Costa Rica: World’s First Carbon-Neutral Country

The partnership's fuel cell bus emits only water vapor. April 12, 2018 (Screengrab from video courtesy U.S. Hybrid) Posted for media use

The partnership’s fuel cell bus emits only water vapor. April 12, 2018 (Screengrab from video courtesy U.S. Hybrid) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, May 15, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The inauguration ceremony for President Carlos Alvarado  Quesada, celebrated Tuesday, May 8, was carbon neutral for the first time in Costa Rican history, a harbinger of larger plans for the future of this forward-looking Central American nation. Measures were taken to reduce waste, limit the carbon footprint, and offset the unavoidable emissions generated by the event.

Central America’s first hydrogen fuel cell electric urban bus, Nyuti, rolled through the streets of Costa Rica’s capital on inauguration morning transporting President-elect Alvarado and his new cabinet to the ceremony held at Democracy Square in downtown San Jose.

The symbolic 3.30 km route, highlighted the new government’s commitment to set Costa Rica on a course to full decarbonization of its transportation sector by the country’s bicentennial in 2021.

While the nation’s electric grid is already 98 percent carbon-free, the transportation sector still relies on imported carbon-based fuels.

Nyuti, meaning star in the language of the Chorotega people of northwestern Costa Rica, is part of a hydrogen ecosystem demonstration partnership, led by Texas-based Ad Astra Rocket Company, to validate and measure hydrogen as a carbon-free fuel, generated from renewable water and Costa Rica’s clean and abundant domestic electricity sources such as solar and wind.

The public-private partnership with Costa Rica’s Development Bank System, includes Air Liquide, a world leader in gases, technologies, and services for industry and health; US Hybrid Corporation, specializing in hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles, Cummins Inc., a U.S. global power leader in diesel and alternative fuel engines, and Relaxury S.A., a subsidiary of Costa Rica’s Purdy Motor S.A, which operates the bus for the partnership.

All team members have contributed their own resources to the project.

“Costa Rica has made excellent progress in de-carbonizing its electric grid, or about 30 percent of its energy needs. The other 70 percent, which lies primarily in the transportation sector, remains to be done and hydrogen could help us bridge that gap and become the first country to achieve total independence from carbon-based fuels,” said Franklin Chang Díaz, chairman and CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Company.

“The new government’s clean energy and de-carbonization commitment gives us hope that, through teamwork and focus on a common vision we could achieve a national objective in a short time,” said Chang.

“This extraordinary achievement, obtained by a young team of Costa Rican engineers and technicians, demonstrates the great potential of our youth to lead in advanced technology projects of high social, economic and environmental impact,” he said.

The new Costa Rican President, Carlos Alvarado, center, talks transportation in front of the Nyuti fuel cell-powered bus. April 28, 2018 (Photo courtesy U.S. Hybrid) Posted for media use.

The new Costa Rican President, Carlos Alvarado, center, talks transportation in front of the Nyuti fuel cell-powered bus. April 28, 2018 (Photo courtesy U.S. Hybrid) Posted for media use.

Under Alvarado’s predecessor, President Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera, the Costa Rican government has been developing plans to offset all of the country’s heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions. Now President Alvarado will shoulder that challenge.

“Carbon neutrality is big homework for our generation, and Costa Rica must be among the first countries that achieves it, if not the first,” said President Alvarado. “We have the titanic and beautiful task of abolishing the use of fossil fuels in our economy to make way for the use of clean and renewable energies.”

He then signed an executive decree promoting the use of hydrogen as fuel.

 Carlos Alvarado Quesada, a member of the center-left Citizens' Action Party (PAC), Alvarado was previously Minister of Labor and Social Security during the Presidency of Solís Rivera. 2015, (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

Carlos Alvarado Quesada, a member of the center-left Citizens’ Action Party (PAC), Alvarado was previously Minister of Labor and Social Security during the Presidency of Solís Rivera. 2015, (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

“We are instructing institutions that are involved in the environment and energy sectors so that, within the frame of their competency (MINAE, ICE and Recope), they develop a plan of action with the purpose of promoting the investigation, production and commercialization of hydrogen as fuel,” reads the decree.

“We must drive a decided and coordinated action of all sectors in society to begin and accelerate in an irreversible way this process, not just pushing electric transportation and production, hydrogen and other technologies, but also by modernizing our institutions,” said President Alvarado.

