5 Organizations with Leading Energy Innovations

As standards of living rise, so does energy consumption. People buy more cars, computers, mobile phones and other electronic gadgets. This lifestyle of accelerated consumption contributes to a host of environmental problems such as global warming and the depletion of energy resources, which have the potential to lead to irreversible consequences.

Some organizations offer innovative solutions to reverse the negative impacts of climate change and energy resource depletion, with solutions ranging from energy-efficient vehicles to gadgets that run on renewable energy.

Tesla Motors Model S

For many consumers, range anxiety is a huge barrier towards buying an electric vehicle. An electric vehicle is more environmentally ”conscious”, but is it practical? An electric vehicle runs on one or more rechargeable electric motors. What happens if your electric vehicle runs out of power when you’re late for an important engagement? What if it takes several hours to be fully charged?

Tesla Motors developed innovations that aim to reduce range anxiety. In June 2012, it introduced the Model S , a luxury electric vehicle that is praised for its speed and efficiency . When fully charged, the Model S can run for up to 265 miles. When the Model S is charged in one of Tesla’s Supercharger stations, it can reach full charge in one hour.

The Model S is extremely popular among consumers. In the first quarter of 2015, approximately 10,000 units were sold—a 55% increase from 2014 sales . In the second quarter of 2015, sales rose to over 11,500 units , demonstrating that electric vehicles’ popularity is on the rise.

Given the uptick in sales, Tesla increased the number of its Supercharger stations . In 2014, it had 71 stations throughout North America and aimed to have 100 stations in the region by the end of the year. As of March 2015, Tesla already had 400 Supercharger stations in North America .

Such a wide availability of charging stations can make the Model S even more popular among consumers, who are projected to gain more confidence in the idea that the Model S is perfectly capable of long-distance travel. More Model S units sold means less reliance on fossil fuels for transportation.

General Electric Self-Reporting Machines

Machinery maintenance work is traditionally tedious and time-consuming. Crews have to set schedules for inspecting or repairing equipment, and lack real-time information about the condition of the machinery that they are maintaining. When a machine breaks down and maintenance work comes too late, unplanned downtime can cascade throughout the production line, leading to decreased productivity and wasted resources.

To address this, General Electric (GE) developed self-reporting machines (turbines, locomotives, hospital equipment, etc.), which produce data about their operational efficiencies. GE’s analytics team then uses the data to make the company’s machines more efficient.

In the field of transportation, GE developed the Trip Optimizer , a control system that helps locomotives achieve on-time arrivals with minimal fuel consumption. The Trip Optimizer calculates a train’s fuel usage based on factors such as weather, train length, terrain, track conditions and locomotive performance. It then processes and consolidates the information into a profile that determines how much fuel the train should use.

As a result, trains that use the Trip Optimizer achieve a 3-17% fuel savings . In addition, they are easier to maintain. The Trip Optimizer prevents maintenance hassles by providing real-time data on train conditions like engine health, wheel slip, wind effect and speed —there is no longer a need to rely on model-based estimations. Easier maintenance leads to greater energy efficiency, as poorly-kept machinery consumes more electricity than well-kept machinery.

GE also created an ’intelligent’ wind turbine that is energy-efficient and easy to maintain. Dubbed the ’world’s first brilliant turbine‘, it has an integrated battery that can store excess power for use during long periods of low wind. In addition, the turbine has sensors and powerful software that gather and analyze turbine, weather and grid data. The sensors and software use the data to forecast the amount of electricity the turbine will generate in the succeeding hour. As a result, GE’s intelligent turbine is easier to maintain. Since the turbine’s wind power is predictable, maintenance experts can more easily detect when there is something wrong with the machine.

XL Hybrids Hybrid Converters

Vans and trucks are widely perceived as gas-guzzling vehicles. XL Hybrids is changing this perception by converting gas vehicles into hybrid ones . The company does this by appending an electric motor, an advanced lithium ion battery pack and sophisticated control software to the vehicle . The vehicle’s original design and specifications remain largely the same.

This begs the question: How does an XL Hybrid vehicle work? It works through regenerative braking, a process in which a vehicle’s kinetic energy is converted into chemical energy through braking. Every time a motorist steps on the brakes of a XL Hybrid vehicle, the vehicle’s kinetic energy is turned into chemical energy and stored in the lithium ion battery for future use. When the driver accelerates, the lithium ion battery releases the energy into the motor in order to propel the vehicle forward. As a result, the owner of an XL Hybrid van can save up to 3,500 gallons of gasoline and up to $17,000 in fuel and maintenance costs over the lifetime of the vehicle .

Philips Lighting Solutions

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), lighting accounts for 19% of global electricity consumption . This figure translates to 6-8% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions . Moreover, the world’s electric lighting consumption is expected to increase by 60% in the next 20 years . Companies are working hard to avert this projection. Philips’ smart LED bulbs consume roughly one-sixth of the amount of electricity that a conventional bulb consumes , which means reduced energy consumption and a smaller carbon footprint.

CityTouch is another example of Philips’ energy-saving solutions. The software platform is composed of simple web applications that help effectively manage street lights. These applications perform a wide range of functions, such as analyzing lighting data and regulating energy use, lighting schedules, dimming levels and bulb condition. As a result, urban planners can reduce energy consumption, save money on maintenance and improve operational efficiency.

US Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office

The US Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office has developed several hybrid innovations that can help reduce diesel use in the battlefield . Aside from reducing dependency on fossil fuels, these innovations also sustain longer missions and reduce soldiers’ vulnerabilities. Following are some examples:

  • Marine austere patrolling system (MAPS) — MAPS is a vest that contains a flexible solar panel that performs tasks like charging battle gear and filtering water. Since it does not contain multiple batteries, MAPS reduces the average infantryman’s pack weight by nearly 50 pounds .
  • Solar portable alternative communications (SPACES) — SPACES is a photovoltaic (PV) mat that can harness solar power. Every time Marines need satellite and Internet communications on the go, they can unroll SPACES on the ground, eliminating the need for heavy power systems on the battlefield.
  • Hybrid power for medium tactical vehicle replacements (MTVRs) — In 2014, the Expeditionary Energy Office developed small, two- to three-cylinder generators that enable frontline MTVRs to switch off their engines without having to shut down their built-in computers. Consequently, the MTVRs’ diesel consumption is reduced.

As these examples demonstrate, corporations can develop useful, innovative products that promote sustainability. Since companies need energy for their most basic operations, they have a huge stake in preventing energy resource depletion. Energy-efficient products result in more energy resources for future business operations.

FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS) is a leading sustainability solutions provider with expertise in climate change solutions that help reduce an organization’s carbon footprint. Our experience in energy management helps organizations adapt sustainable energy practices in their daily operations to help mitigate the effects of climate change and positively impact their bottom line. To stay current on how energy management can improve efficiencies across your organization, subscribe to the FCS Blog, Our Business: Your Business .