Meet The Electric Car That Doesn't Need To Be Plugged In
Pop quiz: Is a hydrogen car an electric car?
If you answered (or guessed) yes, you're correct. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are electric vehicles that generate power through a chemical reaction while they're being driven, instead of needing to be plugged in to charge.
"From an operational perspective, it's the same. You have a steering wheel, you have a transmission," said Tom DeLuise, national commercial and government fleet sales manager for Toyota Motor North America. His company makes a zero-emissions fuel cell EV called the Mirai.
"The difference is the vehicle is running on hydrogen fuel." So it emits nothing but water from the tailpipe. And yes, people have sipped it. (But why?)
Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, or FCEVs, have been in development for decades but only commercially available since 2016. Toyota, Honda and Hyundai are the only car companies that sell them in the U.S.
Approximately 1,100 have been sold so far in California, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
If the very notion of a hydrogen car conjures images of the Hindenburg exploding into flames, that fear is largely unjustified. Yes, hydrogen is flammable. But so is gasoline. The two fuels are roughly comparable in terms of safety.
One advantage of a hydrogen car over a plug-in is that it only takes about five minutes to fill up. However, there are only 40 places to do it in California — at least right now.
And then there's the cost.
Riverside startup StratosShare has a plan to make them more accessible and affordable. You can rent them by the hour, day or week, starting at $10 for 60 minutes — fuel and insurance included. Drivers can use an app to locate, reserve, pay for and unlock a zero-emissions Toyota Mirai.
CE-CERT, the engineering school at the University of California at Riverside, is one of three areas where StratosShare is operating so-called landing zones to pick up and drop off the cars. The other two are in downtown Riverside and at San Bernardino International airport.
All of the locations are in areas the California Environmental Protection Agency has identified as a disadvantaged community, where air quality is poor and incomes are generally lower than in other parts of the state.
StratosShare is operating in the Inland Empire, because it received a grant from the state to provide zero-emission rides for Spanish-speaking communities in the Riverside area.
"We're trying to make hydrogen fuel cell vehicles accessible to the public for people who otherwise wouldn't know what a hydrogen car is or have access to one," said StratosShare co-founder Jonathan Palacios-Avila.
Car sharing isn't new. Zipcar and General Motors' Maven also rent cars by the hour in various Southern California cities. And Blue LA offers a zero-emissions car share in Los Angeles using battery-electrics. What's different about StratosShare is that it's the first to use hydrogen fuel cell vehicles exclusively.
Right now, StratosShare has just 15 Toyota Mirais to share. All of them are located in parts of the Inland Empire with high utilization, according to Palacios-Avila.
The big idea is that instead of hopping into a ride-hail, or renting a gas-powered car from a more traditional rental car agency, there's another, zero-emissions option to get around.
Shams Tanvir, a postdoctoral scholar at UC Riverside, who researches ways to make environmentally-friendly transportation accessible to the masses, said that car sharing is one way to get the most out of our cars.
Fewer vehicles are needed overall, because "they're utilizing this car more often. That would create in turn less number of cars on the roads," Tanvir said.
And ideally, less pollution because hydrogen cars are emissions free. They do not generate the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change when they are driven.
StratosShare is an offshoot of StratosFuel, a company Palacios Avila co-founded five years ago to produce hydrogen fuel. Next year, that company plans to build a renewable hydrogen plant in the Moreno Valley that can produce enough fuel to power 4,000 hydrogen vehicles a day.
Hydrogen fuel can be produced renewably, using nothing but water, solar and wind.
By making hydrogen fuel more available, renewable and affordable, Palacios-Avila said the costs of owning and operating a hydrogen car will drop to a price that's more similar to gas.
"The only way is through access — through increased availability," he said.
Within the next year, he plans to expand StratosShare to 50 cars and bring the service to Los Angeles and Orange County.
This story originally appeared in LAist. It is republished here as part of EcoWatch's partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.