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Fleet Briefing: GE-Nissan EV Charging Project, SunEdison, Ford, BASF, Car Sharing

GE and Nissan are launching a two-year collaboration to develop smart charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

The effort will focus on integration of electric vehicles with homes and buildings and on the future impact on the electric grid once millions of EVs are on the road, the companies said.

Several projects under the collaboration are already underway. In one, engineers are studying how to connect the electric Nissan Leaf to the GE’s concept for a Smart Home. Nissan recently unveiled a system which enables the Leaf’s lithium-ion batteries to supply electricity to households.

Researchers will also be looking for innovative ways to directly link charging stations with renewable power sources.

GE is also considering leasing vehicle batteries to electric-car buyers, Reuters said.

Poor EV infrastructure is a factor holding back electric vehicle purchasing in the U.S., Reuters says. Nissan has sold 7,000 Leafs in the country since their launch 10 months ago.

In the past two months, a wave of companies have announced collaborations aimed at developing alternative fuel vehicles:

GE started a hybrid vehicle partnership with Chrysler Group a few years ago, but the relationship led nowhere, Reuters said.

In other EV charging news, solar energy services provider SunEdison said on Friday that it has joined the Pecan Street smart grid demonstration project in Austin, Texas. SunEdison said it will be leading development of the advanced home solar PV charging systems for the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.

A number of the charging systems will also have in-home batteries, and all systems will integrate into the home services systems provided by other companies in the Pecan Street project including Best Buy/Check-It, Intel, Sony and Whirlpool.

Ford and BASF have teamed up to develop a plant-sourced, castor oil-based foam product for the 2012 Ford Focus instrument panel, which the companies say will save more than 5,000 barrels of oil for every 300,000 models produced in North America.

The new foam improves productivity by requiring 43 percent less time to cure, and scrap is reduced due to improved flow and processing characteristics, the companies say.

They say the foam employs more than 10 percent renewable content, is more durable, and minimizes component stretch to help optimize airbag deployment. The foam has 36 better tensile strength and five percent better tear strength than the previously used material, with elongation – stretch under temperature or impact stress – reduced by almost 12 percent.

In August the two companies announced that the BASF is supplying automaker Ford with a PA6 resin, which includes post-consumer recycled resin, for select air intake manifold systems.

Over the past few years Ford has introduced a number of recycled and bio-based materials into its vehicles, including gaskets and seals derived from 25 percent post-consumer, recycled tire particulate and 17 percent bio-renewable content from soy; cylinder head covers made from carpet; soy foam seat cushions and natural-fiber plastic for interior components; and sound-dampening material made from recycled blue jeans.

Ford says it plans to incorporate castor oil-based foam solutions across more products.

Finally, Paris is launching a 235 million euro ($321 million) car-sharing program this week, Reuters reports. Users pay a membership fee, starting at 10 euros, before renting an ultracompact electric car called the Bluecar (pictured) for 4 to 8 euros per half hour.

The service will start 66 cars and 33 rental stations but plans call for 3,000 vehicles and more than 1,000 stations by the end of 2012.

In a survey of French citizens last year, 25 said they have cut back on car use or given up their cars completely, due to rising insurance and parking costs.

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