Thursday, July 31, 2008

World's largest onshore wind farm (909 megawatts) to be built in Oregon

source: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/07/worlds-largest-onshore-wind-farm-to-be-built-oregon.php

dramatic wind turbine photo

Recently, when I was lamenting all the ‘world’s biggest, best, baddest, shiniest’ PR in the renewable energy world, this next project is exactly the type of facility I was not talking about.

Shepherd's Flat Wind Farm Approved
The Portland Business Journal brings us the news that Oregon has given permitting approval to what will become the world’s largest onshore wind farm: the Shepherd’s Flat Wind Farm. Developed by the Sacramento, California firm Caithness Shepherds Flat LLC, the planned facility will consist of 303 wind turbines with a combined installed capacity of 909 megawatts. It will be located on private land five miles southeast of Arlington. No word on when construction is scheduled to begin or when the wind farm may come online.

While individually still a drop in the vast bucket of overall U.S. electrical demand, this development is of such a scale—the Shepherd’s Flat Wind Farm would slightly more than double Oregon’s wind capacity—that the phrase ‘world’s largest’ doesn’t seem ridiculous.

The current U.S. record holder for largest single wind farm is the 765 MW Horse Hollow wind farm, in Texas. Both of these, as well as every other wind farm in the world, are likely to be dwarfed by T. Boone Pickens’ planned 4,000 MW wind farm, scheduled to be completed by 2014.

via :: Portland Business Journal

Photo by Emma via flickr.

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2,000 MW wind farm will send power from Wyoming to Southern California

source: http://cleantechnica.com/2008/07/30/2000-mw-wind-farm-will-send-power-from-wyoming-to-southern-california/

Add the name of Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz to the growing list of investors throwing their hats into the ring of a booming wind energy and transmission industry in the American west.

The Anschutz Corp. said Tuesday it has acquired the rights to a proposed $3 billion, 3,000-megawatt transmission project that will bring electricity from Wyoming to Southern California, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

The 900-mile TransWest Express Project will carry power from a 2,000-megawatt wind farm Anschutz is developing in south-central Wyoming, a large portion of which will be built on a ranch he has owned for about 15 years.

A study by National Grid released this month concluded that wind-generated power produced in southern Wyoming is the most viable option for meeting the clean power demands of the desert Southwest. Both the wind farm and the proposed transmission project still must get approval from state and federal agencies, which will include an environmental impact study and opportunities for public comment. The permitting process will likely take 24-36 months to complete.

This is the fist venture into renewable energy for Anschutz, who made his fortune in oil, gas, real estate, telecommunications and entertainment. Today’s news comes in the wake of two major developments in US wind energy development: the well-publicized T. Boone Pickens push for a 4,000 MW wind farm and associated grid infrastructure in Texas, and the recent approval of a 909 megawatt wind farm in Oregon.

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MIT solar energy storage breakthrough

source: http://earth2tech.com/2008/07/31/mit-solar-energy-storage-breakthrough/

Researchers at MIT say they have delivered a major breakthrough in storing solar energy, inspired by photosynthesis and using a catalyst made up of cobalt metal. In a paper published today in Science magazine, MIT professor of energy, Daniel Nocera, says he’s developed a process that uses electricity generated from the sun or other renewable sources to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using abundant, non-toxic natural materials. The gases can then be stored and reintroduced into a fuel cell that can produce electricity.

The process hinges on a catalyst made up of cobalt metal and phosphate that’s attached to an electrode placed in water. By running solar energy through the electrode, the catalyst produces oxygen. Another catalyst-like platinum can produce hydrogen from water. The release says that, “[T]he system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.” The key is the catalyst’s simplicity, the researchers say. It works at room temperature and doesn’t require strong basic solutions, just water.

“This is just the beginning,” Nocera said in a statement. The work now will focus on integrating this technology into existing intermittent renewable energy systems. But he’s confident that within 10 years, people will be able to power their homes during the day with power coming off their solar panels, and to store extra energy via his fuel cell that they can then use at night. His hope is that it will make distributed generation a reality and force electricity-by-wire from a central source into obsolescence.