The greatest challenge to Costa Rica’s goal of reducing CO2 emissions is the transportation sector. More than half its greenhouse gas emissions are produced by a transport fleet of over 1.3 million vehicles.

The country is lagging in the modernization of public transport and transportation that operates with alternative energies such as electricity.

Even though the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2021 is considered unrealistic, establishing this goal has pushed the country in the right direction by taking steps towards the use of clean energy and the reduction of emissions. However, there is still a long road ahead.

Former Environment and Energy Minister Roberto Dobles, who served in the government of President Solis, said Costa Rica aims to reach this goal using budgeting, laws, and incentives, including measures to promote biofuels, hybrid vehicles, and clean energy.

A key part of the national strategy will be a “C-Neutral” label to certify that tourism and certain industrial practices mitigate all of the carbon dioxide they emit.

Under the new certification system, tourists and businesses will be charged a voluntary “tax” to offset their carbon emissions, with one ton of carbon valued at $10, according to “La Nación” newspaper.

The money will be used to fund conservation, reforestation, and research in protected areas.

To augment the development of C-Neutral, the country is cultivating a carbon certificate market that aims not only to increase carbon capture and storage in the nation’s forests, but also help maintain their scenic beauty.

In 2002, Costa Rica’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels totaled 5.8 million metric tons, ranking 108th in the world according to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. Delegates at a recent United Nations meeting in Nairobi, Kenya noted that they were watching Costa Rica’s initiative and hope to replicate it elsewhere.


MaxTrain

Demand for Electric Cars Hits New Highs

AmsterdamCharging

Charging a Nissan LEAF in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Photo courtesy Heijmans)

By Sunny Lewis

PALO ALTO, California, April 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Luxury electric automaker Tesla unveiled its latest model at a March 31 event, and demand was so strong for the $35,000 Tesla Model 3 that within the week 325,000 would-be customers purchased preorders at US$1,000 each.

The preorder offering raised US$14 billion, tweeted Tesla founder, chairman, CEO and product architect Elon Musk. He will use funds to finish building an enormous lithium-ion battery factory near Reno, Nevada and begin Model 3 production at the Tesla assembly plant in Fremont, California.

Everyone will have to be patient though – production of the Model 3 is not scheduled to begin until the second half of 2017.

The sheer number of Model 3 orders amazed many people including “EV World” publisher Bill Moore, who wrote to his newsletter subscribers, “The market’s not only ‘spoken,’ it bloody ROARED.”

“Fifteen years ago, some three years after I launched EV World,” wrote Moore, “there were maybe 5,000 OEM-built electric cars on the road in the United States; and roughly a comparable number in Europe, mainly in France.”

Now, he compared, “In just seven days time, Tesla now has pre-orders and $1000 deposits for more than 30 times the number of all the electric cars in the world back just over a decade and a half ago.”

Tesla Model 3s are revealed to an admiring crowd, March 31, 2016 (video courtesy Tesla Motors)

As of March 31, Tesla Motors had sold nearly 125,000 electric cars worldwide since delivery of its first Tesla Roadster in 2008.

The current world leader in zero-emission mobility, the Renault-Nissan Alliance, sold its 250,000th electric vehicle – a white Renault ZOE – in June 2015.

The 250,000th owner is Yves Nivelle, a computer engineer from Bordeaux, who traded in his 21-year-old diesel car for the subcompact Renault ZOE.

Nivelle bought his EV after the French government introduced an environmental bonus in April 2015 to allow owners of older, polluting diesel cars to trade them in and get a rebate of €10,000 on a new electric vehicle.

“The government’s environmental bonus was a big factor in my decision to get an EV,” Nivelle said. “But I have to say, I was convinced the first time I drove the car. It’s a real pleasure to drive and it feels good to do my part for the environment.”

Watch a video  of Nivelle getting into his historic Renault ZOE at the dealership. Renault Nissan Bordeaux

In addition to the LEAF, Nissan also makes the e-NV200 van, which has been on sale in Europe and Japan since 2014. In addition to the ZOE, Renault also sells the Renault Kangoo Z.E van, the SM3 Z.E. sedan and the Twizy, a two-seater urban commuter vehicle.

“Demand for our electric vehicles continues to grow thanks to government incentives and the expanding charging infrastructure,” said Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, formed in 1999.

“The positive response of our customers is also driving demand. These vehicles enjoy some of the highest levels of satisfaction rates from our customers around the world,” Ghosn said.

