Sustainable America Blog

Clean Car News: Tesla, Fuel Cells and…Tomatoes?


Photo Credit: afagen via Compfight cc

It was an exciting week in alternative fuel news. Here are some headlines that sparked our interest:

Tesla Opens Its Patents to All
Tesla founder Elon Musk upped the electric vehicle game this week by opening up all of the company’s patents for any automaker to use in good faith. In a blog post, Musk said he made this open-source move to spur the advancement of EV technology, calling the alt-fuel vehicle programs of major auto manufacturers “small to nonexistent”.

This altruistic move also makes great PR, but some say it may also be Musk’s way of hedging against a growing interest in fuel cell technology, which leads us to …

.. hyundai_fuel_cell Hyundai Releases Its First Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Vehicle
Hyundai’s first hydrogen fuel cell car was driven off the lot in Southern California this week. The South Korean company is the third to release a fuel cell vehicle in the United States; Honda and Mercedes-Benz also have put a few on the road. The first customer for the Tucson crossover leased the car for $499 a month plus a $2,999 down payment. The lease also comes with unlimited free hydrogen refueling and maintenance service.

Sounds great, right? Well, the only hitch is that there are only 12 hydrogen fueling stations in the United States, mostly in Southern California. But someone is working on that problem…

Hydrogen-XT Aims to Broaden Hydrogen Fueling Network
A Houston-based technology company announced in a press release this week that it’s developing a system that could increase the availability of hydrogen-fueling stations. Hydrogen-XT’s plan includes two parts: “a small, inexpensive fueling station that reforms hydrogen from natural gas” and a smartphone app that “locates stations and displays fuel availability, reserves the amount a customer wants, routes them to the selected station and then completes the transaction.” Rather than building new hydrogen fueling stations, Hydrogen-XT stations would be installed at existing gas stations, corner stores and parking lots. The company says their outlets would be 100 times less expensive than today’s hydrogen-fueling stations. An interesting idea…we wish them luck!

And just for fun…

Heinz ketchup sign Car Components Made From Tomatoes
As an organization focused on both sustainable food and fuel solutions, we were especially interested in the news that Ford and Heinz are partnering to come up with ways to use byproducts of tomato processing, like peels, stems and seeds, to make materials for use in vehicle manufacturing — think wiring brackets and storage bins. The material would be lighter than traditional plastics, which could ultimately help save fuel. And considering each American consumes three bottles of ketchup a year, the raw materials should be abundant!

Amy Leibrock

Heinz sign photo credit: Hryck. via Compfight cc

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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