Friday, February 27, 2009

More Positive News from India: Kolkata Buses Run on Biodiesel Blend

Treehugger has this very interesting entry on Kolkata Trams running on a biodiesel blend in an attempt at reducing bus generated pollution in the city by about a third:

Hat's off to the Indian Railways who also own the Kolkata Tramways Corporation for this feat. Indian Railways already use some quantities of biodiesel and I hope they go from strength to greater strength. Now, will other cities across the country please take note?

French Farmer Shows the Way Ahead to Indian Entrepreneurs in States like Haryana

Another very interesting piece from Green Daily which has inspirational value for someone intending to take up Green Energy projects in India:

The state of Haryana has been pioneering the use of renewable energy by offering excellent tariffs for anyone willing to generate green energy and supply it on a feed in basis. While some entrepreneurs have made an entry into the business from what I know, there is tremendous potential for many more to come forward and enter this business. The example of the French farmer as highlighted by Green Daily shows how solar energy - abundantly available everywhere in India - could be harnessed and supplied to the government. There are many pountry farms in Haryana, no doubt, which could do the same that this farmer is doing. And there are also many industries with large buildings whose roofs could be covered with solar panels. Somehow, I am more positive that something will happen here than in the case of other projects that I have been suggesting.

For those interested, the Haryana Renewable Energy Authority's website is:

A Cheaper Vehicle Innovation Than What You Usually See Here - Will an Indian Bicycle Manufacturer Pick it Up?

Green Daily has this very interesting green bicycle innovation which uses Li-ion batteries to make cycling easier: Designed at MIT, the USA's premier engineering college, the device does seem to make a lot of sense for countries like India and China which pollute in a huge way and which also have many more bucycle users than most other countries do. India also has the world's largest bicycle manufacturer, Hero Cycles. I do think that if this were incorporated into the design of bicycles sold in these two countries in a big way and if they were offered to the public, not only would they help reduce pollution and help poor people cycle more easily, they would also help bring costs down on economies of scale.

Let's see where this leads, though. Like most other innovations, my suspicion is that the Chinese might pick it up and produce a cheapened version, but that in India it will go nowhere.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Some Very Positive News from India: A Solar Powered Pontoon Boat Design

Autoblog Green has this entry (along with two videos which are well worth watching) of a ride on a solar powered pontoon boat designed by Navgathi Marine in India: The design impressed a British engineer who heads a green boat design group and was filmed when he was invited for a test ride. Unfortunately, the videos do not have much information - or views for that matter - of the Navgathi designs.

The Navgathi website, too, has only illustrations of their 6.2 meter Sunrider design: Hopefully, we shall have more news very soon. Congratulations, Navgathi, and very best wishes! I am always as optimistic about Indian engineers as I am critical of the Indian government and bureaucracy - tell me, after this, if I am wrong in any way!

Stupidity Is A Way of Life With Politicians and Bureaucrats in India

Today's Deccan Chronicle has this piece of In Rs 78,000 Crore lying unutilized in the country because the politicians and bureaucrats have been doing the one thing that they invariably do - nothing Considering that the country is desperately poor and that it always needs money to spruce its miserable infrastructure up, to focus on more efficient utilization of energy and so on, this is criminal to say the least. And then, there is tall talk like this piece in The Hindu suggests - that Nagpur would become the country's first "solar city" and the article proudly highlights the fact that In Rs 9.5 Crore had been offered to as many as 60 other cities to go solar.

There are always times you become cynical about something not because you just happen to be in a bad mood, but because there is nothing but BS in something that you're looking at. India, I am sorry to say, always wallows in BS - both literally and figuratively.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

This Should Work in India and Very Well at That

There was an attempt at getting India to convert to biomethane when I was a boy many decades ago - the Indian government called biomethane "Gobar Gas" after the name for cow dung in Hindi. Somehow, the whole project didn;t take off at all and the whole business died. India, as many know, has the world's largest cow population. The problem, from the perspective of caring for the cows in a country where they are worshipped is concerned, is that Indian cow breeds do not produce anywhere near as much milk as western breeds produce. Historically, bullock-carts (as oxcarts are called in India) were a popular mode of transportation in India with Arnold Toynbee writing in the 1950s that the total number of these vehicles in India exceeded the total number of cars in the rest of the world. But this was not to be as "progress" turned India's cities into urban ghettos stinking of untreated sewage and diesel exhaust fumes.

