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Could you quickly explain how geothermal energy works, and where it is particularly useful?

Geothermal heating and cooling is done by using a heat pump to move heat between the ground and a home or building. The term ‘heat pump’ may be unfamiliar, but heat pumps are actually ubiquitous in modern life: refrigerators are heat pumps, as are air conditioners. Both refrigerators and air conditioners use electricity to move heat from one place to another: in this case, from the inside (of the fridge or building) to the outside.

Geothermal heat pumps are similar, but instead of only moving heat in one direction, they are bidirectional. This allows them to both heat buildings and cool them. And instead of moving heat from the building to the outside air, like an air conditioner does, they move heat between the building and the ground.

This matters because heating your home is most urgent and essential when it’s very cold out, which is precisely when there is the least amount of heat in the outside air. And cooling your home is most urgent and essential when it’s very hot out, exactly when it would be most difficult to reject heat from your home into the outside air. This is why air conditioners are so difficult for the electricity grid: they operate least efficiently exactly when everyone uses them most, on the hottest days of the year.

Geothermal heat pumps sidestep this problem by exchanging heat with the ground instead of the outside air. The ground maintains a mild temperature year round (which is the average air temperature over the course of the year in that location). Because of this, even on the hottest or coldest days, geothermal is still extremely efficient and effective.

Geothermal heating and cooling tends to work best in places where it gets cold in the winter and hot in the summer. This is because these climates require a lot of heating and cooling, and it’s in these places that geothermal has the most advantage over air source heat pumps, which exchange heat with the air outside (air source heat pumps are essentially air conditioners that can run in reverse to do both heating and cooling.)

Dandelion geothermal

You have a cost example between oil, natural gas, and propane on your page, s0 how do you think these costs are going to develop the next 5 years?

In the Wall Street Journal last week there was an article about options traders betting on a return to $100 oil. I can’t predict oil prices over the next five years, but oil prices have been relatively low since I co-founded Dandelion in 2017, so I bet oil prices are more likely to rise over the next five years than they are to fall. In terms of how geothermal costs are going to develop in the next 5 years, I think 10% lower YOY is a good estimate.

What different forms of geothermal are there, since we see geothermal in the context of residential housing as well as in big commercial plants? 

Geothermal can refer to harnessing energy from the earth’s core, the type Iceland is famous for, but this is not what Dandelion’s geothermal heat pumps do. The heat that geothermal heat pumps collect from the relatively shallow surface is actually stored sunlight, not energy from the earth’s core, so despite the name ‘geothermal,’ geothermal heat pumps are actually using stored solar energy.

Dandelion geothermal

How did you learn about the potential of geothermal, and what convinced you to co-found the company?

I learned about the potential of geothermal heating and cooling from a colleague at Google, Bob Wyman (I started Dandelion as a project at Alphabet’s X before spinning it out as a startup). He made a compelling case that widespread geothermal heating and cooling was the most important climate intervention we could take in the US, but that, despite that, geothermal heat pumps were getting approximately no attention.

It was an audacious claim, but he had detailed data and logic backing it up, so his argument captivated me and motivated me to learn more.

That interest developed into co-founding Dandelion when I became convinced that, 1) Geothermal heat pumps have a critical role to play in offsetting carbon emissions from buildings; 2) They align the customer’s financial interests with society’s best interests; 3) The market potential is gigantic; and 4) The barriers that have prevented geothermal heating and cooling from scaling in the past are addressable.

Is there a certain story behind the name Dandelion?

Dandelions have a taproot that can grow as deep as ten feet into the ground. Even if you cut the flower off at the surface, the taproot can regenerate a new one. Similarly, geothermal ground loops extend far into the ground and they last for as long as the home itself. So after 20 years, when it’s time for the homeowner to replace their heat pump, they can just swap it out with another one and connect it with those same ground loops.

There is something very satisfying about the fact that each time we install ground loops in a yard, that home will have access to geothermal heating and cooling forever. Or at least, as long as that home exists.

If you look back to the investment the company received, did the investment landscape and interest in geothermal change visibly in the last few years?

The investment landscape for clean tech has changed dramatically since I co-founded Dandelion in 2017. In 2017, very few investors and even fewer mainstream VC investors were interested in clean tech. Now it seems like there is widespread interest. This makes sense to me because investors have seen that clean tech companies like Tesla can offer massive returns, and the political and business trends suggest clean tech will be a huge part of the future.

Could our readers get out and buy geothermal right away, and in which states (if we’re talking about the US) would it make the most sense (on average)?

