Wall Street Suddenly Hot On Solar Stocks

by Tina Casey.

Over the weekend, the New York Times noted that the solar power “craze” is partly responsible for Wall Street’s recent good times. The Times used the example of solar giant SolarCity, which has seen a sevenfold increase in its share price to $59.27 since it went public, but this could just be starters for the US solar industry. An international research team based at North Carolina State University has come up with a simple way to increase the efficiency of organic solar cells by more than 30 percent, leading to lower costs and a much bigger market.

That’s great news for companies like SolarCity. The company – another brainchild of Tesla creator Elon Musk – packages and installs solar systems, so it’s not subject to the kind of downward global pricing pressures that doomed US manufacturers like Solyndra.

In fact, down works good for SolarCity’s business model. Solar cells account for about half the cost of a fully installed and connected solar system, so a major drop in the cost of solar cells will have a significant impact on overall costs. That gives SolarCity and other solar packagers another opportunity to offer their systems at more competitive prices, and nudge conventional fuels out of the market.

Solar cell efficiency breakthrough courtesy of NCSU.

Solar cell efficiency breakthrough courtesy of NCSU.

A New Solar Cell Efficiency Breakthrough

With that in mind, let’s take a look at that NCSU solar cell efficiency breakthrough, which was just published in the journal Advanced Materials.

The research applies to organic solar cells, which refers to a relatively new class of solar cells based on polymers (loosely speaking, plastic). Organic solar cells are less efficient than silicon, which is still the gold standard, but they make up for it with the potential for a broader range of applications and a low cost manufacturing process.

The key to the breakthrough is the creation of a new low cost polymer by NCSU’s partner in the project, the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Called PBT-OP, the new polymer is made from two readily available monomers and a third monomer that can be synthesized with relative ease (monomers are identical molecules that can be bonded together into long chains as polymers).

The new polymer skips over a key hurdle for lowering the cost of organic solar cells, which is the use of fluorine. Typically, in organic solar cells a fluorine atom is needed in the polymer’s “molecular backbone” in order to increase efficiency, but that is a complicated processes and it introduces significant manufacturing costs.

PBT-OP has the fluorine advantage without the fluorine. To get a handle on that, all you need to know is that organic solar cells consist of an electron acceptor material and an electron donor material, each with its own molecular orbit.

The trick is to find the ideal difference between the highest occupied molecular orbit of the acceptor and lowest unoccupied molecular orbit of the polymer.

Once you get that nailed down, what you’ve done is to create a kind of super-efficient electrical highway, in which excitons (the energy particles created when a solar cell absorbs light) travel as quickly as possible within the interface of the donor and acceptor domains. That means you minimize the loss of energy that occurs in a conventional organic solar cell.

NCSU physicist Harald Ade breaks it down:

The possible drawback in changing the molecular structure of these materials is that you may enhance one aspect of the solar cell but inadvertently create unintended consequences in devices that defeat the initial intent. In this case, we have found a chemically easy way to change the electronic structure and enhance device efficiency by capturing a lager fraction of the light’s energy, without changing the material’s ability to absorb, create and transport energy.

Thank you, Harald. Now let’s also thank the U.S. Department of Energy, which funded the research project in partnership with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.

SolarCity And Tesla

Now let’s get back to that SolarCity/Tesla connection. Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO Elon Musk is best known for his innovation in the electric vehicle field, which seamlessly marries EV charging stations with onboard technology in the form of Tesla Motors’ Supercharger network, and he is also the Chairman of SolarCity.

Tesla has been introducing Supercharger stations powered at least partly by on site solar installations in the form of canopies, so it’s no surprise that SolarCity is providing the installations.

SolarCity is also the force behind solar-powered home EV charging stations and SolarStrong, which involves $1 billion worth of rooftop solar panels for military housing. Los Angeles Air Force Base and Fort Bliss are two examples, with Los Angeles being particularly interesting because the base has also been introducing electric vehicles.

Given SolarCity’s track record with thin-film solar cells and the solar/mobility connection with Tesla Motors we’re thinking that it won’t be long before both companies cook up new applications for organic solar cells as the cost of the technology continues to drop.