As the title suggests, there is a very interesting on Autoblog Green (Click on the title to go there) about using biomethane to run trucks that would normally run on diesel. India has a number of diesel vehicles and diesel gensets in factories etc. The country also has charitable Pinjrapols which are retirement centers for cows which are fed and cared for daily with donations. Well, now, there is an opportunity to get rewarded for this care that some give these cows - Cummins and the other companies involved in this Autoblog Green entry are already present in India. So, how about getting them to reconfigure diesel engines, gensets etc that they already sell in India to run on biomethane? And, who is going to look at this as an opportunity to make money from? I hope to send a link to this post to several friends who are keen animal livers and also business people as well as to my former classmates at St Mary's, Sherwood Hall, the Madras Christian College etc and to the Blue Cross of India, the organization that gave me Jack, my best buddy in the world.

Here's to hoping that someone in India, somewhere, gets bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and makes billions out of this idea.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Video Review of the Think Car

I keep hoping that the Norwegian Think Electric car would be sold in the USA - it is somewhat expensive compared to a small gasoline car, but just imagine not having to worry about gasoline prices - ever. The Electric Aid group at Ning have an extensive video review at the following link:

Think have gone through a bad patch of late and almost closed down but were rescued by investors in Norway and Sweden. I have heard that some American groups were also interested in investing in it. My hat is off to those who are working to keep this dream alive. Check the video out - the car is simply too good to let die. And yes, if it were available in Chicago, I would put my money where my mouth is and buy one.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Now Some Very Good News from India

Regular visitors to my blog are accustomed, I think, to my often strong criticism of India - I find it shameful that my country, which produces some of the best engineers and doctors in the world, also produces the world's most miserable politicians and bureaucrats. Unfortunately, in a country that was long socialist (and still is, if the constitution is to be believed, though, of course, a lot of the constitution has been diluted and trashed by the politicians) you cannot get away from the government's involvement as far as large projects especially in the energy sector are concerned.

So it is with great happiness that I present this news to you: Bharat Petroleum, one of India's large petroleum companies, the Shapurji Pallonji group (who own a huge chunk of Tata, ACC etc) and some more partners are due to build several large refineries to make biodiesel from jatropha as a source in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. The link to this news is at:

As you know, this is news that I will be monitoring. Yes, biodiesel is not clean in the sense that it still puts carbon into the air. But trucks, trains and diesel cars do need to run. I think that this is a good intermediate fix for India. And, it keeps money in India instead of sending it to the Gulf.

Congratulations, BP, Shapurji group and everyone involved in this project!

Clip On Tidal Power Systems for Offshore Wind Turbines

Treehugger has this piece about a new patented wave power design that would just clip on to an offshore wind turbine to generate even more power from the same location: Turns out that the company that patented this design is a Scottish one. The Scots do know a thing or two about wind power, wave power etc as earlier posts about various projects undertaken in Britain show. Do check Green Ocean Energy's website out from their link:

Now, doesn't India have a fantastically long coastline that could benefit from having these units hugging it? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink . . .

