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Research Highlights

Stephen Selkowitz

Energy Champion

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) named Stephen Selkowitz, one of five winners of this year's Champions of Energy Efficiency Awards. Selkowitz is the head of EETD's Building Technologies Department. The awards were presented at ACEEE's annual Summer Study Conference on Energy Efficiency in Buildings at Asilomar, California. In their citation, the organization's board of directors said, "Steve has been a tireless, persistent, gently persuasive leader in the energy efficiency R&D field. His work has led to major advances in such areas as windows, lighting, building controls, and building design tools."

The board cites Selkowitz's major contribution as developing low-emissivity, energy-efficient windows and helping bring this technology to the marketplace. A recent National Academy of Sciences study cited low-e windows as one of the most successful research programs of the past 25 years. The award also recognized his crucial role in bringing electronic lighting ballasts to the market in the 1980s. DOE's 1999 energy efficiency standard for ballasts will convert the market to energy-efficient electronic ballasts by 2010.

For more information visit the ACEEE web site.


EETD Scientist Garner Awards

Recently the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Technology Development (ATD) program called for nominations for two awards: one for the best ATD paper published in 2001 and the second for the best individual research accomplishment in 2001. The winners for the best paper were the nine authors of "Diagnostic Characterization of High-Power Lithium-Ion Batteries for Use in Hybrid Electric Vehicles," (J. Electrochem. Soc., 148, A463-70 (2001)). They are LBNL's XueRong (Sherry) Zhang, Phil Ross, Robert Kostecki, Fanping Kong (deceased), Steve Sloop, John Kerr, Kathryn Striebel, Elton Cairns, and Frank McLarnon. All are from EETD's Advanced Energy Technologies Department, except Phil Ross who is in the Materials Sciences Division.

The winner for best individual accomplishment was the Advanced Energy Technologies Department's Robert Kostecki for his work using Raman microscopy as a new diagnostic tool.

In the Advanced Energy Technologies Department of EETD, researchers experiment with the conversion and storage of energy (batteries and fuel cells), processes to reduce the environmental impacts of energy technologies (reducing the emissions of air pollutants), advanced materials to make energy use more efficient, and biological methods of environmental remediation.

An important part of their research involves developing electrochemical power sources (batteries) suitable for electric and hybrid electric vehicles (EVs and HEVs). At present, batteries don't hold enough electric charge to drive a vehicle the same distance as a comparable gasoline-powered automobile. Fuel cells can also power cars, trucks, and buses without emitting harmful tailpipe emissions and may also provide energy to factories and homes without creating smokestack pollution. Much of the funding for this research comes from DOE's Office of Advanced Automotive Technologies (OAAT), a part of the Office of Transportation Technologies.

The ATD Program has three major objectives: to develop and demonstrate the practical application of diagnostic tools at the national laboratories to identify factors that limit calendar life and abuse tolerance for lithium-based battery technology; to assist in the development of practical solutions; and to develop innovative solutions for reducing cell costs. In cooperation with automobile manufacturers, DOE's FreedomCAR & Vehicle Technologies Program is working to develop and deploy advanced transportation technologies that reduce the nation's use of imported oil and improve air quality.


New Design Tool Analyzes Cost of Operating a Building over its Lifetime

Collage of Energy-10 screenshots and a high rise building.

Imagine being able to estimate the energy life-cycle costs of a new building by simply entering numbers into a software program. Thanks to the new Energy-10 design tool, this is now possible.

The new software, Energy-10 Version 1.5, contains seven upgrades, including a discounted cash-flow evaluation of a building over its lifetime and a more powerful graphing package. The cash-flow evaluation of a building is determined and discounted to the present value, taking into consideration such factors as the initial cost of construction, mortgage payments, annual electricity costs, and annual tax benefits. Costs can be estimated using simple scaling laws, or users can supply their own cost estimates.

Energy-10 allows the user to play "what if" games while designing a building or home. "What if I change the windows?" "What if I add energy-efficient equipment?" "What if I let the daylight in and turn down the lights?"

Helping architects and engineers understand the energy implications of their work is critical in any strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. The life-cycle cost feature helps designers make the case for incorporating energy-efficiency features by evaluating the cost effectiveness of these features, which is usually very attractive.

Energy-10 now has 2,061 registered users and has been licensed to 60 colleges and universities where it is being used as a teaching tool for architects and engineers.

Energy-10 allows an architect to watch a detailed simulation of how a building will use energy and shows ways to reduce energy consumption. The software simulates a year of hour-by-hour operations, which entails about one billion calculations performed in a few seconds and displays annual, monthly, or hour-by-hour energy performance graphs.

