electric vehicle

Amazon Invests In Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

By: Tina Casey on Triple Pundit

Amazon Hydrogen
Retail giant Amazon made waves with its recent forays into the entertainment field. And now it looks like the sprawling enterprise is about to pull the rug out from under hydrogen fuel cell skeptics.

Last week the company signed a deal with fuel cell innovator Plug Power for a new generation of zero-emission, hydrogen-powered electric forklifts and other equipment at its fulfillment centers.

Warehouse operations aren’t the most exciting sector in the auto industry, but the new Amazon forklift deal could make a big difference for the future of fuel cell electric cars. That market has been slow to take off, but the Amazon announcement adds momentum to the trend, helping to keep investors and auto manufacturers interested in pushing the technology forward.

A big deal for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Fuel cell vehicles run on electricity, like the now-familiar battery electric vehicles. Both types of EV emit no air pollutants. The main difference is that fuel cells generate electricity on-the-go through a chemical reaction. Battery EVs run on stored electricity.

That difference looms large in warehouse operations, where excess fat shaved from time and space translates into big bottom-line savings.

Battery-powered forklifts require relatively long charging times, and extra storage space for battery charging. In contrast, fuel cell forklifts can be fueled up in a matter of minutes, like an ordinary gas-powered vehicle, and they don’t require a “battery room” or other excess storage.

Hydrogen fuel cell forklifts have already begun to establish a solid track record in the logistics sector, and it looks like Amazon didn’t take much convincing.

The recent deal enables the company to acquire more than 55 million common shares in Plug Power in connection with a $600 million commitment from Amazon to purchase goods and services from Plug Power.

This could be just the beginning…

Amazon and Plug Power plan on a relatively modest start for the new venture, with a total of $70 million in buys this year for fuel cell equipment at selected fulfillment centers.

What’s really interesting about the deal is the “and services” part of the agreement. Forklifts appear to be just the start of a wide-ranging collaboration between the two companies, leading to other applications.

Here’s Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh enthusing over the potentials:

“This agreement is a tremendous opportunity for Plug Power to further innovate and grow while helping to support the work Amazon does to pick, pack and ship customer orders. … Our hydrogen fuel cell technology, comprehensive service network, and commitment to providing cost-savings for customers has enabled Plug Power to become a trusted partner to many in the industry and we are excited to begin working with Amazon.”

To put this in perspective, consider that just a few years ago it was difficult to get investors interested in fuel cell technology. The hydrogen economy dream was hitting a harsh reality — namely that the technology was not quite ready for prime time. Growing competition from battery-powered EVs also helped to shove hydrogen fuel cells down the ladder.

TriplePundit’s RP Siegel interviewed Marsh about the fuel cell dilemma in 2012, and the CEO made these observations about Plug Power, forklifts and the future of fuel cell EVs:

“With limited capital, we had to be selective in our decisions about which markets to go after. … The one that really jumped out at us was replacing batteries in fork lift trucks with fuel cells. How big of a market could that be? Well, in the US there are over 1.5 million forklift trucks, and worldwide, the number is 6 million.

“We chose this market because it was a way to build a profitable business that would allow us to attract large customers in a relatively large market … as we continue to drive down our costs, we should be at parity with IC [internal combustion] engines in five to six years, at which point we’ll be ready to expand into other areas.”

With the new Amazon partnership, it looks like Plug Power is hitting that five- to six-year timeline for growing into other areas.

Fuel cell EVs hit the streets

Just a wild guess, but in a few years you could see Amazon introduce its own fuel cell EV for street use.

That may seem far-fetched, but consider that Google began dabbling in the related field of self-driving cars in 2015 and is now a burgeoning leader in the space. (That project has since been transferred to Google’s parent company, Alphabet.)

Apple is also inching into the self-driving car market.

Intel is another tech company putting feelers into the self-driving sector. Just last month it took a giant step with a $15.3 billion acquisition of the Israeli startup MobilEye.

Amazon will have to act fast if it wants to catch the train. Mainstream auto manufacturers are beginning to add fuel cell EVs to their rosters at a quickening pace.

Toyota was among the first to make a firm commitment to the field with its fuel cell Mirai. The company’s efforts include the all-important transition to sustainable hydrogen and support for growing the network of hydrogen fuel stations, along with a foray into the forklift sector.

Other companies introducing fuel cell EVs to the consumer market include GM and Honda.

So, who’s giving fuel cell EVs the stinkeye?

In response to the Amazon fuel cell forklift news, last week MIT Technology Review pumped out a brief article with this observation about the consumer market:

“Attempts to convince the public to embrace hydrogen-powered cars have flopped. While some automakers continue to push on with the vehicles, other are increasingly having second thoughts.”

Calling Debbie Downer!

On the brighter side, last December the journal IEEE Spectrum took an in-depth look at the potential for the fuel cell EV market to bust loose, penned by the director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine.

The article emphasized that both battery and fuel cell EVs will have a place in the zero-emission market of tomorrow, but fuel cells will give batteries a run for the money based on a number of advantages including range and refueling time.

