Archive for April, 2010

AVX extends MLC tempeture range

Monday, April 19th, 2010

AVX is proud to announce the release of our new X8L High Temperature & High Capacitance dielectric. X8L dielectric offers extended capacitance ranges when compared to X8R.

Some key features/benefits include:

  • High Capacitance for 150°C applications
  • Flexiterm® available for critical mechanical and thermal cycling applications
  • AECQ-200 available
  • Epoxy termination available for hybrid applications
  • X8L Temperature characteristic is: +/-15% in the operating temperature range of: -55°C to 125°C; and +15/-40% in the temperature range extending to +150°C
  • X8L has a higher capacitance range than X8R, up to 1 uF and it enables high capacitance designs where operating temperature will approach 150°C.
  • Together with the AVX Flexiterm® option, it is an ideal product for critical mechanical and thermal cycling applications. Typical applications include automotive engine management and temperature sensors. Optional epoxy terminations also allow this component to be used in special hybrid industrial/automotive applications as well.

A new segmentation for electric vehicles

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

NOVEMBER 2009 • Nick Hodson and John Newman : Automotive & Assembly Practice

Global carmakers are trying to define a future market for electric vehicles. To reach beyond affluent, environmentally conscious, or technically enamored buyers, these companies will need to develop products that satisfy the consumers’ main concern—good value for money. Given the current cost of energy storage, that is a considerable challenge.

A recent McKinsey study suggests that one way companies can achieve this goal would be to focus on tailoring battery-powered vehicles to the actual driving missions of specific consumers—that is, to the way they use their vehicles. Most existing gasoline-fueled cars, as well as many electric ones now on the drawing boards, are intended for multiple driving missions of differing lengths and speeds. By focusing on specific driving missions of consumers, a company can match a vehicle’s energy storage requirements to a consumer’s particular needs and thus design more economic vehicles. It can also shape its brand and advertising messages and go-to-market strategies for such products more efficiently.

Our study, which focused on typical driving missions in the United States, examined the factors underlying the energy storage requirements, and thus the costs, of car batteries. We divided energy use into two major categories: the energy required, first, by the vehicles’ physical characteristics (such as rolling resistance and mass) and, second, by the way the vehicles are used (such as driving distance, speed, and the frequency of stopping and starting). It is well understood that the addition of incremental energy storage increases an electric vehicle’s cost substantially. (That isn’t true for gas-fueled vehicles, since a larger gas tank is almost cost free.) But we found that the energy storage requirements of cars used for different missions could be vastly dissimilar, even if their size and total number of miles driven remained the same. Driving missions—much more than the size of vehicles—determine energy storage requirements.

AS&E to service Z Backscatter Vans

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

BILLERICA, Mass., March 30 (UPI) — The U.S. government selected American Science and Engineering Inc. to provide maintenance support for the company’s deployed X-ray scanning units.

U.S. company AS&E, a developer of X-ray security systems designed to counter terrorism and other threats, received a contract to provide the U.S. government with service and maintenance on its Z Backscatter Van inspection units.

The Z Backscatter Van, a mobile screening technology integrated into a commercial-grade delivery van, has been widely deployed in the United States to support the U.S. Homeland Security Department and other applications .

“We are pleased to provide continued first-class service and support for the U.S. government’s fleet of Z Backscatter Vans deployed overseas for critical counter-terrorism operations,” Anthony Fabiano, AS&E president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

“As the No. 1 selling non-intrusive mobile inspection system, the Z Backscatter Van provides our customers with unparalleled detection and mobility to support efforts to uncover vehicle-borne explosives and other contraband.”

Energy Star program comes under attack

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

The article posted in caught my attention. I’m not sure what to believe anymore but I do believe we need to continue to march forward with our efforts to minimize energy consumption while creating new generation technology.

Does a gas-powered alarm clock the size of a small generator sound energy efficient to you? Or how about something a company claims is a room air cleaner — actually a space heater with a feather duster and fly strips attached to it, judging by the product image on the company’s Web site? Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency gave both products the Energy Star seal of approval without asking any questions.

Both items were the inventions of covert investigators at the Government Accountability Office, demonstrating that GAO officials have a sense of humor and the Energy Star efficiency rating program has a credibility problem.

A GAO report last week showed investigators had little trouble setting up sham companies that sought and received Energy Star certification for more than a dozen bogus products, including the alarm clock and the air cleaner. The Energy Star program is managed jointly by the Energy Department and EPA to certify and promote energy-efficient appliances and products.

“The results of the GAO’s investigation are astounding and raise doubts about the validity of the Energy Star rating,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Collins requested the investigation.

The program purports to give consumers, businesses and federal agencies valid information about the most energy-efficient products in 60 categories. In 2009, more than 40,000 products by 2,400 manufacturers were Energy-Star qualified.

Federal policies have given the Energy Star program significant clout. The government requires agencies to buy many products certified through Energy Star or the department’s Federal Energy Management Program unless an agency head declares in writing that a statutory exemption applies. What’s more, federal money funds tax credits and product rebates for businesses and consumers who purchase Energy Star products. Nearly $300 million of Recovery Act funds were appropriated for a state rebate grant program to further encourage such purchases.

“The GAO’s investigation proved that the absence of controls and oversight make the Energy Star program highly vulnerable to fraud and abuse,” Collins said.

Between June 2009 and March 2010, investigators set up four fake companies, each of which easily entered into the required partnership agreement with either EPA or the Energy Department, under which manufacturers agree to comply with Energy Star eligibility criteria. The fictitious companies then submitted 20 products for Energy Star certification. Fifteen of the products were approved, two were denied and GAO withdrew three because they had not received a qualification determination by the time the investigation was completed in March.