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Highly Innovative Small Car Design That Could Do Well in South Asia if Sold There

While electric vehicle technologies are beginning to become better and fuel cell designs etc look like something for the future, among currently available technologies, hybrids and diesel cars are among the most fuel efficient. However, many diesel engines available in different parts of the world are older technology ones and they have emission and NVH problems though the newest designs from Volkswagen, Mercedes etc are very advanced and both clean and smooth compared to petrol (gasoline) ones. The problem is that these engines are still in heavy cars that consume less fuel than their predecessors but not really by very much. A small British company, Axon Automotive, has come up with a cheaper way to build a lightweight car using carbon fiber and foam that is small enough to be powered by a 500 CC engine and still offer highway performance. Autoblog's entry on Axon and some recent funding that they received from the British government can be accessed at: Axon have a tentative new websie at:

This design is tailor-made for all countries with Right Hand drive road systems - this means the whole of South Asia, much of Africa, Australia and New Zealand and some small Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia etc not to forget the British Carribbean and former Indian Ocean possessions. Yes the time now is a bad one for investments in any sector. But, Axon is a company to watch. When the world's economies improve, it will be a company to take seriously especially if it is aggressive and tries to push its tech in other parts of the world where it would do very well. I hope that they do - until cheaper ways are found to show fossil fuel the fist.

A Shining Example Set by Westchester County, New York

Today's New York Times has this excellent piece about an initiative by the authorities in Westchester County, New York, to collect used frying oil and process it into biodiesel: Under normal circumstances, in the USA, restaurants have to pay to get rid of used cooking oil. Under this new system, the county collects it free and uses it to drive several of its vehicles.

While I always think of parrallels to SOuth Asia, in India, at least, the oil would go down the drain to happily pollute ground water. Unfortunately, that doesn't drive the soot-belching Indian buses or trucks. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here - but is India ready to learn it? I have my doubts.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

One more Reason for India to Concentrate on Jatropha Cultivation

Treehugger has this entry about a new technology to make jatrophs seedcake non-poisonous and safe for use as animal feed: The company that ahs developed the process, D1 Oils in the UK hopes to get full regulatory approval to sell the technology by 2010. Considering that they already sell biodiesel units, they should be a good company to watch as far as future products are concerned. I am not sure what machinery is used in India to process jatropha but I can see D 1 making a strong pitch to sell their plants and technology in the future.

Chrysler Builds an NEV

Autoblog has this entry about the new Peapod Neighborhood Electric Vehicle from Chrysler's GEM division: The car is expensive and it is being launched in a dificult period as far as I can see - but I hope that it succeeds. It is a very interesting design and the car could be exported to other countries where speeds are not as critical as they are in the USA - South Asia comes to mind as always. Let's see how Fiat, Chrysler's new owners, decide to take the company forward.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

One Very Interesting Electric Car

Autoblog Green has this interview with Cyril Lacroix of Heuliez, the designers of the nicely named "Friendly" electric car at: for all my friends who understand French. The commentary in English is equally detailed. Basically, this car is simply a highway speed capable electric vehicle which can run 100 Kn om a full charge, or, with the optional extra battery pack, run 250 Km on a single charge. Unlike the much more expensive offerings from companies like Tesla in the USA or Lightning in the UK, this is a bread and butter car which Heuliez offer at Euro 10,000 or the equivalent of US $ 14,000. And in the USA, if this is ever offered here, you would see tax incentives which make it even cheaper.

And, Heuliez are no newcomers to the car business. They have been coachbuilders with a record for good work dating back many decades. I do think that this would make a great second car if it were available here - the price is considerably lower than even that of the Think car and this thing seats four. Believe me, if it were available here, I would certainly buy one. So, if it were offered elsewhere, would many more people, not only to save money by using cheap electricity, but also, from my discussions with many people these days, to show fpssil fuel the dist.

If College Students in Ohio and Pennsylvania Can Do This, Then Why Not Students Everywhere Else?

There is a heartwarming piece in Autoblog about students from Sinclair Community Cllege in Dayton OH and Dickinson College in PA making biodiesel for maintenance vahicles on campus using waste dining hall fry oil. Knowing the fiercely competitive nature of students in this country, I am sure that other Community Colleges and Universities would soon follow suit. I wonder, though, where this leaves colleges and universities in India, all of which have vastly more students than US colleges and universities do? In South India, a huge quantity of appalams and other fried stuff comes out of college and university messes. In the North, there are similar fried foods - couldn't colleges and universities there use the waste cooking oil positively? I seriously doubt if even engineering colleges in the country have any permanent program of this sort. If anyone knows of any, I would be glad to hear from you.

