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The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (04/17/05)
Mike Millikin, 17 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:

Broader governmental consensus is growing that the world is entering into an era of higher energy prices. Finance officials at the G7 Finance Ministers Meeting in Washington said on Friday that the economies of the world need to devise ways to adjust to higher energy costs—i.e., more constrained supplies. (Reuters) While not an explicit acknowledgement that peak oil production is imminent, that is a very different stance than, say, a year ago.

There is wide policy disagreement on how to tackle the oil situation in the US, as highlighted by a variety of committee meetings in the House and Senate of the US as the body again tackles the process of trying to produce an Energy Bill.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee rejected a proposal during its deliberations to increase average fuel efficiency (CAFE standard) 20% by 2014. That proposal would have raised the CAFE standard for cars from the current 27.5 mpg to 33 mpg.

Opposition to the proposal was bi-partisan; the measure failed by a vote of 36-10.

Separately, the Energy Information Administration had released an analysis of the impact of the package of energy proposals the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP) issued last December.

Basing its CAFE analysis on a 36% improvement that would increase average fleet efficiency to 37.5 mpg for cars and 30.3 mpg for light trucks, the EIA found that the measure alone, without any other conservation policy, would:

  • Reduce petroleum consumption by 0.61 million barrels per day (2.5%) in 2015 and by 1.61 million barrels per day (5.8 percent) in 2025 from the reference case.

  • Lower the projected import share of petroleum products supplied falls from 62.4 percent to 61.6 percent in 2015 and from 68.4 percent to 67.1 percent in 2025.

  • Reduce CO2 emissions by 79 million metric tons (1.1%) in 2015 and 242 million metric tons (2.8%) in 2025.

  • Result in an increase in the average price of new light-duty vehicles of about $1,400 in 2015 and $1,200 in 2025 (2003 dollars).

The entire NCEP policy package would cost the average American household about $78 annually through 2025, according to the analysis, while also addressing greenhouse gases linked to climate change.

On the same day, the House Resources Committee voted to allow oil companies to drill in ANWR. In an earlier report, the EIA also calculated that in the mean case, oil production from ANWR would peak at around 870,000 barrels per day in 2024. (GCC)

Hybrids

Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies announced the delivery of two new diesel-electric hybrid vehicles to the US Army, one a series hybrid, the other a parallel hybrid. The new Quantum MP Hybrid is a dual-use platform -- it can be configured for military or commercial operation. (GCC)

Eaton Corporation received a $2.15 million contract from IMPACT Engineering Inc. to accelerate commercial development of Eatonís hydraulic hybrid system (Hydraulic Launch Assist) for a US Army program.

The hydraulic launch assist system uses regenerative braking to capture the energy otherwise lost in braking. Unlike its electric cousins which use regenerative braking to generate electricity to store in a battery for use with an electric motor, the hydraulic hybrid system recovers the energy in the form of pressurized hydraulic fluid. (GCC)

Electric

The Reva NXG electric car, introduced by the Indian manufacturer at EVS-21 in Monaco last week, is being showcased in London by Rev’s UK distributor, GoinGreen. GoinGreen has been marketing another Reva EV -- the G-Wiz -- since May 2004.

The two-seater is powered by a 37kW AC induction motor with 220 Nm (162 lb-ft) torque driving the front wheels. Regenerative braking recharges the sodium nickel chloride batteries during operation. The NXG has a range of 125 miles (200 km) per charge and a top speed of 75 mph (120 km/h). (GCC)

Reva also announced separately that it is developing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles using Hydrogenics fuel cell stacks.

Biofuels

The Governors Ethanol Coalition (GEC) released a set of recommendations around ethanol production and use, including a call for a focus on the development of ethanol from new biomass feedstocks.

Started as a 9-state governors' working group in 1991 the GEC has grown to include the governors of 30 US states and international representatives from Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Sweden and Thailand.

The GEC recommended:

  • Providing at least 5% of US transportation fuel from ethanol by 2010

  • Producing at least 8 billion gallons of ethanol a year by 2012

  • Producing at least 10% of US transportation fuel from ethanol and biodiesel as soon as possible

  • Producing at least 1 billion of the needed gallons a year from biomass-derived ethanol

  • Funding an $800M, 10-year research effort on biomass production technologies and process.