“Our investigation found that companies can easily submit fictitious energy-efficiency claims in order to obtain Energy Star qualification for a broad range of consumer products,” the report said. The sham companies even received product and service solicitations from would-be buyers.

“These solicitations are an example of the value placed on being an Energy Star partner, and emphasize why rigorous screening is necessary,” investigators wrote in the report.

Among the bogus products approved were major appliances, including a dishwasher, clothes washer and refrigerator; a commercial HVAC system; a geothermal heat pump; a furnace; a boiler; and computer equipment.

The two products rejected were a ventilating fan (an EPA reviewer rejected it because it did not appear on a trade association registry assuring compliance with standards), and a compact fluorescent light bulb, because it did not have the required third-party certification by a designated lab.

“Our proactive testing revealed that the Energy Star program is primarily a self-certification program relying on corporate honesty and industry self-policing to protect the integrity of the Energy Star label,” said the report.

“Taxpayers are being fleeced twice,” Collins said. Consumers fail to reap the promised efficiency benefits of some products, and federal money funds rebates and tax credits to promote products that might not meet efficiency standards. Companies that produce genuinely efficient products could be outpriced by unscrupulous firms, she noted.

This isn’t the first time investigators have found problems with the program. In August 2007, the EPA inspector general reported the agency’s lax management of controls and oversight of the Energy Star certification process. Last October, the Energy IG found similar problems with Energy’s oversight. Each agency is responsible for setting efficiency standards for products under its purview and for ensuring the proper use of the Energy Star label in the marketplace.

GAO auditors also noted that the October 2008 issue of Consumer Reports reviewed the program and found lax qualifying standards, outdated federal testing procedures and reliance on industry self-policing, without any evidence of its effectiveness.

“EPA and DOE are taking aggressive action to promote confidence in the Energy Star brand through both testing and enforcement,” according to a joint statement from both agencies. The statement noted the agencies have taken action against 35 manufacturers in the past four months for violating efficiency standards.

Last week, Energy issued subpoenas to four manufacturers as part of investigations into potential standards violations of lighting and air conditioner products. “As part of our expanded energy efficiency enforcement efforts, the Department of Energy will continue to open investigations whenever we have credible information that products are violating federal conservation standards,” said department General Counsel Scott Blake Harris in a statement.

Also last week, Energy began testing six of the most common product types: freezers, refrigerator-freezers, clothes washers, dishwashers, water heaters and room air conditioners. The agency said it will test about 200 basic models at independent test laboratories during the next few months.

EPA and Energy are developing plans to require independent testing of all products seeking the Energy Star label, and ongoing verification testing to ensure continued compliance. An EPA official said the agency was in the process of defining requirements across all 60 product categories. The goal is to require qualification testing by EPA-approved independent labs by the end of 2010, the official said.

Collins said she would push for aggressive internal controls at Energy and EPA to verify product efficiency claims.

“I want to make sure we pursue changes that are more than window dressing. As GAO’s investigation results indicate, increased use of third-party verification may be an effective mechanism to help ensure that energy efficiency claims are confirmed,” she said.


Electric Cars and Hybrids Buzzing at NY Auto Show

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Electric cars were front and center as the New York International Auto Show press preview began this week. Nissan revealed the $32,780 price for its plug-in Leaf and said it would start taking orders in April. Chevrolet proudly displayed its plug-in Volt on sale in November. And Ford CEO Alan Mulally said Microsoft technology will help future Ford electric-car owners decide the cheapest time to charge their vehicles (Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made a video cameo).
Meanwhile, car makers also showcased new hybrids as part of their push to meet tighter federal gas mileage requirements. Here’s a rundown of these latest hybrids:
Lincoln MKZ-Ford has won praise and sales with its Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids. Now it expands the gas-electric system to its luxury Lincoln brand with the 2011 MKZ, on sale this fall.   Ford officials say it will be highest-gas-mileage luxury sedan in the U.S., with EPA ratings of 41 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. That beats Lexus HS250h. Prices have not yet been set, but this year’s gasoline-only MKZ sells for around $40,000 with options.
Porsche Cayenne S-Though best known for its sleek sports cars, Porsche sells more Cayenne SUVs than any other model.                To boost mileage, this sporty SUV will combine a 3.0-liter V-6 with an electric motor for a combined 374 horsepower in the hybrid available in early 2011. Impressive acceleration? Of course.  Look for zero-to-60 in about 6.7 seconds. Though U.S. mileage ratings aren’t yet available, translation from the European figure suggests about 24 mpg on the highway. That sounds like so-so mileage for a hybrid, but it’s a big improvement over the 2010 V-8 Cayenne S at 19 mpg highway, 23 city. And on the highway under certain conditions, Porsche says the Cayenne hybrid can cruise up to 85 mph on the electric motor alone- unusual for a hybrid. You’ll pay for this combination, with an estimated list price of $67,700. Porsche, which owns Volkswagen, plans to put the same system into its VW Touareg SUV in the 2012 model.
Honda CR-Z-With its hybrid Civic and Insight already in its line-up, Honda’s adding this sleek sports car with hybrid power late this summer. The 1.5-liter, four-cylinder gas engine and the electric motor combine for 122 horsepower. Especially appealing: The CR-Z will sell for a non-stratospheric $23,300. Some environmentally-minded reviewers grouse that the estimated 36 mpg city and 38 highway isn’t high enough for a two-seater (and lower than the much-heavier Ford Fusion hybrid). Can’t please everyone.Jerry Edgerton