The project is part of MIT’s Solar Revolution, an initiative with the goal of making large-scale deployment of solar energy a reality within a decade. The initiative was launched with $10 million from the Chesonis Family Foundation. Additional funding for Nocera’s research came from the National Science Foundation.

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Researchers develope chlorine-tolerant membrane for easy desalination

source: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/07/desalination-made-easy.php

chlorine tolerant membrane photoRecord droughts, falling water tables and the rapid depletion of aquifers have helped make desalination, a process once considered impractical and too expensive, a viable technology -- at least in some places. As such, there has been a rash of stories -- both here and elsewhere in the blogosphere/traditional media (The Economist featured an excellent special report a few weeks ago) -- in recent months dealing with the construction of new desalination facilities and the unveiling of innovative membrane technologies.

A team of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and Virginia Tech University has developed a chlorine-tolerant membrane that could simplify desalination and bring it within the reach of many drought-stricken regions.

benny freeman photo

Chlorine-tolerant membrane would improve the performance, lower the costs of desalination
De-chlorination is typically one of the most costly, time consuming steps in the desalination process. Chlorine is added to seawater to disinfect it and to prevent the formation of a biofilm, a polymer-like coat of microorganisms that lowers the membrane's efficiency. However, because chlorine is damaging to the polyamide membranes that are currently in use, an extra de-chlorination step is required before the treated water can be filtered. Polyamide membranes that are repeatedly exposed to aqueous chlorine degrade over time and lose their effectiveness.

A lower carbon footprint
The membrane developed by the scientists, which is made of sulfonated copolymers, can withstand chlorine and therefore loses none of its potency, even after repeated exposure. Benny Freeman, a professor at UT-Austin and one of the leading scientists on this project, believes the membrane will not only help improve the performance of desalination (and make it much cheaper) but also reduce its carbon footprint:

"Energy and water are inherently connected. You need water to generate power (cooling water for electric power generation stations) and generation of pure water requires energy to separate the salt from the water. That energy is often generated from the burning of fossil fuels, which leads inevitably to the generation of carbon dioxide. Therefore, if one can make desalination more energy-efficient by developing better membranes, such as those that we are working on, one could reduce the carbon footprint required to produce pure water."

The results of their work was published in the July 28 issue of Angewandte Chemie. Freeman and his colleagues have filed a patent for the technology.

Though desalination remains prohibitively expensive, technologies such as this could help ease its introduction in other parched regions of the world. Many of the other technologies we've reported on in the past (see link list below and our archive) will also have an impact. In the short-term, a more effective solution to our water woes would simply be to put a price on water that accurately reflected the laws of supply and demand, an argument made more forcefully (and eloquently) by David Zetland, proprietor of Aguanomics.

Via ::Technology Review: Desalination Made Simpler (news website)

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SolFocus installs concentrating-solar project in Spain

source: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/solfocus-installs-concentrating-pv-project-1203.html


The concentrating-solar startup, which uses mirrors and lenses to concentrate the sunlight onto its panels, has installed 200 kilowatts of concentrating PV so far and plans to complete the 500-kilowatt system in the next month.

Concentrating-solar startup SolFocus has completed the first phase of its first commercial project, the company said Wednesday.

The Mountain View, Calif., company said it has installed 200 kilowatts of its technology, which uses lenses and curved mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto small solar cells, for the Institute of Concentration Photovoltaic Systems in Puertollano, Spain. The company plans to finish the project by building an additional 300-kilowatt array over the next month.

The project represents a milestone for SolFocus. While many companies are developing concentrating photovoltaics -- and a number of demonstration plants have popped up -- this is one of the technology's first commercial plants.

SolFocus declined to give the cost of the project or disclose other terms of its contract with the institute, also known as ISFOC.