Bad Times for the Renewable Energy Sector

Today's New York Times has a feature on the current difficulties being experienced by the Green Energy sector at: My feeling about this is something that visitors to this blog would easily appreciate - if only the companies manufacturing turbines etc were to look at the financing available from the US Exim Bank and sell their products abroad, they would not have to lay people off.

Oh well, sometimes people need to learn the hard way. Sadly, a lot of people will be hurt before the CEOs and directors of companies runhning these businesses really learn anything.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Some Interesting Stuff to do at Home

Green Daily has some very interesting links for the ladies who visit here, especially links to recipes for two ingredient cosmetics: Of course, in countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka etc there is an old tradition of making cosmetics from ingredients that are available in the bazaars at home. Some people like Shahnaz Hussain make hundreds of millions of dollars from bottling and selling them. There can't be anything better, though, than making what you can at home. It would cost less, would be more environmentally friendly because the energy required to bottle and ship the stuff would be saved and, best of all, it would be something that you could have the satisfaction of making yourself.

Here's to all you beautiful ladies and your handsome partners!

A Very Efficient if Expensive Home Building Technology

Ecogeek has this description of a new building technology that has been developed to make 1500 sq foot "castles" in the USA:
While this is a very small home by American standards, it would be an excellent size for a country like India where homes this small are really the norm. However, there are cheaper technologies than insulated concrete forms and I have written about them here including the Thermasave System. Both have their advantages though - one for those who can afford to spend money on a premium home and the other for people with a smaller budget who still would like a strong and energy saving home. As a comparison, you can have either a fuel efficient large car or a tiny one - some of GM's big hybrids are as fuel efficient as Minis these days if you know what I mean.

Green Castle's website is:

And of course, Thermasave's is

Wouldn't it be great if both could be offered in South Asia? Thermasave have built homes in Afghanistan on a UN project. It would be nice to have both companies compete in the region.

Some Interesting News from Japan

Treehugger has two interesting posts that are well worth looking at. The first concerns Japan Airlines (the world's second largest airline) experimenting with and finding biofuel based on a combination of jatropha, algae and camelina oil more efficient in jets than fossil fuels. While these do still put carbon into the air, the reduced amounts of pollution from increased efficiency must be lauded. And, all three of these crops grow in India. Check the post out at:

The second post deals with a traditional Japanese farming practice including vegetable and rice cultivation called Satoyama: Funnily, modern Japanese rice cultivation methods which involve the heavy use of fertilizers are not really more efficient. I guess there is a lot of sense in using the old ways as far as agriculture is concerned.

Both of these posts have a relevance to South Asia. India in particular has taken to jatropha cultivation in a big way and there is a lot of potential for algae cultivation in filthy sewage carrying canals like Chennai's Cooum "River" and similar outlets in other cities. Instead of merely rotting and stinking the place up, India's shit could literally provide a valuable resource to help people fly. It would also reduce the amount of money that the country sends out to Abdullah land for buying jet fuel. Good idea? You bet!

And Now, An Important Reason why we need to Show Fossil Fuels the Fist

A very interesting post with a video link in The New York Times' Dot Earth Blog talks about the dangers of the Greenhouse Effect and the Bathtub Effect: A separate entry on the newspaper's environment page talks about rising levels of acidity in the oceans:

These are unfortunate consequences of the world's reliance on coal, oil and gas. While these effects are slow in occurring and they cause harm equally slowly, the harm is likely to be felt for generations in the future. More immediately, this gives money to some of the world's worst tyrants to do what they please including finance madcap obscurantists like some of the thugs who have been responsible for killing thousands of people in South Asia. There are more reasons to avoid fossil fuels than could be put into an encyclopedia. I do hope that these dangers become better understood by the world as it works to wean itself from this dangerous addiction.