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TMCnet Green Tech Week in Review
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December 22, 2012

TMCnet Green Tech Week in Review

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

In green technology news this week, a Canadian engineer has come up with a new twist (or should we say, twister?) on wind power—harnessing the energy of tornadoes for the grid; a storm is brewing at the EPA over allegations that Ford’s hybrids have not lived up to their fuel economy claims; and Lux Research is hailing the top ten emerging technology companies of the year.

Louis Michaud, founder of Sarnia, Ontario-based AVEtec (an acronym for Atmospheric Vortec Engine technology), wants to funnel the power of man-made, “mini” tornadoes into the grid. And that’s the just the sort of disruptive innovation that PayPal’s (News - Alert) prosperous founder, Peter Thiel, wants to support. His San Francisco-based Breakout Labs program just awarded Michaud $300,000 to build a prototype device that can “blow out” tornadoes about 120 feet high. The AVEtec apparatus will introduce warm or humid air into a circular station, where it will become a rising vortex that can be used to drive multiple turbines.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has vowed to “look at the … data,” following allegations that Ford’s 2013 model C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid do not live up to the automaker’s fuel economy claims of 47 city/47 highway/47 combined miles per gallon (mpg).  On December 6, Consumer Reports (CR) published the results of city and highway road trials conducted at its 327-acre Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut—saying that the “discrepancy between our reports and the EPA ratings is the largest we have seen” since the organization began evaluating road performance. Part of the problem may be attributable to the all-electric efficiency ratings of these vehicles.

Who are the up-and-comers in high tech this year? Boston-based Lux Research has released a list of the top 10 emerging technology companies among the 1,380 that its analysts profiled and rated over the course of 2012. A good number of them are cleantech firms, several of which located in California.

Additionally, The European Commission awarded over $1.6 billion in funding to 23 innovative renewable energy demonstration projects this week, under the first call for proposals for the NER300 program. The projects cover a wide range of technologies—bioenergy (including advanced biofuels), concentrated solar power, geothermal power, wind, ocean energy and distributed renewable management (smart grids).

Also this week, Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Continental, a global automotive systems supplier, received approval from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to test autonomous vehicles—also known as self-driving, or driverless, cars—on the state's public roads. After completing driving demonstrations on December 18 in Carson City, the DMV's Autonomous Review Committee approved Continental's safety plans, employee training, system functions and accident reporting mechanisms. Continental will now receive its testing license, as well as a special red license plate featuring an infinity sign, to represent the car of the future. The plate is designed to be easily recognized by law enforcement and the public. It will only be used for licensed autonomous test vehicles.

IBM (News - Alert) has announced an initiative that will simplify electric vehicle (EV) charging in Europe, regardless of which avenue or autobahn a driver has taken, in a way similar to international roaming for mobile phones. Part of the Green eMotion project, the initiative is funded by the European Union—with the goal of establishing a continent-wide infrastructure for electric vehicles by 2015. Officially launched in March 2011, the Green eMotion consortium now comprises 43 partners from industry, the energy sector, electric vehicle manufacturers, and municipalities, as well as universities and research institutions. Practical research is being conducted in demonstration regions throughout Europe.

And finally, a “plug” for a new product: Last week, Live Easy Technologies, a Davie, Florida-based product development company that specializes in Bluetooth and RF designs, posted a do-it-yourself announcement on the crowdfunding platform—and proceeded to raise more than $33,000 within days from online investors for its innovative MeterPlug (with more than a month of exposure still to go). The MeterPlug App will not only tell you how much actual money an appliance is costing you when it is fully operational, but also how much it costs you while it’s on standby. The MeterPlug App downloads the actual cost of electricity, based on surveyed and averaged electricity costs in the United States and internationally.

That’s all for this week! But don’t think the holidays will slow the pace of developments in this space. Check back next week for more exciting green news.


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