The Spanish government created ISFOC in 2006 in partnership with the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha to explore different types of concentrating-PV technology. Working with the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, the ISFOC is working with several concentrating-solar companies to build power plants with a total 3-megawatt capacity at various towns in Castilla-La Mancha.

ISFOC has contracted with seven companies to carry out the first 1.7 megawatts of the 3-megawatt project. Aside from SolFocus, the companies are Isofoton in Spain, Concentrix Solar in Germany, Emcore in the United States, Arima Eco in Taiwan, Sol3g in Spain and Concentracion Solar La Mancha in Spain.

Some of SolFocus' other competitors include Sunrgi and Soliant Energy, as well as Covalent Solar, a company spinning off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (see Dyeing for More Solar Power).

SolFocus, founded in 2005, had raised a total of $107.2 million by November and is reportedly working to raise approximately $75 million more (see SolFocus Snags More Cash, More Chip Companies Turn to Solar and Green Light post).

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hydro green energy to tap Mississippi in September, seeks $70M

source: http://earth2tech.com/2008/07/30/hydro-green-energy-to-tap-mississippi-in-september-seeks-70m/

The Big Muddy could soon be a bit greener with some hydrokinetic turbines from Hyrdo Green Energy. The Houston, Tex.-based startup tells us it is planning to have the first commercially operable hydrokinetic energy project in Mississippi River waters up and running by September. Hydro Green has agreed to sell energy from 250-kilowatt project to Xcel Energy through a power purchase agreement with the city of Hastings, Minn.

Hydro Green’s technology uses turbines with a 12-foot diameter; each one is capable of producing 250 kilowatts of power. A whole turbine array can be mounted on the bottom of a barge or platform with a gantry, allowing the turbines to be raised out of the water. That design eliminates the need for underwater mounting or maintenance, the company says.

Hydro Green’s founder and CEO Wayne Krouse confirmed with us that once the turbines are up and running in the Mississippi, Hydro Green hopes to close a Series B round of funding in the neighborhood of $70 million (hat tip VentureWire).

While Hydro Green is actively seeking Series B funds, the company wouldn’t confirm any potential investors. Likely candidates include previous investors such as David Gelbaum’s Quercus Trust, which led Hydro Green’s $2.6 million Series A round in April this year. Another possible backer is Acorn Ventures; the firm’s president, Stuart Schube, sits on Hydro Green’s advisory board.

Hydro Green isn’t the only company looking to tap the Mississippi. Free Flow Power is a Massachusetts-based startup with a $3 billion plan to place thousands of small electric turbines down the Mississippi river — from St. Louis to New Orleans — which could generate more than 1 gigawatt of electricity. The startup has preliminary three-year permits to study 59 sites in the Mississippi, granted by the marine power gatekeeper, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Beyond the Mississippi, Hydro Green is also working to generate power from ocean tides and currents, too. Earlier this week the startup announced an agreement with Wind Energy Systems Technology Group to explore the development of a hybrid offshore wind-hydrokinetic ocean current power project in the Gulf of Mexico. The basic idea makes a lot of sense — if you’re going to build an offshore wind turbine generating power above the water, you might as well mount some turbines underwater, since you’ve already got a pylon.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Two small renewable energy firsts: offshore wind power in Germany, solar photovoltaic in Greece

source: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/07/two-small-steps-for-european-renewable-energy.php

thessaloniki sunset photo
Thessaloniki sunset photo by Eva via flickr.

Recently when I presented the news of the world’s largest thin-film solar power plant and commented that, at 10 MW, it wasn’t really all that big and sometimes we watchers of the renewable energy industry ought to take a step back to see how much more needs to be done, a number of commenters nearly handed me my hat.

Let me make it clear: A bit of bragging rights and intra-industry competition can be a good thing. Everything has to start out small and some one-ups-man-ship can spur along new developments. Towards that end, here are two first small steps in European renewable energy announced today.

