Thursday, December 3, 2009

E-Cycling, Top Cited Papers, Electric Cars, and Copenhagen

With the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen next week, I thought it appropriate to highlight some of our environmental research at the Virtual Center for Supernetworks. Several years back my research team received two AT&T Industrial Ecology Fellowships, which supported the environmental research at the Supernetwork Center and provided partial financial support for three graduate students. These three graduate students have since all received their PhDs and now hold, respectively, tenure-track faculty positions at the University of Connecticut, the University of Sydney in Australia, and York University in Canada. You can find the recent doctoral dissertation titles and abstracts associated with the Center here.

One of the publications that resulted from the AT&T Industrial Ecology Fellowships, is a top cited paper in the journal, Transportation Research E (see above), entitled, Reverse Supply Chain Management and Electronic Waste Recycling: A Multitiered Network Equilibrium Framework for E-Cycling, which was co-authored with one of my former students, Dr. Fuminori Toyasaki. Elsevier, the publisher of this journal, puts out a ranking on a weekly basis of the top cited papers (published in the journal in the last five years) and the above paper has been on this list for months now.

Interestingly, the New York Times yesterday ran a front page article, In Denmark, Ambitious Plans for Electric Cars, which spoke about the partnership of the Silicon Valley company, Better Place, founded by Mr. Agassi, with Dong Energy, a smart grid company, to install and try to make feasible battery-charging stations in Denmark, specifically, Copenhagen, for charging electric cars. Denmark is providing at least $40,000 in tax writeoffs per electric car purchased and Dong Energy plans on generating a substantial portion of the electricity for the stations through wind energy. Denmark is even offering free parking to owners of electric cars in Copenhagen and I suspect that finding a parking place may not be too difficult since an earlier Times article stated that 50% of the commuters in Copenhagen commute by bicycle!

As yesterday's article noted, it will be interesting to see how many consumers can overcome any psychological barriers to the use of electric cars and being dependent on battery charging stations.

The article, however, neglected to mention the life cycle aspects of electric car batteries and the impact on the environment of their production and ultimate death and disposal.

Nevertheless, Denmark, as well as the above-mentioned companies, should be applauded for their ability to take risks and to innovate in the environmental space.