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The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (04/10/05)
Mike Millikin, 10 Apr 05

Every Sunday, Green Car Congress' Mike Millikin gives us an update on the week's sustainable mobility news, looking at the ongoing evolution of personal transportation. Take it away, Mike:

Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids were much in the news this week, as the 21st Electric Vehicle Show ran in Monaco, Toshiba announced a major breakthrough in Lithium Ion battery capability, and the New York Times and Business Week wrote pieces (available here) on plug-in hybrid conversions.

Which is all a good thing, as BP's chief executive for exploration and production stated that the company's existing oil and gas fields are posting production declines of about 3% (excluding production from the joint venture TNK-BP in Russia and new output from Azerbaijan).

Some industry participants have estimated that overall decline rates for existing producing fields could be as high as 8%. (GCC)

Canada and the automakers entered into a voluntary agreement to cut CO2 emissions from new vehicles by 5.3 megatonnes by 2010, equivalent to approximately a 25% increase in fuel efficiency. (GCC)

China stepped up its already ambitious goals for developing new nuclear plants by announcing it plans to have some 40 new plants by 2020. Last year, the government had indicated it would go for 27. (GCC)


At the EVS-21 show in Monaco, the French Propane and Butane Federation (CFBP) and the World LP Gas Association (WLPGA) showcased a Prius hybrid modified to burn Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in its engine.

After all factors are considered, LPG use consumes about 5% more fuel for equivalent performance to gasoline, but produces fewer emissions.

In general, LPG yields about 50% less carbon monoxide, 40% less hydrocarbons, 35% less nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 50% less ozone forming potential compared to gasoline. The Toyota Prius LPG prototype emits only 92 g/km of CO2—11.5% less than the gasoline version.

LPG is the generic name for mixtures of propane and butane gases, and is derived from crude oil refining or from natural gas or oil production. (GCC)

DENSO Corporation has developed four new components for hybrid vehicles: a hybrid control computer; a new battery-monitoring unit; a DC-DC converter, and an electric compressor for air conditioning systems. All are smaller and lighter than conventional components, but meet the increasing needs of the growing number of larger hybrid vehicles.

Toyota uses the new Denso elements in its Lexus Rx400h (Harrier in Japan) and Toyota Highlander Hybrid (Kluger in Japan). (GCC)

Houston, Texas, Mayor Bill White announced plans to convert a substantial portion of the Cityís fleet of cars, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles to hybrids by the year 2010.

The City fleet comprises more than 11,000 vehicles of which 3,554 are the civilian, light-duty, ìnon-specialtyî fleetói.e. standard cars, pickups and SUVs.

The city will buy hybrids for this non-specialty civilian fleet when available. Some 80% of all new vehicle purchases and more than 50% of the non-specialty fleet could be hybrid vehicles by the year 2010. (GCC)

Fort Wayne, Indiana, is adding four GM Sierra hybrids to its fleet.

The Sierra are technically micro-hybrids—the system provides start-stop functionality and regenerative braking, but no propulsion support. Overall, the hybrid version delivers up to 10% improvement in fuel efficiency in city driving. On the highway, there is no benefit, as all of the fuel savings come from the start-stop function. (GCC)


WaveCrest Technologies brought its Adaptive Motor technology and electric bikes to EVS-21.

The company, a developer of advanced electric propulsion and drive systems, last year launched its first product line based on its motor technology. At EVS-21, Wavecrest highlighted the TidalForce M-750—a foldable electric mountain bike that uses the WaveCrest Adaptive Motor in the rear hub and circular Saft NiMH batteries in the front hub.

The core of the companyís efforts is the dynamically reconfigurable Adaptive Motor system, which consists of a multiple-phase, DC brushless motor arranged such that the rotor surrounds and rotates around the center-mounted stator. In a traditional electric motor, the rotor rotates within the outer stator.

The WaveCrest stator consists of a series of independently controlled electromagnets driven by a proprietary power electronics module. A digital signal processor connected to the power electronics activates the electromagnets by analyzing motor position, desired torque and the electrical characteristics of the energy management system that powers the motor. The patented adaptive algorithms adjust the current and excitation sequence of each electrical phase to maintain the motor at the optimal operating condition while minimizing energy consumption through a very broad speed range.

This ability to manage the performance of the motor delivers high efficiency and torque at high and low RPM with less heat and noise than conventional systems.