Germany’s First Offshore Wind Farm Begins Construction
Though it will ultimately be only 60 megawatts in size, the Alpha Ventus wind farm (also known at Borkum West) will be Germany’s first offshore wind farm. Construction begins this week, with electric generation possibly to begin by the end of the year.

The project is located 45 km north of the island of Borkum, near the border with the Netherlands. Though smaller than projects in, say, Denmark or the United Kingdom, this project will be sited much farther from the shore, in order to take advantage of greater wind speeds. A 70 km-long cable will connect the farm to the Germany power grid.

via :: Reuters

Greece’s Largest Solar PV Power Plant Connected to Grid
In more of a statement of how much room for growth there is in Greece for expansion of the solar power industry than anything else, Renewable Energy World has announced that the nation’s largest solar PV plant has been connected to the grid.

The 944 kilowatt project, located in near Thessaloniki was built by Phoenix Solar AG and is owned by Sunergy A.E..

The original article points out that one of the key factors in Greek solar power development is the nation’s very generous feed-in tariffs, introduced in 2006: Solar PV installations in Greece receive a €0.40-0.50 rate for the electricity they produced. Also cited is Greece’s generous grant program for renewable energy, in some instances amounting to 50% of total cost of commercial systems.

via :: Renewable Energy World

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First commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant approved for California

source: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/07/first-commercial-scale-cellulosic-ethanol-plant-receives-approval.php

wood chips close-up photo
photo by Dan Klinge

You may have read how Verenium recently opened the first demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the United States. Well, that record may soon not mean as much: BlueFire Ethanol has announced that the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the U.S. has received permitting approval.

The facility will be built on 10 acres near Lancaster, California and is not expected to begin producing ethanol until late 2009, The location was chosen because of the abundant waste that already passes by the location: An estimated 170 tons of wood chips, grass cuttings, and organic waste each day. According to BlueFire it will be the nation’s first facility to convert biowaste into ethanol.

cellulosic ethanol process flowchart image

BlueFire brags that using its Concentrated Acid Hydrolysis Technology, it will be able to convert cellulosic waste into 3.2 million gallons of ethanol per year.

via :: Business Wire

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Another team figures out how to convert waste heat into energy

Another team figures out how to convert waste heat into energy

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Not that mad scientists haven't figured out a way to convert waste heat into energy, but a team from Ohio State University has developed a new material that does the same sort of thing... just way, way better. The new material goes by the name thallium-doped lead telluride, and at least in theory, it could actually convert exhaust heat from vehicles into electricity. According to a new report about to hit the journal Science, the material packs "twice the efficiency of anything currently on the market," though it still seems as if it's a good ways out from being ready for commercial applications. Nanotechnology geeks -- you've got a real treat waiting in the read link.

[Via CNET]
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Friday, July 25, 2008

Beijing building solar walls for Olympics

source: http://www.ecogeek.org/content/view/1921/83/


Beijing is cleaning up its act for the Olympics by cutting cars and cleaning up algae sludge � but that�s not all they�re doing. Such a popular event is the perfect place for businesses to showcase their green projects. That thought crossed the minds of SolarWall, Conserval Engineering, Natural Resources Canada and the Olympic Village developers, who all partnered up to create one of the world�s first SolarWall PV/thermal hybrid systems.

Mounted on the roof of one of the buildings used for athletes during the Olympics, the system produces both electricity and heat energy from the same surface area, beating out regular old PV systems by 200-300% more energy. The system thus reduces payback time, reduces CO2 emissions, and maximizes available surface space. The same building is also home to SolarWall�s conventional air heating system, getting the most eco-bang for its buck.

With worries about athletes breathing in so much scary air over there, having clean-running technology like this is one of those the-more-the-merrier installations.

