Sara Volz, a 17-year-old high school student from Colorado Springs, Colo., was the $100,000 winner of the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search for her work developing algae biofuels, and she was honored by President Obama in a ceremony at the White House. Volz tells PopMech why she’s spent the last four years on making fuel from these organisms, tinkering with their nitrogen supply and genetics to try to make them produce more oil.
How do you describe your work?
How did you develop an interest in biofuels?
What are the most important components of your work?
Why do you think your work has gotten so much attention?
How does your work compare with or complement that of others working with algae? Have you had any contact with biofuel companies?
The Intel Foundation praised you for your ability to connect the dots across multiple fields. How did you accomplish that?
Have you ever felt defeated in your research?
What are your plans for the next decade?
Can you see more work on algae in your future?
This story is brought to you by Gas 2.0
According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), Chevrolet’s upcoming Volt is an ultra-low emissions vehicle, or ULEV–which is great, until you realize that tailpipe emissions from Volkswagen’s line of TDI diesels, Toyota’s Prius and Honda’s full line of Hybrids are (per CARB) significantly cleaner.
Chevy’s Volt performed well in most categories, but not concerning carbon monoxide. CO limits for SULEV status is 1.0 grams per mile (below) while ULEV is 2.1 g/mi. Volt produces 1.3 g/mi.
To be fair, CARB requires that these tests must be completed with the car’s ICE (internal combustion engine) running, and since the Volt theoretically doesn’t need to burn any gasoline on short drives it doesn’t benefit from its electric-only abilities in this test … although the same could be said of Toyota’s Prius which performed significantly better than the Volt in the same test, earning the Prius a better CARB rating.
There are, I am sure, dozens of ways to interpret this data, but (to me) this news–along with the Cruze’s “reduced” mpg numbers and the Volt’s “outing” as a much more conventional hybrid–seems like another chink in the armor for the new GM.
For those of you who’d like to deep-dive into the mathematics involved, you can CLICK HERE to check out the full CARB report (in PDF format).
SOURCE: California Air Resource Board, via
Infiniti M35h Hybrid
In just a few months, Honda’s rare earth metal recycling program rapidly morphed from a lab curiosity to a corporate banality (in a good way—when experimental technologies become run-of-the-mill.). Now the Japanese automaker is taking the next step. Today, a little more than three months since Honda announced a plan to salvage those pricey materials from used nickel-metal-hydride batteries, the company says it will repurpose those rare earths in future hybrid vehicle motors.
Announced back in March, Honda’s recovery process—developed in tandem with Japan Minerals & Chemicals Co., Ltd. (JMC)—is reportedly capable of extracting as much as 80 precent of the rare earth metals found within a nickel-metal-hydride battery, resulting in a metal that’s 99 percent pure. Before it developed this extraction prodecure, Honda had been melting down the batteries and using the scrap in stainless steel. Shortly thereafter, the automaker began extracting metals on a commercial scale, reusing the newly-extracted metals in new batteries and “a wide range of Honda products.”
Now, with the help of JMC and TDK Corporation, Honda plans to reuse those same rare-earths in magnetic motors powering future hybrid vehicles. The manufacturing process is already in place—the three companies are just waiting for a larger, more stable supply of used batteries. Honda’s only source of these batteries currently is a voluntary battery donation program, and is actively looking to secure a more robust supply—assumedly through an increase of donations or some sort of arrangement with salvage yards. With a healthy volume of used cells, JMC estimates that at maximum capacity, their plant could produce as much as 400 tons of rare earths per year. By comparison, U.S. rare-earth miner Molycorp produced more than 19,000 metric tons of rare earths by the end of 2012.
Honda is far from the only car manufacturer that’s increasingly conscious of its rare earth use. Last fall, Nissan began implementing new magnets that shaved the use of heat-resistant rare earth dysprosium by 40 percent, while GM demonstrated that Chevy Volt batteries could be reused to provide homes with off-grid back-up power. Given that demand for the rare elements could jump as much as 2600 percent over the next 25 years according to one MIT study—and China now controls 97 percent of the market for these critical elements—companies will need even more innovative ways to keep costs down to keep EVs economical. Otherwise consumers might as well opt for a diesel.
Hyundai Motor American revealed it is committing $200,000 to Oklahoma tornado relief efforts through a donation to the American Red Cross.