WaveCrest is developing a number of electric propulsion architectures for a range of vehicle types, including a prototype based on a Smart car roadster chassis. (GCC)


All diesels in the Glacier National Park fleet, including the heavy-duty rotaries, excavators and bulldozers, run on a B20 biodiesel blend (20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel).

All the park vehicles run on some form of alternative or renewable fuel. All new gasoline vehicles purchased for the fleet now are E85 flex fuel vehicles. The Glacier buses run on propane (LPG).

The park is also testing the use of B100 (100% biodiesel). A Yellowstone Park test B100 truck has logged nearly 200,000 miles. (GCC)

Internal Combustion Engines

Honda has introduced a new, 42-mpg, compact station wagon in Japan.

The new Airwave wagon uses a gasoline-fueled 1.5-liter VTEC engine that produces 81 kW (109 hp)of power and 143 Nm (105 lb-ft) of torque, while consuming 5.56 liters/100km (42.3 mpg US).

VTEC (Variable valve Timing and lift Electronic Control) is Hondaís mechanism for optimizing air/fuel mixture flow through the engine. In the Airwave, Honda further optimized engine ignition timing and provided smoother cam surfaces to reduce friction. The Airwave also uses Hondaís Multimatic S continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) to improve fuel efficiency.

The Airwave fuel consumption level betters the 2010 Japanese fuel economy standards for this vehicle class by 5%. (GCC)

Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Corp will license Nissan Dieselís new emissions reduction system.

Nissan Diesel introduced the Final Low Emission New Diesel System (FLENDS) technology in October 2004. FLENDS combines ultra-high pressure fuel injection for PM reduction with a urea selective catalyst reduction (SCR) system to reduce NOx emissions.

The urea SCR catalyst is an approach to nitrogen oxide (NOx) reduction that major European truck manufacturersónotably DaimlerChrysler with its ìBlueTecî systemsóhave already decided to adopt on their vehicles. DaimlerChrysler owns 85% of Mitsubishi Fuso, so this licensing of FLENDS from Nissan Diesel is interesting. (GCC)

Two new approaches to using turbochargers or supechargers to improve the efficiency of engines (enabling reductions in fuel consumption and emissions) emerged this week.

Bosch Engineering subsidiary Erphi Electronics has a new two-stage charging system for diesel engines that reduces ìturbo lagî, and enables further engine downsizing.

The Erphi charging system consists of two different-sized and connected turbo chargers. The smaller high-pressure charger kicks in at low engine speeds and is supplemented at medium speed by the larger low-pressure charger. When the control software switches the smaller charger off at higher speed, the larger charger completely takes over the air compression.

Integral Powertrain and Drivetec are developing an electrically-controlled, variable-speed supercharger.

A supercharger is similar in purpose to a turbocharger (pushing more air or exhaust gas into the engine to improve combustion) but differs in that the supercharger is powered by gearing, by belt- or by chain-drive from the engineís crankshaft while the turbocharger is powered by exhaust gases driving a turbine.

Turbochargers are attractive in that they use otherwise wasted heat energy (the exhaust gases). The supercharger, on the other hand, uses power from the crankóbut being mechanically-driven, it can react more quickly to start-up or low-speed acceleration.

Integral Powertrain/DriveTecís Supergen supercharger uses an electric motor to control an advanced gearing system that can accurately vary the speed of the compressor from zero up to 150 times crank speedóup to 225,000 rpm.

By removing the direct link between engine and compressor speed, SuperGen supports the use of centrifugal compressors (normally used in turbochargers), reducing parasitic power losses and improving boosting efficiency compared to conventional supercharging systems.


Fiatís Seicento hydrogen fuel cell prototype took 1st place among compressed hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicles in the recent Monte Carlo Fuel Cell and Hybrid Rally held in conjunction with EVS-21. Final points took into account total fuel consumption, the fuel-consumed to vehicle-weight ratio and any penalties accumulated during the race.

Cars in the rally covered a mixed motorway-main road itinerary totalling 410 km (255 miles), taking them through Turin, Cuneo, Col di Tenda and Val Roia to arrive in the Principality of Monaco.

Fiat introduced the Seicento H2 prototype in 2003. It followed up with a Panda Hydrogen supermini in 2004 for fleet trials. (GCC)

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Hey - I don't know if this is the right place to post this comment - sorry, and please delete me if it's not - but I was wondering what the implications are for air travel of the next generation car-fuel technology? As I'm sure you know there's quite a big (emission-inspired) anti-flight protest movement at the moment, but I'm not aware of airlines feeling that they have to adapt like the car manufacturers do. Cheers!