The debate over the net energy balance of ethanol (i.e., do you use up more energy in total in creating ethanol than you release when burning it) continues on. Production from biomass offers a path for increasing the energy-efficiency of ethanol production, as the GEC delicately pointed out. (Many of the governors are from corn-producing states, corn being the predominant feedstock in the US.) (GCC)

Almost on cue, Novozymes announced that it and NREL had successfully concluded a four-year, $17.1 million initiative to reduce the cost of enzymes required to produce fuel ethanol from biomass waste to $0.10-$0.18 per gallon -- a 30-fold reduction since 2001.

Such a reduction is cost is a critical step toward the broad commercialization of cellulosic ethanol (ethanol produced from biomass). Abengoa Bioenergy, one of the world's larger producers, announced it would begin testing the Novozymes enzymes. (GCC)

UK-based D1 Oils, through its 50:50 Indian joint venture, D1 Mohan Bio Oils Ltd., signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the State Bank of India for Rupees 1.3 billion (approximately $30 million, or ¢23 million) in funding for farmers in Tamil Nadu to plant up to 40,000 hectares of jatropha.

The anticipated yield is between 100,000 and 120,000 metric tons of crude jatropha oil per annum (assuming the full 40,000 hectares are planted). (GCC)

Internal Combustion Engines

A Honda executive said that the company is “studying” bringing diesel-powered vehicles to the US. (GCC)

Delphi is developing on-board diesel fuel reformer technology to improve NOx reduction systems for a wide variety of vehicle architectures.

The on-board diesel fuel reformer uses air to convert diesel fuel into a hydrogen-rich reformate during a catalytic partial-oxidation process. The reformate is used to regenerate and to desulfate NOx adsorbers. The reformate is also used for diesel particulate filter regeneration.

Designed to help diesels compete with gasoline-electric hybrids in the US market, the reforming technology should be available in the marketplace when 100% compliance to Tier2 Bin5 fleet average begins in 2009. (GCC)

VW has abandoned its 1-Liter Car Project. The name comes from the design point of consuming 1 liter of fuel per 100 kilometers.First revealed to the public at the VW annual general meeting in 2002, the prototype then consumed just 0.89 liters of diesel per 100 kilometers (264 mpg) on a demonstration drive.

The car uses a 0.3-liter, one-cylinder diesel engine to generate 6.3 kW (8.44 hp) at 4,000 rpm, with a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph). (GCC).

Mazda has refreshed its Demio model with increases in fuel economy of up to 9%, reductions in emissions, a new exterior and additional equipment. Known as the Mazda2 in overseas markets, the new Demio is now onsale in Japan. (GCC)

ZAP announced that it has more than $500 million in purchase orders for its imported and then Americanized version of the smart car. (GCC)

Hydrogen

Collier Technologies Inc. (CTI) has formed a new US OEM heavy-duty engine manufacturer, City Engines Inc., to develop and to market hydrogen/natural gas (HCNG) engines.

City Engines initially will offer a 11-liter engine. The HCNG 11 uses a 30% hydrogen-70% natural gas blend, and produces 282 hp and 866 lb ft of torque. City Engines hopes to implement an improved turbocharger that would boost output to 300 hp and torque to 900 lb ft.

Preliminary testing done by a DOE-sponsored project on HCNG development using a 20% hydrogen-CNG blend demonstrated lower emissions, including a 50% reduction in NOx, than similar engines fueled with CNG alone with no significant change in fuel efficiency. (GCC)

Millennium Cell has been awarded a five-year, $3 million contract from the DOE to further its work with sodium borohydride-based hydrogen generation and storage.

Up until recently, Millennium Cell had been vocal about targeting automotive applications for its technology, and provided the hydrogen source for a 2001 DaimlerChrysler fuel cell concept, the Natrium. Recently, however, Millennium Cell has been focusing on more immediate markets: portable electronic devices (consumer, military and industrial, such as laptops and DVD players; and portable and standby power.

The funding from DOE may give the company a boost back toward transportation. (GCC)

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Comments

Got a chance to drive the Accord Hybrid yesterday - what a kick in the pants! That car gets the mileage of a Corolla, but it's pulling mid-6 times to 60 mph.

Also had a chance to drive the Insight for the first time (with the CVT) and what an amazing contrast with the Accord in terms of quality, driveability, power, visibility, storage, etc. I'm sure the manual transmission Insight might make sense as a pure commuter car for someone who does a lot of distance, but that Accord really takes the hybrid technology to a new place with really unbelievable amounts of power for the fuel mileage.