Geothermal makes the most financial sense for homeowners who are paying a lot for heating and cooling today. Typically, these are homeowners in cold climate states, especially those using heating fuels like fuel oil or propane.

Some states and utilities also offer generous incentives for geothermal heating, such as NY, CT, MA, SC, and VT, among others.

Most readers will likely be able to find a company that can install geothermal heating and cooling in their area, but the cost may be high. Dandelion exists because we see a need to make geothermal heat pumps more affordable and the process of getting them easier for homeowners, and we look forward to being able to extend that work to more and more places over time (today Dandelion works in NY, CT, and VT).

What is your main competition, and how is Dandelion different?

Our primary competition today is inertia, which is to say conventional heating and cooling options. When it’s time for homeowners to replace their furnace or boiler, many homeowners seek the recommendation of their contractor, who is likely going to recommend the products and brands he or she is most familiar with (typically furnaces and boilers).

Our challenge is to raise awareness of geothermal heating and cooling. We’re different from other geothermal heating and cooling providers because we do residential retrofit at scale. This has let us leverage the fact that we’re serving hundreds of homeowners in a given area to get all of our homeowners better pricing on their equipment and the installation. We’ve also focused on streamlining the customer experience to make the experience of getting geothermal simple and straightforward.

If you could found the company over again, what things would you do differently today?

So many things! Hard to overstate how many things! But here are a few:

  1. I would have looked for mentorship even earlier. I was incredibly fortunate to get connected with Dan Yates, the cofounder and CEO of Opower, about a year into the company, and he had a transformative impact on Dandelion and on me as a leader. If I could have learned even a fraction of what he taught me sooner, I would have saved myself and others a lot of stress during those early years!
  2. I wouldn’t have assumed partners, subcontractors, or anyone else except Dandelion would solve the problems we needed to solve to make the business work. When I started the company, we had a model that assumed local HVAC contractors would sell and install geothermal for customers on behalf of Dandelion. It didn’t take us very long to realize that given these activities were so central to our mission of making geothermal heating simple and affordable, we couldn’t outsource them to others.
  3. I would have been less tolerant of underperformers. I think this is a hard lesson for many new managers, but at the beginning of Dandelion when I was still relatively new to managing a team, I spent an outsized portion of my time and energy dealing with the most difficult employees. With many hard lessons behind me now, I invest the bulk of my time with the highest performing employees, because they are the ones that will build the business and carry us furthest toward our mission.

What other cleantech and general development do you find particularly interesting or fascinating? What would you love to get involved in more but don’t have the time?

I’m an advisor to a startup called Noon that’s inventing a way to use cheap, abundant materials to store a lot of energy at a very low cost. While clean tech history is littered with battery failures, I find Noon exceptionally compelling because it’s one of those bets that could change everything if it works.

If you could suggest a particular law (cleantech or otherwise), what would you suggest?

An extension of the Investment Tax Credit for at least a decade at 30%. This would go such a long way in allowing critical clean technologies like geothermal heat pumps to scale.

Are there some companies you’d really like to work with, but haven’t quite gotten through to yet? Maybe some employees or shareholders are reading this and can reach out! 🙂

We are working with quite a few utility companies across NY, CT, and now VT to offer geothermal incentives for homeowners to transition from furnaces and boilers to heat pumps. These programs have been very successful: they’re good for utility companies because homeowners who use geothermal will typically use more electricity, especially on off-peak times, like night and winter. Geothermal heat pumps also dramatically reduce summer peaks. It’s good for homeowners because it makes geothermal heating and cooling more affordable. We are always looking for additional utility companies to work with, to make geothermal heating and cooling available in more states.

Are you hopeful for humanity, and what would need to happen to make you more hopeful?

I am very hopeful. We have very real challenges to solve, but for the average person, life on this planet has never been better than it is right now. Life expectancy has increased more since 1900 than it had in the preceding 8000 years, and the quality of our lives has astronomically improved with electricity, refrigeration, antibiotics, sanitation, genetically modified crops, the internet, and so many other world-changing innovations that are only a hundred or so years old.

I think it’s likely humanity will continue its pattern of successfully innovating our way out of our biggest challenges.

All images courtesy Dandelion

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Here are 5 vital things you need to know about heat pumps




Here are 5 vital things you need to know about heat pumps

Electrek spoke with Heidi Gehring, associate director, cooling product marketing at Carrier HVAC, about the five essential things to know about this energy-efficient, cost-effective way to heat and cool a home.

Electrek: What’s a heat pump and how does it work?