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This article, Wall Street Suddenly Loves Solar, Just In Time For New Solar Cell Efficiency Breakthrough, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Tina CaseyTina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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The Tesla Model S Is Almost Maintenance Free

by Nicholas Brown – Special to JBS News

.

Image Credit: Tesla

Electric vehicles are different from gasoline-powered vehicles in many ways. However, mainstream debates tend to focus on only a few of those differences, such as the initial cost of electric vehicles, their range, and the fuel efficiency of gasoline-powered vehicles.

For example, they rarely factor in the reliability or durability of electric vehicles. This may be due to the fact that the main motive electrification is the reduction of petroleum usage. And, of course, opponents of electric vehicles don’t like to mention their many other positive qualities.

The Tesla Model S actually requires little to no maintenance compared to gasoline-powered vehicles, due to the fact that it has very few mechanical parts that can malfunction. The only parts that require regular replacement are windshield wipers and tires. Brake pads will require replacement as well, but not nearly as often as those in gasoline-powered vehicles, since they are used much less thanks to regenerative braking.

Regenerative braking takes over some of the braking work, giving the brake pads a… break, and it does so without additional generators.

An electric propulsion system’s mechanical parts consist of the propulsion motor, the fans in the speed controller, radiator fans, a coolant pump (if there is a liquid cooling system), and that’s it.

But wait, don’t electric vehicles require more electronics?

They actually require fewer electronics than gasoline-powered vehicles, as a typical electric propulsion system contains the following semiconductor electronics:

  1. Speed controller.
  2. Inverter.
  3. Battery management system.
  4. Electrical, non-semiconductor parts include coolant pumps and fans.

Gasoline propulsion systems contain a longer list of them, including, but not limited to:

  1. Electronic actuators to adjust various valves.
  2. Ignition system.
  3. Throttle controls.
  4. Turbochargers (only in some models).
  5. Engine control unit.
  6. Transmission control unit.
  7. Oxygen sensor.
  8. Coolant pump.
  9. Fuel pump.
  10. Oil pump.
  11. Engine fan.
  12. Transmission oil cooler pump (only in some models).

Mechanical parts in gas propulsion systems which can fail include, but are not limited to:

  1. Transmission.
  2. Valves.
  3. Spark plugs.
  4. Crankshaft.
  5. Connecting Rod.
  6. Cylinders.
  7. Camshaft.
  8. Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system.
  9. Belt and pulley systems for driving the alternator, engine fan, and other parts.

Follow me on Twitter: @Kompulsa

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This article, The Tesla Model S Is Almost Maintenance Free, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Nicholas Brown has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. My website is: Kompulsa.

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GM Working On $30,000, 200-Mile EV That Could Compete With Tesla Model E

by Important Media Cross-Post

Editor’s notes: Assumption is that Tesla’s affordable, 2017 EV will be called the Tesla Model E; Tesla’s use of lithium-ion batteries (a different kind than used in laptops) will not result in a worldwide shortage of such batteries (video on that coming soon). Now, here’s Chris DeMorro’s post from Gas2.

Tesla’s incredible sales success has automakers the world over wondering how to counter the Silicon Valley automaker, and General Motors could have the answer. GM is developing a 200-mile electric car with a targeted sales price of $30,000, right in the same sweet spot Elon Musk is aiming for. But who will launch first?

GM has already hinted that it is developing a line of Tesla-rivaling EVs, one with a 100-mile range and the other with 200-miles of range per charge. Elon Musk’s goal is to launch a $30,000, 200-mile electric car by 2017 at the latest. While GM hasn’t put a timetable on the launch of its own Tesla fighter, executives have said the technology exists; it’s just the price point that remains a sticky issue.

To date GM’s only pure electric car is the Spark EV, which has been surprisingly well-received, though it is for sale only in a handful of markets for now. It also has just 82 miles of range per charge, well short of Tesla’s entry-level Model S which boasts up to 208 miles of range as well as a $70,000 price tag.

But whereas Tesla needs to launch the Model X SUV next, GM is free to concentrate on an affordable competitor that might even reach the road first. It just comes down to price, with automakers stuck paying twice as much or more for their battery packs. Tesla’s use of laptop batteries (which could soon lead to a worldwide shortage) means their batteries are substantially cheaper than the batteries used in the Chevy Volt. Speaking of which, may I suggest returning to the original Volt concept (above) for design inspiration?