As public fast-charging infrastructure proliferates so that a nearly full charge is possible in less than half an hour at many locations, and electric vehicle batteries offer ranges up to 250 miles on a single charge, public acceptance of EVs grows stronger.

An all-electric vehicle offering more than 200 miles of range per charge for an affordable price in the neighborhood of US$30,000 – that’s what a growing segment of the driving public wants and an increasing number of automakers are answering that demand.

There are more than 20 models of electric vehicles on the market today, including, among others, the Chinese BYD e6, the Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Kia Soul EV, India’s Mahindra Reva e2o, all Mercedes B-class cars, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Smart EV, Volvo’s XC90 T8 and the VW e-Golf.

Across the industry, at least 24 newly announced electric vehicle models are expected to be on the market before 2019.

General Motors will have the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV for sale late this year; it offers 200 miles of range for about $30,000 after the federal government rebate.

GM head Mary Barra believes a real “revolution” is underway. She told the World Economic Forum annual meeting in January that soon petrol-fueled cars will be “a thing of the past.”

“In the auto industry, the revolution is being driven by the convergence of connectivity, electrification and changing customer needs,” Barra said. “It is allowing automakers like GM to develop dramatically cleaner, safer, smarter and more energy-efficient vehicles for customers in every market around the world.”

Ford delivered its first Focus E in 2011, but now has fallen behind. The 2017 Ford Focus Electric will have just 100 miles of range, according a Ford media presentation in Dearborn, Michigan last December.

But Ford will add DC fast charging to the car, so it can recharge to 80 percent of battery capacity in 30 minutes at a growing network of Combined Charging System sites in the USA and Europe.

Many other companies are jumping into the strengthening EV market.

At the 2016 Geneva International Motor Show, Hyundai Motor introduced the IONIQ – the world’s first model with three distinct electrified powertrains: the IONIQ Hybrid, the IONIQ Plug-in and the IONIQ Electric.

German automaker Audi is preparing its international production network to make autonomous cars, electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Production of the first all-electric SUV from Audi will begin in Brussels in 2018, the company says. It will offer a range of more than 250 miles on a single charge. In a decade, the company projects, 25 percent of Audi’s sales will be electric vehicles.

As production increases, the market grows, especially in India and China.

India’s Minister of State for Power, Coal, and New and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal wants to make every car on India’s roads an electric vehicle by 2030.

“We have created a working group under the leadership of Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, who is good at coming up with large scale programs. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, and I are members of this group,” Goyal told a conference of Indian youth in late March.

Goyal suggested that drivers could buy bare bones electric cars with no money down. The buyers could pay for their EVs over time from the savings realized by not having to purchase fuel.

In China, electric car sales surged to 220,000 in 2015, surpassing the United States to rank first worldwide, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, sold more EVs than any other Chinese company in 2015. CAAM projects sales of 300,000 EVs in China this year.

Unveiling the Tesla Model 3, Musk addressed the underlying reason behind the rapidly electrifying auto industry.

“Why are we doing this? Why are we making electric cars? Why does it matter?” he asked.

“It’s very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport. It’s really important for the future of the world,” he answered his own question.

Musk is concerned about climate change. He pointed to the record high CO2 concentration in the atmosphere: as of March 2016 – 403.5 parts per million – and climbing.

“The last time there was this concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 11 million years ago, when primates first started walking upright,” he told the crowd at the unveiling event, many of them owners of earlier and much more costly Teslas.

Tesla founder, chairman and CEO at the unveiling of the Tesla Model 3. (From video courtesy Tesla Motors)

Musk pointed to the Earth’s steadily rising temperature. He pointed to the fact that 53,000 people a year die in the United States alone from exposure to automobile emissions.

Musk is not alone in his concerns. And research shows that the growing popularity of electric vehicles can indeed help avert climate change.

In September 2015 the California-based Electric Power Research Institute and the U.S. nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) jointly released a study finding that widespread adoption of electric transportation, including the off-road sector, could lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.

The report, “Environmental Assessment of a Full Electric Transportation Portfolio,” projects emissions through 2050 and air quality impacts in 2030.

It finds that greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty vehicles could drop as much as 64 percent below today’s levels as drivers abandon internal combustion engines in favor of electrics.

“This research points to the importance of two fundamental and parallel trends in energy and the environment,” said EPRI President and CEO Mike Howard. “First is the continuing decarbonization of the electricity sector and second is the electrification of energy use in transportation and industry.”