Heidi Gehring: A heat pump is often mistaken for an air conditioner at first glance. What makes it different from an air conditioner is that it can both heat and cool your home using electricity and refrigerant.

In cooler months, heat is pulled from the outdoor air and transferred indoors; in warmer months, the system pulls heat out of the indoor air. Heat pumps have both an indoor and outdoor component. Each unit contains a fan and coil that operates either as a condenser (in cooling mode) or an evaporator (in heating mode). The fan moves the air across the coil and throughout the ducts in the home.

Electrek: Do heat pumps save you money, and what kinds of cost savings can be expected?

Heidi Gehring: Because heat pumps are more energy efficient, they can save you money on your heating and cooling bills. Your savings will vary based on the model you select.

Heat pumps are rated by their Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF2) – which is a measure of a heat pump’s overall energy efficiency during the heating season – their Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER2), and their Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER2). The higher the rating, the more energy-efficient the system. 

Additionally, the US government’s Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes incentives for the installation of high-efficiency home heating and cooling products, including up to a $2,000 tax credit for high-efficiency heat pumps and up to 30% for geothermal heat pump systems placed in service between 2022 and 2032. Look into local and state programs, too, as many utilities and local governments offer heat pump rebates.

Electrek: Why is a heat pump better for the environment?

Heidi Gehring: Heat pumps rely on electricity rather than fossil fuels, making them a much greener choice. Improvements in technology in recent years also mean that heat pumps are more efficient than ever, requiring less electricity than older heaters, furnaces, and air conditioners.

Geothermal heat pumps are also available – they pull energy directly from the earth to heat or cool your home and can result in up to 70% savings on your energy bill.

Electrek: What features should you consider when comparing different models?

Heidi Gehring: Heat pumps vary in the number of stages or speeds they offer. Different speeds or stages can affect your comfort and the consistency of indoor temperature. Humidity plays a major role but is often overlooked. Two-stage and variable-speed offer better control because they operate for a longer period of time at lower speeds and use less energy. These pull more humidity out of the air than models with a single-stage compressor.

Variable-speed and two-stage models are generally quieter than single-stage models, and because they run longer, that means the air is run through the filter more, so it has less chance of becoming stagnant.

Electrek: When is the best time of year to install a heat pump?

Heidi Gehring: Usually in the spring or fall. During the coldest winter months and hottest summer months, demand for systems and technicians increases, so you may experience longer wait times and higher prices. Make sure you hire a professional. HVAC systems of any kind require expert knowledge for installation and are not a good DIY project.

If you’re switching from a traditional HVAC system to a heat pump, you may also need electrical upgrades. A professional HVAC installer can help you with that as well.

Read more: This award-winning apartment heat pump can fit under a kitchen sink

Photo: Carrier HVAC

Heidi Gehring is the associate director, cooling product marketing at Carrier HVAC. She joined Bryant in 2017 as the quality manager for warranty, data analytics, and field service technology. In 2019, she moved into product marketing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison and an MBA from Purdue Global.

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Kia officially premieres EV9 SUV with 336-mile range, vehicle-to-grid capabilities, plus GT version




Kia officially premieres EV9 SUV with 336-mile range, vehicle-to-grid capabilities, plus GT version

As promised, following our first glimpse at official images last week, Kia has fully launched its long-anticipated EV9 SUV ahead of pre-orders next quarter. In addition to further details regarding some of the technology we’ve already seen in Kia’s first third-row EV, the automaker shared exciting news regarding sustainability, autonomy, over-the-air updates, and vehicle-to-grid capabilities.

Table of contents

Quick recap on Kia’s first three-row electric SUV

The Kia EV9 debuts as the second all-electric model donning the Korean automaker’s new “EV” series nomenclature. Like the EV6 crossover that proceeded it, the EV9 sits atop Hyundai Motor Group’s 800V E-GMP platform, offering ultrafast charging speeds in addition to capabilities for vehicle-to-load (V2L) power and the potential for greater uses. (More on that below.)

We’ve been anticipating today’s official debut since Kia first teased the SUV concept in November 2021. That was soon followed by a working prototype last summer that closely resembled its originally dreamed design form. In mid-March, Kia shared the first full images of the EV9, inside and out, relaying some of the design elements reiterated during the recent presentation.

This includes the SUV’s unique digital spin on Kia’s signature “tiger face” front end, as well as multiple seating options in the cabin, including second-row swivel seats that turn 180 degrees. While that was certainly enough to briefly pique our interest, we were quickly anticipating the full EV9 debut from Korea, which was promised before the end of the month.