Posted by: Mat on 10 Apr 05

Vancouver Elec Vehicle Assn EVent June 11, bring dead ebike batteries

Hundreds of electric vehicles, including automobiles, neighborhood electric vehicles, e-bikes, e-scooters, e-skateboards and other "green machines" will be shown on June 11th, Saturday. See WWW.VEVA.BC.CA for details.

High schools from all over Canada will be racing their 1HP e-carts on the track, which is used for the Molson Indy, too.

If you're going to VEVA's 9th annual electrathon and electric bike/car fest, please bring your dead/weak Hawker/Odyssey/Genesis batteries (but no larger than 18Amp.Hr.) and drop them off at the ("E-Ride") tent. These "dead" batteries will be revived.

Even Hawkers that are down to 3 volts have been successfully revived and have more than 100% of the factory rating, after revival.

Be aware that even if you are not going, you can sell your used Hawkers in eBay, see "Want It Now" reverse-auction listings.

Want to Divorce-Your-Car, seriously? First, read the book by Ms. Alvord. The latest edition has great tips on electric bikes and scooter. You might also want to know that, if you have an electric bicycle/scooter, a method has been developed in Vancouver to allow a 15-minute "fast charge", at a cost of under $300. With such fast charges, your electric bike or scooter becomes a "commuting" or even a "touring" vehicle! Do a search on eBay listings.

Posted by: I.A. Hapi on 10 Apr 05

Electric / No-Emission cars are NOT the answer! Stop the cars!! All of them!! Cars are stupid wasteful machines!
The electricity for the electric car is not clean! Coal, nuclear, hydro plants are dirty too!


Posted by: Rodrigo Perez on 10 Apr 05

Just wondering -- If we could snap our fingers and have all automotive power that is generated by fossil fuels instantly converted to electricity sources, would the decrease in fossil fuels that are burned as gas or diesel offset the additional fossil fuels that would be burned to make the electricity? (Given that nuclear is improbable for decades at least) Maybe we wouldn't be that much better off by making these conversions since the energy has to be spent somewhere along the chain. Seems like the electrical sourcing introduces another element of inefficiency into the chain. That is, you can't get something

Posted by: Elvis on 11 Apr 05


The question of whether electric cars actually help the overall pollution issue (because the energy has to come from somewhere) is an interesting one - maybe WorldChanging could find a worthwhile scientific (as opposed to opinion) article on the matter. IMOO, it's at LEAST better than fossil feuls because (A) you can generate electricity from clean sources such as solar, wind, thermal-electric materials, etc (or maybe even from my home exercise equipment if I could figure out how to do that) so you aren't locked to one option;(B) the distribution of the electricity MAY be more efficient than the distribution of any other feul, such as LNG, biodiesel, or even hydrogen.

Posted by: Erik Ehlert on 11 Apr 05


How about a bike-powered generator?

Posted by: Tavita on 11 Apr 05

The net power consumption of the US vehicle fleet (both cars and light and heavy trucks) is about 180 GW.  Total energy consumption is going to be quite a bit less than oil-fueled transport.  There are four possible offsets working there:

  1. General electric/hybrid efficiency; there are little or no idling losses, etc.
  2. The powerplants feeding the grid don't need to be compact or light, so they can sacrifice those features for efficiency.
  3. Stationary generation can be combined with uses of heat (cogeneration), achieving much higher total efficiencies.
  4. Electric generation does not need to emit any pollutants or carbon at all (nuclear, wind, solar, hydro).
For all of these reasons, an electrically-powered vehicle is likely to get cleaner over time - the exact opposite of even a normal hybrid.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 13 Apr 05

I don't understand the comment about "stop all the cars" should we put an end to the very transportation that has completely transformed this planet? - I hope not.

As for the vehicles - they are needed so what are the choices for powering them? Hydrogen is dangerous - in respect to distribution (and a bit tough) - we can switch to M-85 (temporary solution) which would get rid of part of the need for foreign oil - electric seems the best, but where do electricty to power them? - wind, solar, tidal? (satellites in space, beaming microwave energy to earth) - which is the best answer much less the most likely to happen?

Posted by: Jason on 14 Apr 05

Jason:  If you wonder where we could get electricity in the short term, follow the link on the comment above yours.  Then read this.

In the long term, there are several major possibilities; which one will win out depends on the particulars of what research pays off soonest, and doesn't really matter all that much as getting it done.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 14 Apr 05



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