Last week a UK auction saw two early 20th century American electric cars sell for good prices. The EVs were a 1906 Pope-Waverly Victoria Phaeton (£44,800) and a 1907 Victor High Wheel Electric Runabout (£42,750). Both cars were fully restored and outfitted with current battery technology. Among the Victor’s features is a bell, meant to warn pedestrians who might not hear the nearly-silent electric car coming. (See photo above)

In a significant move forward in EV technology, at the recent Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in the US state of Colorado an electric motorcycle came in second place, just a few seconds behind the winner.  The electric motorbike is a Victory Empulse RR and beat out its sister, a Victory gasoline-powered Project 156. Notably, the EV’s power output was unaffected by the elevation changes in the race, unlike the gas-powered machines. The 156-turn course takes bike racers from 9,390 feet above sea level to the mountain’s summit of 14,115 feet above sea level. (h/t Fred)

Sweden has opened the first stretch of its electric highway. It is a two-kilometer stretch of freeway in central Sweden with power lines stretched over the right hand lane. The highway will be used by hybrid tractor-trailer trucks that are attached to electricity lines strung along a single lane of the highway. Since the trucks will be able to switch between a 100% electric engine and a hybrid engine operating costs for trucking companies are expected to drop sharply. Scania claims that this is the first step towards Sweden being completely fossil fuel emission free by 2030. This is a modern version of older technology as the first electric street cars date all the way back to Berlin in 1881.

A hydrogen fuel cell racing car completed laps on the Le Mans circuit in France for the first time in history. The car was a Green GT H2, driven around the French track by former Formula 1 driver Olivier Panis during a break in qualifying, and again before the race started. The GT H2’s  two hydrogen fuel cell create electricity for two 270 horsepower electric motors that drive the rear wheels. A three-minute refueling fill up time provides 40 minutes of driving. Total power output is 544 horsepower and 2,950 pounds-feet of torque. International racing’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest have established a committee to focus on getting hydrogen fuel cell cars to compete at Le Mans in the future.

The Crescent Dunes Project, located in the US state of Nevada, is the first solar power plant in the world to to generate electricity 24 hours a day. The plant uses molton salt to produce electricity day and night, regardless of whether the Sun is shining. The 110-megawatt plant uses concentrated solar technology with more than 10,000 continuously moving mirrors. The energy is concentrated onto a central tower, where molton salt is heated to over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (538 Celsius). The salt acts as an energy storage, or thermal battery. The heat is retained until needed to be used. At night, or when the Sun is not shining, the salt is used to create hot steam via a heat exchanger. This steam then powers a steam turbine, which produces electricity. The plant provides electric power to 75,000 homes.

US coal companies continue to suffer as cheaper natural gas replaces coal as the fuel of choice for electric power companies. Last week Murray Energy Corp., the largest privately held coal miner in the U.S., warned that it may lay off as many as 4,400 employees, or about 80% of its workforce, because of weak coal markets. The layoffs would begin in September. World-wide demand for coal has also slumped, and new US environmental regulations are making many coal mines unprofitable to operate. Several US coal firms have declared bankruptcy in the past 18 months and employment in the industry is down 30,000 jobs since 2009.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has published its Annual Energy Outlook 2016. In 2015, fossil fuels made up 81.5% of that country’s total energy consumption, the lowest fossil fuel share in the past century. The decline was led by coal which fell 13% in 2015, the highest annual percentage decrease of any fossil fuel in the past 50 years. The EIA now projects that fossil fuel’s percentage could decline to 76.6% by 2040. Last year renewables share of energy consumption was nearly 10% led by hydro-electric, nuclear and biomass.  In future, the EIA expects wind and solar to be among the fastest-growing energy sources, ultimately surpassing biomass and nuclear, and nearly exceeding coal consumption by 2040.



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