Following the full presentation from Kia (you can view that for yourself below), we have learned a ton more about this all-electric SUV, and there’s a lot for future customers to get excited about.

Credit: Kia

Kia EV9 SUV specs and key features

All right, let’s dig right in because there’s a lot to unfold here. The Kia EV9 SUV will come available in two different battery size options – a 76.1 kWh pack in the Standard RWD option or a Long Range 99.8 kWh battery available in both RWD and AWD configurations.

When asked, the Kia team confirmed that both the Standard and Long Range variants of the RWD EV9 will be sold in North America. The automaker is not sharing detailed performance specs for each trim level just yet, but it did share a few:

  • RWD Long Range
    • One single 150 kW (350 Nm) electric motor
    • Estimated 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration in 9.4 seconds
  • RWD Standard Range
    • One single 160 kW (350 Nm) electric motor
    • Estimated 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration in 8.2 seconds
  • AWD variant
    • Two electric motors that combine for 282 kW (600 Nm torque)
    • Estimated 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration in 6 seconds

Right now, Kia is estimating its Long Range RWD version of the EV9 will be able to deliver 541 km (336 miles) of range on a single charge. Since its estimates were calculated using the more generous WLTP standard, we’d expect the official EPA estimated range to land between 300-310 miles.

Kia also said it will eventually introduce a “Boost” option that will increase the torque of the AWD SUV’s front motor to a total of 700 Nm. That add-on will be available for purchase at a later date using a new tool debuting on the EV9 – the Kia Connect Store.

According to Kia, the Connect store will enable future drivers to purchase digital features and other services at their leisure, all installed over the air without any need for a dealership visit. When asked by the media during the debut presentation, Kia shared that the Connect Store will offer features as either a one-time purchase or subscription option.

Vehicle-to-… everything!

One of the huge selling points of EVs built upon Hyundai Motor Group’s 800V E-GMP platform is the charging performance it can deliver. The super fast charge rates of the Hyundai IONIQ 5 and Kia EV6 have already gone over really well with consumers and should be no different when the EV9 SUV arrives.

Kia states that the 800V platform will be able to garner an estimated 239 km (approximately 149 miles) of range in just 15 minutes of DC fast charging, which could be perfect for future road trips in the family-sized electric SUV.

Another huge perk enabled by the E-GMP platform is its Integrated Charging Control Unit (ICCU), allowing for the discharging of energy from the EV’s battery to power other devices. This is better known as vehicle-to-load, or V2L. Kia states the EV9 will be able to deliver 3.68 kW of power to other devices, whether it’s a laptop, mini fridge, or charging another EV.

We’ve explored the function ourselves with the Hyundai IONIQ 5 and IONIQ 6, but Kia is taking things a step further in the EV9 with another first. Kia’s all-electric SUV will come equipped with the technology to support vehicle-to-home (V2H), allowing future owners to use the EV9 has a backup power source during emergencies or power outages.

Furthermore, Kia said its EV9 customers will eventually be able to add a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) function in the future, allowing them to actually supply surplus energy back to their local energy grid for profit. There will be a lot of red tape to cut through to get this feature implemented, but if successful, it could be an absolute game changer.

Kia debuts a GT-Line, but what about a performance GT?

During its recent presentation, Kia also introduced a new GT-line that will emerge in select markets later this year. Per Kia:

In addition to the standard model, Kia has unveiled the GT-Line model design, which features a unique aesthetic that distinguishes it from the standard model. The front and rear bumpers, wheels, and roof rack have undergone a transformation, donning a distinctive black color palette that exudes a strong and assertive presence, setting it apart from its standard counterpart. Notably, the GT-Line features an exclusive digital pattern lighting grill that adds an element of dynamism and sophistication to its already impressive design. 

All that said, this trim variant is aesthetic in nature and should not be confused with a performance GT version of the SUV, similar to what Kia did with the aforementioned EV6. That would be sweet, though, wouldn’t it?

Well, to our surprise, Kia president and CEO Ho-Sung Song said the automaker is, in fact, in the process of developing an EV9 performance GT SUV, stating further that it will “redefine what performance means to an EV.” Exciting news, but Song followed by saying we won’t see that version until early 2025.

ADAS and sustainability get a chance to shine in the EV9

For years now, Kia has been one of the global automakers truly embracing electrification and striving toward true carbon neutrality throughout its business by 2045, but during the EV9 SUV presentation, we learned it is again pushing the boundaries of sustainable styling.