We even took the new Honda pickup for a spin, and even though it has the same horsepower as the Accord Hybrid, you could really see a performance drop because of the extra 1200-1550 pounds. It also gets about 1/2 of the fuel mileage of the Accord. For a truck, though, it drove beautifully and handled just like a car.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 17 Apr 05

Assist hybrids like the Honda models are fun, but if you want a real "full" hybrid with better environmental characteristics, check out the Toyota Prius (SULEV vs. ULEV, better mpg/size (don't compare the Insight two-seater to the mid-sized Prius..)), which is a full hybrid that can run on electricity alone, constantly regenerates electricity (from gas engine, not just from brakes like Hondas) and has much more powerful electric motors and bigger batteries.

I get the feeling that most of the fuel economy that Honda hybrids get is from the stop/start and cylinder de-activation features, not from the electric motor (which is pretty small -- 19 hp for the accord, I think). The Insight has an aluminum body and is very small and aerodynamic, I bet that even without the electric motor it would get great mileage.

This is my conclusions from doing a lot of reading on the subject, but not first hand observations. I'm very open to ewvidence to the contrary.


Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 17 Apr 05

Actually, Mikhail, the Honda "Integrated Motor Assist" does regenerate electricity to the batteries from the gas engine, too, along with regenerative braking. The electric motor on the Hondas isn't very big, but it doesn't need to be as it never runs in isolation; it gets used as torque assist for acceleration, giving even the Civic Hybrid a take-off ability that belies its mere 92hp.

Toyota's hybrid technology is definitely more sophisticated than Honda's, but Honda isn't just doing stop-start and calling it a hybrid (like the GM "hybrid" truck).

(I bought a Honda Civic Hybrid a bit more than two years ago, so this is from first-hand experience.)


Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 18 Apr 05

Funny, I had the distinct impression that Honda hybrids did not generate electricity from anything else than regenerative braking/coasting. I'm fairly sure I saw it mentioned at http://john1701a.com/

I'll get back to you if I find the exact reference.


Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 18 Apr 05

Just to let you know, I did some calculations about the Accord Hybrid.

The amount of gasoline it saves over 15,000 miles versus its conventional equivalent is the same as boosting a 32 MPG car to a 48 MPG car. For reference, the Civic Hybrid gets 47 MPG compared to the 33 MPG of its convetional equivalent.

Plus, the price premium of the Accord is lower, percentage-wise, with respect to the purchase price of its conventional equivalent, when you compare it with the Civic.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 20 Apr 05

Mikhail Capone:

I had the distinct impression that Honda hybrids did not generate electricity from anything else than regenerative braking/coasting.
This is belied by driving one; the Insight I test-drove a couple of years ago increased the battery charge (as shown by the charge-bar on the dash display) while in 35-MPH cruise.

Energy management in a hybrid is one of those bits of magic accomlished in software, and can be tweaked with something as trivial as a download during dealer service.


Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 20 Apr 05

Joseph Willemssen:

I did some calculations about the Accord Hybrid.

The amount of gasoline it saves over 15,000 miles versus its conventional equivalent is the same as boosting a 32 MPG car to a 48 MPG car.

In other words, it saves about 1/96 gallon/mile, or about 1.04 gallons/100 miles.  This is equivalent to an increase from 24 to 32 MPG; you'd get twice as much savings from a 16-to-24 MPG increase.  (See how pointless such comparisons are?)

So far as national security is concerned, raw fuel consumption is the problem; the less we need, the less money goes to finance terrorism and dictators and the less the impact of shortages and price increases.  If today's average vehicle even got the mileage of the DSX ESX1 (55 MPG; see here) let alone the 72 MPG of the ESX3, this whole oil-price climb would be a yawner.

(psst!  Jamais!  Your blog software prematurely closes blockquote tags on blank lines, ignoring later closures; this behavior is seriously broken.)


Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 20 Apr 05

(E-P, we're using pretty bog-standard MoveableType v2. Not many people try to use blockquotes in comments -- it doesn't happen with posts -- so I hadn't run across that problem before. I'll file a bug report over at Six Apart.)

I think Joseph's point was that the overall reduction in consumption for the Accord hybrid when compared to a regular Accord is at least as good as the overall reduction in consumption for the Civic Hybrid v. regular Civic. Although the Accord Hybrid doesn't get as good mileage as a Prius or HCH, a buyer choosing an Accord Hybrid over a regular Accord has the same consumption reduction effect as a buyer choosing a Civic Hybrid over a regular Civic.