The author, Scott Samuelson, also makes a good case that excess renewable energy can be used to manufacturing sustainable hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles.

That growing market could provide an important incentive for investors to accelerate the pace of renewable energy development.

February LEED Project Update

 

Julie

 

By Julie Lundin, Founder, LEED AP ID+C, NCIDQ, ASID
Director of Sustainable Interior Design for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 

 

Emerald Skyline Corporation in conjunction with Golden Spiral Design, is designing, renovating and repurposing an unoccupied industrial building located in Boca Raton, FL. This building was formerly an auto garage that stood vacant for several years and was environmentally contaminated. Our renovation includes many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED certification from the USGBC.

LEED certified building boca raton floridaWe are getting close… to completing the build out of the interior of our project. I would like to share some of the design details and finishes that we have chosen. This building is an old auto garage so we are keeping the existing open floor plan of the main garage space with minimum interior walls being constructed.   The perimeter concrete walls will remain intact without the addition of a drywall finish. The walls have so much character; the imperfections on the concrete block that have accumulated over the years are too interesting to cover up. The walls will be painted and some of the imperfections enhanced with paint layering. The 3 overhead garage door openings have been replaced with impact windows and doors with the center opening now serving as the main entrance.   Since it is important to our design concept to retain as many of the auto garage components as possible we designed this elevation to keep the overhead doors in place behind the new glazing. Manual lift mechanisms have been installed to enable us to raise and lower the garage doors. We are using the roll down doors as large metal shades for both privacy and sun control since the openings are located on the south façade. Broad horizontal stripes will be painted on the interior of the overhead doors to add a bold touch to the space when lowered.

Due to the absence of interior walls we will have an open workspace. Open work spaces can offer important benefits. Our windows and doors are south facing which will allow natural light to filter through the entire office and provide views of the outside. Studies have shown that natural light and views of the outdoors provide occupants attributes of increased patience, productivity and physical health. Open work spaces can be beautiful but do lend themselves to noise issues that need to be addressed in order to function well. Since we are not constructing interior walls, the spaces and their usage will be delineated by furniture and lighting placement. “Floating” furniture and fixtures will create visual separation as well as help control sound transference. The existing concrete floor will remain but be polished and stained. Hard surfaces do a poor job of absorbing sound, so we will be using large area rugs to help minimize noise. The ceiling height is 12 ft. in this portion of the building and is a great architectural element, yet can also contribute to unwanted noise. Once we are in the building and experience the day to day noise levels, additional soft acoustical materials may need to be added. In addition, plants provide sound absorbing capabilities that can work just as effectively in an indoor environment as an outdoor setting as well as provide health benefits, including improving oxygen levels. We may even include a living wall!

Since this is a LEED registered project the specifications for the interior build out as well as exterior choices will contribute to the certification of the building. There are many products available that are not only attractive but have the attributes needed to create a beautiful and sustainable space. Some of our selections include:

  • Low flow toilets and faucets
  • Energy Star Appliances
  • Low VOC paints and finishes
  • Bamboo wood flooring
  • LED Lighting
  • Reuse of demolition materials
  • ChargePoint Electric Vehicle Charging Station
  • Water Collection Cistern
  • HVAC Condensation Drip Lines for exterior vegetation

Two of my favorite sustainable design choices are on the exterior of the building. A recycled glass mosaic of an abstract nautilus shell was created to adorn the south elevation. Metal “green screens” will be attached to the front apex of the building to create a green wall that will add beauty and provide shading to the stucco exterior.

There is still much to be accomplished but we look forward to being in our new space and sharing the completed details and photos with you.

 

The rapid growth of electric cars worldwide, in 4 charts

The article below puts a spotlight on the swift growth of electric vehicle use worldwide. So speedy in fact, EV use has tripled since 2013. This is one of the few areas that the world’s nations are on track to keep climate change below 2 degrees celsius. Let this be a reason to keep up the good work with EV deployment, and highlight the other energy initiatives that could use improvement. With every electric vehicle that hits the road, the demand for places to charge up increases. What if I told you there was a way to not only install a charging station, but an independently owned business that can set its own pricing, access settings, and much more? Keep reading to find out…


The rapid growth of electric cars worldwide, in 4 charts

electric vehicle parking

An increasingly common sight

Written by Brad Plumer on June 6, 2016

One million down, another billion or so to go.

In a new report, the International Energy Agency estimates that 1.26 million electric cars hit the world’s roads in 2015, passing a nifty (if symbolic) milestone. Here’s a chart showing the very rapid growth of both battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEV):

evolution global electric car stock

(IEA, Global EV Outlook 2016)BEV = battery electric vehicles; PHEV = plug-in hybrid vehicles, which typically have both an electric motor and a conventional engine.

The United States now has 400,000 electric vehicles on the road — a massive increase since 2010, though well short of Obama’s goal of 1 million by 2015. Meanwhile, China has become the world’s largest market, overtaking the US in annual sales last year.