The EV9 will be the first Kia model to showcase the automaker’s three-step Design Sustainability Strategy, which includes the phasing out of leathers, increasing the use of bio-based materials, and applying 10 “must-have” sustainable items to every model, from its standard trim all the way to the top tier option. Here are some examples present in Kia’s electric SUV:

  • Recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • Recycled suede and recycled thermoplastic olefin (TPO) in the dashboard, door, and pillar trim
  • Recycled fishing nets used in the floor carpets
  • BIO PU (Bio-Polyurethane), derived from corn and eucalyptus, is used to replace leather and PVC

In terms of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), Kia is striving toward reaching SAE Level 3 autonomy, and the EV9 will arrive with the necessary components to eventually allow for hands-free driving under certain driving conditions as the SUV follows the car in front of it while maintaining a safe distance.

Its current iteration will feature remote smart parking assist, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, blind spot detection, lane-keeping assist, and smart cruise control. Highway driving assist 2 allows for lane changes and uses hands-on detection to confirm its driver’s attention.

Lastly, Digital Key 2 will allow future EV9 owners to open and start their car using just their smartphone – another first for Kia.


Kia EV9 pricing and availability

All right, let’s start with pricing. There is none, sorry. According to Kia, its team is “monitoring several factors to determine optimal pricing for its customers.” We’re not sure where it will land, but this SUV is very likely going to be Kia’s most expensive model to date.

The first versions will be produced in Korea, but Kia intends to share global production plans for the EV9 in the near future. Pre-orders for the electric SUV will begin in Korea in Q2 2023, followed by other global markets in the second half of this year, including Europe, North and South America, and the Middle East.

We are sure to learn more as we approach pre-orders in Korea and will at least be able to ballpark where pricing and performance specs may land for the North American market. In the meantime, check out the full EV9 SUV world premiere from Kia below.

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Meet Hawaii’s first solar and wind-powered electric catamaran charter




Meet Hawaii’s first solar and wind-powered electric catamaran charter

Kohala Blue, a boat tour operator in Kawaihae on the Big Island of Hawaii, has introduced what it calls the first renewable electric catamaran charter in Hawaii. The Dolce Vita is powered by an electric propulsion system that is charged by solar panels, wind turbines, and propeller regeneration.

Kohala Blue’s solar and wind-powered electric catamaran

When Kohala Blue’s 34-foot Gemini sailing charter broke down last year with a damaged diesel engine, the company was caught in a tight spot with few options.

Rather than trying to replace the parts, which would have been really costly, Kohala Blue’s owner, Shaun Barnes, made the decision to go electric.

Kohala Blue issued a news release last week, stating, “The company recently upgraded its 34-foot Gemini sailing catamaran with two electric propulsion motors, powered with sun and wind, that run silently and peacefully while underway.” The press release added:

What this means for passengers is a sailing experience like no other in the islands: no engine noise, vibration, air or water pollution and no fumes associated with gas or diesel power. Guests are confident their choice to snorkel, sail and observe marine life from the spacious decks of the Dolce Vita is the best for the marine environment.

The company says the conversion has completely transformed the experience for guests, creating a nearly silent, peaceful ride while minimizing the impact on marine animals.

In particular, electric propulsion has much less impact on whales than loud gas engines because they rely on ultrasonic hearing to navigate and find food.

Kohala Blue Instagram

The 34-foot Gemini 105MC sailing catamaran is Hawaii’s first renewable electric charter, according to Kohala Blue. Solar panels fitted on the dodger combined with wind turbines and propeller regeneration allow for a completely renewable energy-powered eco-friendly experience.

Barnes says she has noticed clear benefits from the electric conversion, telling West Hawaii Today:

The best part of it is the peace and quiet. When we’re moving, people can’t even tell whether we’re under motor or under sail. We have a hydrophone — an underwater microphone — and you can hear other boats coming from very far away.

She added that although the electric sailboat has roughly 19.8 hp, less than the 27 hp with the diesel engine, the electric engine’s instant torque offsets the speed reduction with a max speed under motor of about 6.5 knots.

Kohala Blue offers private charters for up to six guests with morning, afternoon, and sunset sails. You can book tours on the company’s website.

Electrek’s Take

Kohala Blue is paving the way for an eco-friendly sailing experience with its new solar- and wind-powered electric-powered catamaran.

Nobody wants to travel on the water with a loud diesel engine blocking out all the sounds and smells of nature and, more importantly, destroying the environment and its inhabitants.

The company may need to start another business in converting sailboats to solar, wind, and electric power because these could revolutionize the charter industry while saving the oceans and the creatures living in them.

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