Some (most?) car buyers only really compare within a class -- midsize, compact, etc. -- so contrasting a regular Accord to a Civic Hybrid doesn't match consumer behavior.


Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 20 Apr 05

In other words, it saves about 1/96 gallon/mile, or about 1.04 gallons/100 miles.  This is equivalent to an increase from 24 to 32 MPG; you'd get twice as much savings from a 16-to-24 MPG increase.  (See how pointless such comparisons are?) So far as national security is concerned, raw fuel consumption is the problem; the less we need, the less money goes to finance terrorism and dictators and the less the impact of shortages and price increases.

Well, you seem to be contradicting yourself. I'm not sure how "pointless" the comparison is, since I'm indicating that the Accord, even though it only gets 8 mpg than its conventional equivalent, ends up saving about as much fuel over a year as a Civic Hybrid does compared to its conventional equivalent, even though it gets 14 MPG more. It's an extension of the counterintuitive math involved in translating MPG figures into actual gasoline consumption, which Jamais raised a month or so ago. And since you seem to be indicating that "raw fuel consumption is the problem", I believe my observation is not "pointless" but in line with your own observation about what is important.

If today's average vehicle even got the mileage of the DSX ESX1 (55 MPG; see here) let alone the 72 MPG of the ESX3, this whole oil-price climb would be a yawner.

OK. This has what relevance to my simply communicating the benefits of an Accord Hybrid relative to its conventional equivalent? Should I not mention it and instead complain about hypotheticals which never came to fruition?

Not really sure what you want.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 20 Apr 05

This has what relevance to my simply communicating the benefits of an Accord Hybrid relative to its conventional equivalent? Should I not mention it and instead complain about hypotheticals which never came to fruition?
It's relevant two ways:
  1. Better technology was on display five years ago, but was delayed due to the Bush administration's political desires.
  2. It wouldn't have been hypothetical if the politicians hadn't messed with something that was obviously working; now look where we are.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 20 Apr 05

It's relevant two ways:
Better technology was on display five years ago, but was delayed due to the Bush administration's political desires.
It wouldn't have been hypothetical if the politicians hadn't messed with something that was obviously working; now look where we are.

OK - what can I do to change what politicians did in the past other than push for and champion the best solutions that are available on the market at this very moment, as well as help to make even better solutions available in the future?


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 20 Apr 05

Where did I ask you to do anything?  <sets fire to the straw man>

I was making a couple of observations, one of them regarding the relevance or irrelevance of certain figures to the main issue (interesting as they may be in their own right); I don't know why you decided to get argumentative about it.


Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 20 Apr 05

I was making a couple of observations, one of them regarding the relevance or irrelevance of certain figures to the main issue (interesting as they may be in their own right); I don't know why you decided to get argumentative about it.

Probably right around the point where you said what I was saying was "pointless", then proceeded to agree with me about the fact that absolute fuel consumption reduction is important. It doesn't make much sense that you can simultaneously agree with the emphasis I was making and also consider it "pointless".

So, speaking of having a point, what is the point of complaining about what happened in the past with respect to vehicle technology? I still haven't gotten a response to that.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 20 Apr 05

Okay, okay. If you want to continue this, please take it to e-mail.


Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 20 Apr 05

I don't want to continue this. I don't even understand the point of it. I test drove the Accord Hybrid and was impressed with it. That's pretty much the alpha and omega of it for me.

Sorry, Jamais, if there was any animosity created by it. It certainly wasn't my intention.

That's the last comment I'll make on this particular thread.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 20 Apr 05

What I'm curious about is the fuel efficiency of an Accord with inline 4-cylinders VS Accord Hybrid with V6. I'll have to look into it.


Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 21 Apr 05

The early Accords did have 4-cylinder engines; Honda went to V6's to support larger, heavier bodies and power-hungry features like A/C.

All-electric rocket cars like the tzero and Tango show that it's quite feasible to have way more power than the average driver demands with no engine at all.  If you sized an engine such that it had peak efficiency right at the point of highway cruising road load and used batteries to meet acceleration demands, you could certainly have the same performance as the hybrid Accord with much greater economy.  The only issue at the moment is cost.


Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 26 Apr 05



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