The software incorporates detailed historical weather data for 239 locations around the country, (expandable to 3,945 locations), enabling architects to accurately match their buildings with a site's weather patterns.

The new software — Energy-10 Version 1.5 — is an upgrade to the original program developed at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Energy-10 Version 1.5 is the result of collaboration among NREL, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Berkeley Solar Group. It is being distributed by the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC) in Washington, D.C., which also provides training workshops and user support. SBIC can be reached at 202-628-7400, ext. 210; the web site is available here.


New Version of ProForm Released

ProForm is a software tool designed to support a basic assessment of the environmental and financial impacts of renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects. Given the necessary data, ProForm calculates basic financial indicators and avoided emissions of CO2 and local air pollutants expected from a project. A new release, Version 3.1, is now available for downloading at:http://poet.lbl.gov/Proform/

ProForm can be used for renewable energy projects that involve either electricity generation or non-electric energy production, and for energy-efficiency projects that save electricity and/or fossil fuels.

ProForm, a spreadsheet-based tool is designed to be simple enough to be easily usable yet sophisticated enough to provide credible results. A typical application of ProForm would be in preparation of a project proposal that developers might submit to potential investors, financiers, or a national climate change office. ProForm allows project developers, financial institutions, and other parties to investigate how changes in basic assumptions affect the key parameters of a project.

For more information about ProForm, please contact Bill Golove (Tel: 510-486-5229; Fax: 510-486-6996); Anita Milman (Tel: 510-486-7041); or Bryan Lehman (Tel: 510-495-2266).


Quality, Not More Weight, May Make Vehicles Safer

Tom Wenzel, an EETD scientist, and University of Michigan physicist Marc Ross are questioning the belief that bigger and heavier vehicles are automatically safer than other cars and trucks. They recently released a report which shows that vehicle quality is actually a better predictor of safety—both for the driver and for other drivers—than weight.

Most cars are safer than the average sports utility vehicle (SUV), while pickup trucks are much less safe than all other types. Minivans and import luxury cars have the safest records, according to the report, "An Analysis of Traffic Deaths by Vehicle Type and Model."

"A shortcoming of many safety analyses has been that only risks to drivers of a given kind of vehicle are evaluated while the risks imposed on others are ignored," says Wenzel. "We focused on the risk not only to occupants of the vehicle model in question in all types of crashes, but also on the risk to the drivers of other vehicles involved in crashes with the model in question."

Many factors affect safety

"Safety is a challenging concept. It includes the design of the car itself, driver demographics and behavior, the kinds of roads, the time of day—a whole host of factors," Ross said. "What we need to do is move away from the idea that bigger and heavier vehicles are automatically safer."

Recent Senate hearings on Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards focused on the increased risk Americans would face if they had to give up their SUVs for vehicles that weigh less. "We set out to see whether that risk is real, whether SUVs really are safer than cars. The answer, by and large, is no," Ross said.

The first major result Ross and Wenzel found is that SUVs are no safer for their drivers than cars. Popular midsize cars, minivans, and import luxury cars have the safest records while SUVs are about as risky as the average midsize or large car and are no safer than many compact and subcompact models. The researchers defined 'risk' as the number of deaths per year per million vehicles. The study found that, when measuring the combined risk to drivers of the car and risks imposed on others, most cars are safer than SUVs while pickup trucks are much less safe than all other types of vehicles.

To determine quality, Ross and Wenzel used quantifiable parameters such as new car price, used car price, Consumer Reports safety ratings, and country of origin. "It is extremely difficult to determine the inherent safety of a vehicle type or model because it is too hard to separate the contribution of driver characteristics and behavior from the contribution of vehicle design. We can say, however, that quality is a much better predictor of safety than weight," Ross said.

"It turns out that relatively inexpensive light cars do tend to be unsafe, but more expensive light cars are much safer and are as safe as heavier cars and SUV models. In any event, the argument that lowering the weight of cars to achieve high fuel economy has resulted in excess deaths is unfounded. If designers pay careful attention to safety in vehicle design, smaller cars can be, and indeed have been, made as safe as larger ones," Ross said.

University of Michigan and Berkeley Lab public information staff contributed to this report.

For more information, please contact Tom Wenzel (TPWenzel@lbl.gov; Tel: 510-486-5753; Fax: 510-486-6996) or visit the Transportation and Air Quality Analysis web site.

Download a copy of this report.

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