Is 1 million a lot? It depends how you look at it. It’s jaw-dropping growth given that there were only a few hundred electric vehicles on the entire planet back in 2005. And the total number of electric vehicles worldwide has tripled just since 2013.

But to put this in perspective, there are more than 1 billion gasoline- and diesel-powered cars on the world’s roads — and demand will keep soaring in the decades ahead as China and India’s middle classes expand. So we have a long, long way to go before electric cars take over the world.

In order to avoid more than 2°C of global warming, the IEA calculates, we’d likely need to see about 150 million electric cars on the road by 2030 and 1 billion by 2050 as part of a broader climate strategy. The good news, the agency says, is that this ambitious electric vehicle target seems much more feasible than it did just a few years ago.

Two big reasons for the rapid growth of EVs: public subsidies and falling battery prices

For starters, more and more countries are enacting policies to build up charging infrastructure and incentivize vehicle purchases. The table below details some of those policies, which include everything from tax breaks to tailpipe emission standards (which favor cleaner electric cars) to HOV lane access:

Electric vehicle uptake

IEA, Global EV Outlook 2016

“Ambitious targets and policy support have lowered vehicle costs, extended vehicle range and reduced consumer barriers in a number of countries,” the report says.

As a result, electric vehicles now make up more than 1 percent of sales in China, France, Denmark, and Sweden. They make up 9.7 percent of sales in the Netherlands, and 23 percent of sales in Norway, which offers some of the most generous tax incentives around, worth about $13,500 per car.

The other huge driver here is falling battery costs, which have fallen by a factor of four since 2008. Since batteries make up around one-third of the price of electric vehicles, getting this number down even further is crucial for widespread adoption.

evolution battery energy density cost

IEA, Global EV Outlook 2016

The Department of Energy estimates that battery costs need to fall to $125 per kilowatt-hour by 2022 to achieve cost-competitiveness with conventional vehicles. The IEA says this “seems realistic” given current rates of technological improvement, and points out that manufacturers like Tesla and GM have set even more ambitious cost targets.

The amount of energy that batteries can hold (known as energy density) has also improved significantly. The IEA cites various reports that electric cars will soon be able to travel more than 180 miles on a single charge — also critical for boosting consumer adoption and alleviating “range anxiety.”

Meanwhile, electric cars get all the attention, but the IEA points out that the electrification of other modes of transport, including motorcycles and buses, is just as important. Particularly in countries where these vehicles are widespread:

The electrification of road transport modes other than cars, namely 2-wheelers, buses and freight delivery vehicles, is currently ongoing in a few localised areas. With an estimated stock exceeding 200 million units, China is the global leader in the electric 2-wheelers market and almost the only relevant player globally, primarily because of the restriction on the use of conventional 2- wheelers in several cities to reduce local pollution. China is also leading the global deployment of electric bus fleets, with more than 170 000 buses already circulating today.

To help solve climate change, electric cars need to do much, much more

Here’s one last chart from the IEA, showing what electric car deployment would have to look like to help meet the emissions-reduction promises put forth at the Paris climate talks last year (around 100 million electric cars by 2030). It also shows the even faster deployment that would be needed to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (about 150 million):

deployment scenarios electric cars

IEA, Global EV Outlook 2016

We’re on track now, but it’s early. In fact, as the IEA points out elsewhere, electric vehicle deployment is basically the only area where the world’s nations are on track to hit the targets needed to stay below 2 degrees Celsius.

One final caveat: As David Biello recently explained at Scientific American, electric cars aren’t inherently greener than their gasoline-powered counterparts. If you use coal-fired power plants to charge all those electric cars, the climate benefits are minimal (or, worse, negative). The IEA is well aware of this, although it also notes that electric car deployment can help support the rollout of cleaner renewable energy, too:

The climate change-related benefits of EVs can be fully harvested under the condition that their use is coupled with a decarbonised grid, an additional challenge for countries that are largely dependent on fossil fuels for power generation. Investment in EV roll-out can support this transition, e.g. increasing the opportunities available to integrate variable renewable energy.

Cleaning up the grid is a sine qua non for electric cars to help ameliorate climate change, although this hardly seems like a deal breaker for the technology. Think of it this way: If we don’t clean up the world’s electric grid, we have little chance of stopping global warming either way. The two have to go hand in hand.

End article.


Following Emerald Skyline’s recently announced partnership with ChargePoint, we have realized more and more the importance of the growth of electric vehicle use worldwide. Equally important as these EVs are the charging stations and infrastructure needed to support them. This rapid growth necessitates installation of charging stations. The industry standard for functionality and aesthetics are ChargePoint stations which are independently owned businesses that set their own pricing, access settings and much more.

To find out more information about the installation of a ChargePoint Electric Vehicle Charging Station at your home, office building, shopping center, hotel or transportation hub and join the EV revolution for a greener tomorrow, please contact us at 305.424.8704 or info@emeraldskyline.com