Via Renewable Energy World; Photo via SolarWall press release

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OLED breakthrough at U. of Michigan and Princeton: 70 Lumens/Watt!

source: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/07/oled-organic-led-light-breakthrough-michigan-princeton.php

OLED Light Microscope photo

Paradoxically, technology both moves very fast yet more slowly than we sometimes wish. New things are coming out all the time (like this big LED breakthrough from Purdue and telescopic pixel screens), but we get used to them so fast that we're always looking ahead and it never seems to get there fast enough. It was only a few months ago that we wrote about a big organic light-emitting diode (OLED) breakthrough by Osram who had succeeded in making OLEDs that produced 46 lumens per watt.

Better OLEDs!
Now researchers at the U. of Michigan and Princeton are saying they made OLEDs that can produce 70 lumens per watt (compared to 15 lumens per watt for incandescent), and that they might be able to do even better than that. To achieve that impressive efficiency, they are using a grid combined with micro-lenses, all of it on the nano-scale (the lenses are 5 micrometers wide).

OLED Breakthrough Technical Details

Technology Review:

In OLEDs, white light is generated by using electricity to send an electron into nanometer-thick layers of organic materials that behave like semiconductor materials. Typically, the light in the substrate is internally reflected and runs parallel and not perpendicular. That's the crux of the problem because the light can't escape in the vertical direction without some coaxing. In Forrest's devices, the grids refract the trapped light, sending it to the five micrometers dome-shaped micro lenses. The light is sent off in a vertical orientation that helps release the trapped rays.

Small OLED screen photo

Benefits of OLEDs
A little while ago, Collin wrote a little primer on LED and OLEDs. If you are curious about the benefits of this technology from a green perspective, check out his post LED and OLED Home Lighting Systems Almost Ready for Prime Time. There's also HowStuffWork's article on OLEDs.

You can also read about Osram's OLED research in this post: Osram Claims Warm White Organic LED Breakthrough.

The bottom line is: Better and cheaper OLEDs can mean greener flat screens and light sources.

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Cow power could generate electricity for millions

source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080724064840.htm


Converting livestock manure into a domestic renewable fuel source could generate enough electricity to meet up to three per cent of North America's entire consumption needs and lead to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), according to new research.

The research has implications for all countries with livestock as it is the first attempt to outline a procedure for quantifying the national amount of renewable energy that herds of cattle and other livestock can generate and the concomitant GHG emission reductions.

Livestock manure, left to decompose naturally, emits two particularly potent GHGs -- nitrous oxide and methane. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nitrous oxide warms the atmosphere 310 times more than carbon dioxide, methane does so 21 times more.

The journal paper creates two hypothetical scenarios and quantifies them to compare energy savings and GHG reducing benefits. The first is 'business as usual' with coal burnt for energy and with manure left to decompose naturally. The second is one wherein manure is anaerobically-digested to create biogas and then burnt to offset coal.

Through anaerobic digestion, similar to the process by which you create compost, manure can be turned into energy-rich biogas, which standard microturbines can use to produce electricity. The hundreds of millions of livestock inhabiting the US could produce approximately 100 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power millions of homes and offices.

And, as manure left to decompose naturally has a very damaging effect on the environment, this new waste management system has a net potential GHG emissions reduction of 99 million metric tonnes, wiping out approximately four per cent of the country's GHG emissions from electricity production.

The burning of biogas would lead to the emission of some CO2 but the output from biogas-burning plants would be less than that from, for example, coal.

Authors of the paper, Dr. Michael E. Webber and Amanda D Cuellar from the University of Texas at Austin, write, "In light of the criticism that has been levelled against biofuels, biogas production from manure has the less-controversial benefit of reusing an existing waste source and has the potential to improve the environment.

"Nonetheless, the logistics of widespread biogas production, including feedstock and digestates transportation, must be determined at the local level to produce the most environmentally advantageous, economical, and energy efficient system."