“The massive devastation caused by last week’s tornado in Oklahoma calls for wide-scale recovery efforts and Hyundai pledges to do its part,” said John Krafcik, president and chief executive officer of Hyundai Motor America.
“Our thoughts are with the entire state of Oklahoma and especially those who lost loved ones. We commend everyone on the ground providing tireless efforts to help affected families and we hope this donation will aid in supporting their ongoing work,” he continued.
And VW Credit Inc., the captive finance partner of Volkswagen and Audi in the U.S., and the Volkswagen Credit South Central Region have donated $10,000 to the Automobile Dealers’ Association Car Dealers Care Foundation.
Officials explained this donation will provide direct financial assistance to multiple Volkswagen Group dealer employees impacted by the Oklahoma storm.
“The Car Dealers Care Foundation will provide immediate and tangible benefit to our employees,” said Andrew Stuart, president and CEO, VCI Credit Inc. “Therefore, we are pleased to be able to donate $10,000 to the foundation to aid in the recovery from these devastating storms.”
On top of the allotment for dealership employees, The Volkswagen of America Foundation made a donation of $250,000 to the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity to assist with the disaster relief efforts in Oklahoma.
This donation will help cover costs of shelter, food, recovery and other assistance to families affected by the tornadoes.
VW of America is also matching funds to any employee donations made to the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity or the organization of their choosing.
Lastly, dealer solution company HookLogic is offering discounts and help for dealers in affected areas whose businesses were damaged by the tornadoes.
The company explained they will offset the monthly fees and incentives for the next three months for these parties.
“If your Oklahoma-based dealership isn’t directly affected, you can pass these savings along to the most appropriate local charity that needs it the most,” officials added.
“We know how greatly this tragedy is impacting our customers and industry friends. We commend those that have stepped up to help those impacted by the tornadoes, and hope that this support effort proves helpful to those of you that may have been affected,” they continued.
Kelley Blue Book has reported that used-car auction values have reached a three-year low. After the 2008 recession and the consequential drop in off-lease supply, news like this has been a long time coming for dealers.
In fact, KBB senior market analyst for automotive insights Alec Gutierrez said, “This year started at a three-year high, but with no strong appreciation in Q1, auction values began an early decline in April and since have declined below levels seen in 2012 and 2011.”
But since there have been lulls in the strength of auction prices before during the past few years only to rise again, Gutierrez offered some good news for dealers regarding the rest of 2013.
“We expect this depreciation to continue through the remainder of the year, with year-end values no more than 3 to 5 percent below where they ended in 2012,” he said.
And as we approach June, only a few segments “are maintaining a positive value for the year,” KBB shared.
First, since the housing market is improving and construction is on the rise, midsize pickup trucks are a bit pricier in the lanes, Gutierrez reported. This segment saw a 2.2-percent increase in auction prices this month.
Also, as a seasonal trend and summer approaches, the sports car segment “remains ahead of the curve” for auction prices, rising by 2.9 percent in May.
The warmer weather is “making coupes and convertibles more attractive to summer buyers,” Gutierrez said.
As 2013 got underway, gas prices were high, and consumers were bracing themselves for rates of $4 per gallon and higher.
But now, the tides have turned.
“Hybrid vehicles have fallen the most year-to-date, with a nearly 9 percent decline from where the segment started in January,” Gutierrez said. “This drop can be attributed to the fairly stable fuel prices seen in the first quarter.”
Hybrid prices have dropped 8.9 percent this month as gas prices stabilize.
Editor’s Note: For more analysis on May auction price trends, see Monday’s Auto Remarketing Today e-newsletter.
Although new models no longer are being manufactured, eBay Motors recently added Saab Automobile Parts North America to its seller program so genuine parts, accessories, technical support and repair service will be available “for years to come,” according to site officials.
The site highlighted that the addition of SPNA continues to bolster eBay Motors’ continually growing parts and accessories business.
Through the SPNA eBay store, Saab owners have an option for genuine accessories, hard to find, and limited availability parts.
“Whether you’re searching for interior parts to a classic 1986 900 convertible, 1995 9000 suspension components, or side moldings for a newer 2011 9-5, the store will provide everything Saab owners need to keep their cars running and looking as the factory intended,” eBay Motors officials said.
And as SPNA chief executive officer Tim Colbeck told the eBay Motors Blog, “Our eBay partnership provides a great parts resource for those who own, repair and restore Saab vehicles.”