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The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (02/13/05)
Mike Millikin, 13 Feb 05

Every Sunday, Green Car Congress' Mike Millikin gives us an update on the week's sustainable mobility news. Green Car Congress is by far the best resource around for news and analysis covering the ongoing evolution of personal transportation. Take it away, Mike:

With the IEA pairing an increase in oil demand against a decrease in January supply (GCC), and with more data about the potential dangerous effects of anthropogenic CO2 emissions (warming and acidification) as a backdrop, this week saw a number of significant announcements and releases on the sustainable mobility front.

Ford began providing details about its Mercury Mariner Hybrid—the Mercury brand cousin to the Ford Escape. (GCC) In keeping with Bill Ford’s earlier announcement about accelerating its production, the Mariner Hybrid, which uses the same hybrid powertrain components as the Escape hybrid, will go into production later this year.

Ford also introduced its Mercury Milan sedan, cousin to the Ford Fusion, both of which will appear in hybrid models in several years, according to Ford.

The market acceptance of some of Ford’s critical new non-hybrid models (Five Hundred, Montego and Freestyle) is lagging below plan, causing larger concerns about Ford’s automotive strategy in the US. (Reuters)

GM took advantage of this year’s National Ethanol Conference to promote E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline)and its flex fuel vehicles by providing 28 E85 Avalanche SUVs to each state in the Governors’s Ethanol Coalition. (GCC)

The flex fuel vehicles can burn either E85 or conventional gasoline. Using E85 in the Avalanche results in a decrease in estimated greenhouse gas emissions of some 27%, although the lower energy content of E85 increases fuel consumption by 33%.

Eaton and the EPA announced that they are building a full diesel-hydraulic series hybrid delivery vehicle for the UPS, using EPA’s hydraulic drive technology. (GCC)

A hybrid hydraulic system uses an accumulator (which stores energy as highly compressed nitrogen gas) and one or more hydraulic pump/motors rather than the battery pack, electric generator/motor and power electronics used in electric hybrids.

Like their electric cousins, hydraulic hybrids can come in different configurations with different benefits.

A milder form of hydraulic hybrid is termed Hydraulic Launch Assist (HLA). With HLA, a reversible hydraulic pump/motor and accumulators are added to optimize fuel economy, while keeping the vehicleís conventional engine and transmission. Eaton and Peterbilt are building refuse trucks with HLA technology. (GCC)

The diesel-hydraulic hybrid under development for UPS, though, is a full series hybrid system that incorporates the new EPA Clean Diesel Combustion engine for further emissions benefits.

In this application, the diesel engine drives a hydraulic pump, and the wheels are propelled by a hydraulic motor. The conventional transmission and drivetrain are replaced by the hydraulic system. Regenerative braking recharges hydraulic fluid pressure, not a battery.

The EPA estimates a 60%–70% improvement in fuel economy is possible with this system, especially for vehicles that stop frequently—like delivery vans or refuse trucks. The EPA has shown a prototype of a full hydraulic hybrid SUV (with Ford) at last year’s SAE conference.

Hyundai introduced its Portico concept crossover vehicle. (GCC) The Portico is powered by Hyundai's new Lambda 3.3 liter V6 engine with aluminum heads and cylinder block, and is designed to fit Hyundai’s hybrid system.

In the hybrid configuration, the Portico uses dual electric motors. The front electric traction motor delivers 110 kW (136 hp); the rear, 60 kW (83 hp).

Toyota launched a redesign of its Vitz (Echo/Yaris), popular everywhere most places in the world—except for the US, where the Echo variant was cancelled as a production car earlier this year. (GCC)

The new Vitz comes in 1.0-liter, 1.3-liter, and 1.5 liter versions, and will offer Toyota’s Intelligent Idling Stop System. Vitz models with this stop-start system are projected to get up to 60 mpg (Japanese driving cycle).

Toyota also implemented its Eco-VAS (Eco-Vehicle Assessment System) -- a comprehensive environmental impact assessment system -- for the first time in the new Vitz, resulting in a reduction of environmental impact throughout the entire life cycle of the vehicle from production to disposal.

DaimlerChrysler announced that it is expanding production of its natural gas Benz, the E 200 NGT, to cfinclude right had drives for Asian markets. (GCC) The E 200 NGT delivers comparable performance to the gasoline version, and reduces CO2 emissions by more than 20%.

On the heavy vehicle side, Cummins Westport (CWI) is working with the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to commercialize an advanced natural gas engine for medium-duty truck, refuse and urban transit markets. Scheduled for commercial launch in 2007, the engine will be introduced three years ahead of the more stringent EPA emissions deadline in 2010. (GCC)

The advanced engine is also expected to have improved thermal efficiency and power density relative to current natural gas engines.

And finally, Honda reportedly urged the federal government to impose stricter fuel economy standards. (GCC) Honda is also participating in the lawsuit trying to block California’s CO2 regulations.

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