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Aptera Electric Trikemobile Finds a Friend (and $2.75m) in Google [Electric Cars]

Aptera Electric Trikemobile Finds a Friend (and $2.75m) in Google [Electric Cars]

Pre-orders for the awesome Aptera electric car opened up last year, but the company has been relatively quiet about their progress as of late. Google's philanthropic arm has just thrown a cool $2.75 million their way, and now they're being a little more forthright: the Aptera Typ-1 is due this year, same specs, at about $30,000. Both full electric and plug-in hybrid flavors will be available. Given electric car startups' propensity for disappointing failure, it's comforting to see this especially promising one get a vote of confidence from Papa Goog. [CNET]


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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Solar Windows Generate Up To 70 Watts, Serious Debt [Solar Power]

Solar Windows Generate Up To 70 Watts, Serious Debt [Solar Power]

Solar windows have finally made their way to the consumer market, and these new panes from Nihon Telecommunications Systems in Japan aren't a bad start. The inconspicuously equipped windows, at peak, generate a claimed 70 watts per square meter, which can be accessed through a few USB ports. In other words, the only way to offset the $1,900 per square meter cost of these windows is charging your iPods and running necktie air conditioners nonstop for the rest of your life. Also advertised is the fact that the windows filter about 90% of sunlight to help reduce cooling costs, which should be a given considering that these panes are using it to generate power. Nihon expects to move 10,000 panes annually, so hopefully we'll see a price drop before too long. [Crunchgear]


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Atmos Clock Uses Changes In Temperature As Power Source [Clocks]

Atmos Clock Uses Changes In Temperature As Power Source [Clocks]

The Atmos 561 Clock, made by Jaeger LeCoultre and designed by Mark Newson, is powered entirely by changes in temperature and sits inside a block of crystal for good measure. According to The Watchismo Times, a change in temperature of one degree celsius can power the clock for two days.

A mixture of Ethyl Chloride and "gas" is what reacts to the temperature change and expands against a spring in a chamber, which then converts its stored potential energy into clock power and so on and so forth. Though not a new technology, this update is easy on the eyes, and that has to count for something. For more shots of retro Atmos clocks, check out [The Watchismo Times via Technabob].


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Electric MINI hitting US streets in summer 2009

Electric MINI hitting US streets in summer 2009

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Not that electric MINIs are anything new, but unless you were willing to pay for all the mods yourself, procuring one wasn't exactly simple. Now, however, we're hearing that MINI itself will be bringing scads of these buggers to American streets in the summer of 2009. Yeah, like, one year from right now. MINI USA VP Jim McDowell was the source of said statement (so it's pretty much official, yeah?), though he didn't mention whether all of them would be reserved for California or if they would be available sold out nationwide. Hey MINI, we'd say you've got a hit on your hands.
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GM teams with utilities to develop electric car charging infrastructure

GM teams with utilities to develop electric car charging infrastructure

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General Motors has already gotten a bit of cash from the US Department of Energy to further the development of plug-in hybrids, and it now looks like it's taking things one step further on another initiative, with it teaming up with the Electric Power Research Institute and 30 utilities in 37 states to produce a charging infrastructure for electric cars. Among other things, they'll be working to develop an affordable, reliable electricity source that's weather-proof and child-proof, which they say could be installed in places like public garages, curbside meters, or workplace parking lots. The utility companies, in particular, will also apparently be working to ensure that the grid doesn't get overwhelmed during peak hours. All that, GM says, will be done by 2010, which just happens to coincide with the launch of its much-touted Volt hybrid.
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Lightning's £120,000 all-electric sports car unveiled in London

Lightning's £120,000 all-electric sports car unveiled in London

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Well, would you have a look at that. That, dear friends, is Lightning's immaculate GT -- a £120,000 ($239,400) motorcar that is just one of two vehicles in the world to rely on lithium-titanate battery technology. Said innovation enables the vehicle to go from dead to fully charged in "just minutes," though you will have to find a location that provides three-phase industrial power in order to see the benefits over traditional Li-ion cells. The firm's Chris Dell asserts that the nearly exclusive quick charge tech more than justifies the exorbitant price tag, and he's even looking to UK-based businesses to hopefully strike a deal in which motorists can swing by, juice up and be on their way while traveling. Anxious to take delivery? Looks like you'll be waiting until sometime next year.
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