GM will have to overcome that price hurdle, or else sell its electric vehicles at a loss, in order to compete with Tesla. It only has about four-years to do it, though. Is GM capable of fighting Tesla on its own turf? Or will another automaker steal the show?

Source: Wall St. Journal

This article, GM Working On $30,000, 200-Mile EV That Could Compete With Tesla Model E, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Important Media Cross-PostCleanTechnica is one of 18 blogs in the Important Media blog network. With a bit of overlap in coverage, we sometimes repost some of the great content published by our sister sites.

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Elon Musk To Drive Tesla Model S Across America In Six Days

by Important Media Cross-Post

Originally published on Gas2
By Christopher DeMorro.

tesla-supercharger-stop

The Tesla Model S has defied even the wildest expectations, shooting Tesla Motors stock into the stratosphere and increasing the profile of Elon Musk exponentially. So now is the perfect time for Musk to embark on a great American road trip. Musk claims that during a six-day road trip from Los Angeles to New York City, the Tesla Model S will spend just 9 hours charging.

Musk tweeted about the trip late last week, with details having been finalized. The trip will no doubt showcase Tesla’s network of Supercharger stations, which have been slowly cropping up along America’s coast. But America’s heartland is devoid of Superchargers, so how Musk plans to spend just 9 hours recharging at Tesla-exclusive charging station has me scratching my head.

The 3,200 mile journey will require a minimum of 11 refills, even if Musk manages to wrangle 300 miles per-charge. Musk claims that they will spend just 1.5 hours a day recharging, the same amount of time they would spend at rest stops or tourist attractions.

Fair enough, but Tesla’s own Supercharge map shows wide swaths of the country remain uncovered. Am I missing something here? Probably. I know enough not to doubt Elon Musk when he says he is going to do something.

Source: Elon Musk’s Twitter

This article, Elon Musk To Drive Tesla Model S Across America In Six Days, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

Tesla Brings Superchargers To Norway

by Nicholas Brown – Special to JBS News

Originally published on sister site Ecopreneurist.

Tesla Motors today introduced its supercharger network of electric car chargers in Norway.

Norway has one of the highest electric car ownership rates (relative to its population size) in the world. Constructing charging stations there would help thee early adopters and make prospective electric vehicle buyers more confident that they will be able to recharge whenever necessary.

Many of us consider this is critical to the adoption of electric vehicles. Tesla Motors has been promising to place its Supercharger networks within the range of all Tesla Model S vehicles so that they will not have to worry about running out of charge, and thanks to Tesla’s special technology, these Superchargers live up to their name and charge quite fast.

Tesla Model S with Supercharger in Norway. Image Credit: Tesla Motors.

Another thing worth noting is that, the faster a person charges, the more cars can charge per day, and the less likely it is that people will have to wait for someone else to finish charging.

Superchargers have been installed in Lyngdal, Aurland, Dombås, Gol, Cinderella and Lillehammer. Norway is mostly covered by Superchargers now.

According to the news source, PR Newswire, Model S customers can drive routes such as the E6 from Trondheim to Oslo, the E18 from Oslo to Kristiansand, the E39 from Kristiansand to Stavanger, and Highway7 from Oslo to Gol for free and with minimal stops. Approximately 90% of the Norwegian population lives within 320 km of a Supercharger station, and about 60% of the country’s total land mass is within the same distance of a station.

The fact that the Superchargers are free is of course a great perk. This gives Tesla Model S owners a great deal of assurance: Relatively fast charging, anywhere in the country, and its free.

Attempting to cover an entire country with charging stations may be very costly, but it could be worth it. As Shai Agassi noted in a series of posts in the past two weeks, the company that leads the way in a new, disruptive market gets rewarded handsomely (look at Apple, Google, Ford, etc.).

This means that in the US and Norway, the Tesla Model S is the most practical electric car (where range and the ability to recharge is concerned). Tesla has done something that no other manufacturer has done: build the cars and the infrastructure to support them!

This article, Tesla Brings Superchargers To Norway, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. My website is: Kompulsa.