemed to agree that China is in a privileged position to lead the world with renewable energy, given that your country doesn’t have as many political hurdles as the US and it’s already investing heavily in solar plants. There’s much to do still, but our children will appreciate the investment we do today or they’ll suffer if we don’t. Make sure you’re a part of this revolution. Just like Jack Hidary, be part of the action and the solution.


Written by Isaac Hernandez

enero 4, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Publicado en hybrid

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Hemi Hybrid

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Hemi Hybrid
Celebrating the American Roots and Growing New Green Branches
©2009 Isaac Hernández

Bob Lee, the man behind the rebirth of the HEMI V8 engine in 2003, has recently been replaced by Paolo Ferrero as senior Vice President of Chrysler Powertrain. Lee continues at Chrysler, but now Ferrero, who served as vice-president of product engineering at Fiat, calls the shots when it comes to engines.

Fiat owns 20% of Chrysler Group LLC and has management power. As part of the investment deal, Fiat will provide its fuel-efficient engines to Chrysler. If Fiat were to manufacture these engines in the US, the Italian company would be allowed to purchase an additional 5% of the American brand.

Some people in America are afraid that the Fiat takeover would represent the end of the HEMI engine. At Chrysler LLC, they love the HEMI and they’re making sure that the Italians learn to love it too.

During a recent visit of the Italian Minister of Economic Development, Claudio Scajola, to the Chrysler headquarters, the Italian delegation was shown the wind tunnel with no other than a HEMI Chrysler Viper SRT-10 ACR in it.

During the MotoGP Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix races in Laguna Seca, California, Fiat Yamaha Team riders former World Champion Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo drove a 425-horsepower 6.1-liter HEMI-powered Dodge Challenger SRT8.

I have been lucky to drive the Dodge Challenger HEMI on the Willow Springs racetrack first by myself, and then with Erich Heuschele at the wheel ( Erich, Supervisor of Vehicle Dynamics SRT Engineering, is passionate about the HEMI. He later gave me a ride in the Viper ACR (

Today I want to celebrate the Hemi heritage, in honor of those men and women who have given their ingenuity to develop the hemispherical combustion chamber, which with its arched shape, allows for the spark plug to be placed in the center of the chamber and the position of the valves allows for better breathing of the engine.

The first Chrysler HEMI engine was an inverted V-16, rated at 2,500 horsepower, developed for WWII aircraft, but it never made it into production. Fiat’s own history has a hemispherical engine, the one that powered the A.L.F.A. 40/60 GP car in 1914. There have been other hemispherical engines before, in racecars from Peugeot, Pipe and Miller, as well as production cars from Duesenberg. Stutz and Offenhauser, among others.

Chrysler continued developing the HEMI after WWII, but it wasn’t until the Chrysler C300 came out in 1955 that the legend began to be written. It was the first production car in the US with over 300 hp. Chrysler won the NASCAR Grand National title and the AAA Championship, with a whooping 33 race victories. Many say the C300 was the first muscle car. The FirePower engine came to propel different models of Dodge, Chrysler, Imperial and DeSoto cars. The Hemi engine died with the 1959 model year.

The legend was reborn in 1964, specifically to win at NASCAR. And win it did. Richard Petty dominated in 1964 and 1966 with the blue Plymouth Superbird Number 43, powered by the 426 Hemi (426 for its cubic inches, or 7 liters). It became such an important part of American car culture, that in the 2006 film Cars, Pixar included a car inspired on the Superbird, named “King”, voiced by Petty himself. It was for this second generation that Chrysler trademarked the name Hemi. Its life came again to an end in 1971.

The first Chrysler HEMI lasted for four years, the second one for twice as long. If we were to follow mathematical logic, the third generation (built in 5.7, 6.1 and 6.4 liter variations, so far) born in 2003 should be around until 2015. Will it? Unfortunately, as much as Americans love their HEMI, sales may not be supporting its long-term survival.

The HEMI of the future?

American ingenuity will find a way to have fun with cars and be environmentally friendly, now that our main focus ought to be to reduce carbon emissions, so that our children don’t have to suffer extreme global warming.

Popular Mechanics (PM) modified a Dodge Challenger SRT8, turning it into an Eco+Muscle car. The idea is to use “inexpensive aerodynamic aids, a state-of-the-art electric drive system and some other helpful bits” to turn the Challenger “into a parallel hybrid plug-in/solar/electric that burns no fuel at all in everyday driving.“

PM paid $30,740.00 for the Challenger, and quite a bit more on gasoline, doing 9.0 mpg in stop-and-go traffic. On the freeway, because of the computerized cylinder deactivation, they could get as much as 25.4 mpg on the highway.

The tuners went all out, trying to squeeze as much power out of the V-8, even adding a nitrous system. Then they added a UQM electric motor, at a weight penalty of 89 lbs. producing 125 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor provides all torque from the very beginning, improving acceleration for the Challenger. How do you power it? With 28 Exide Select Orbital lead batteries in the back seat, producing 336 volts. This was the best compromise between power and price, according to PM. They’d prefer a lithium-ion system, but pricing was out of their range.

The racing stripes on the carbon fiber hood are actually flexible solar panels, which help charge the batteries. “On a sunny day, they recharge the battery at a rate of 2.5 amps”.

The rear axle was modified and so was the fuel tank. There’s also a fuel cell under the trunk. Making everything fit took some genius. You can read more about it in

The cool thing about the Eco+Muscle Challenger is that the foot pedal controls the combustion engine, while a hand throttle sends powers the electric motor.

To compensate for the extra weight, many body parts were replaced with carbon fiber. The car sports new lighter seats and no rearview mirrors, which were replaced by more aerodynamic video cameras.

There’s still work to do. The engineers are still trying to make the car work on fully electric mode in the city. Right now, the Hemi has to idle to power the power steering and power brakes even if the electric motor is driving the car.

The Eco+Muscle maybe a crazy idea, and an expensive one (PM doesn’t say how much it would cost to build one without all the sponsors), but it’s definitely a fun idea. My hat goes off to the people who want to reconcile the muscle with the eco, the past with the future.

Written by Isaac Hernandez

noviembre 27, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Publicado en automovil, hybrid, sports car

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