Advanced Search

Please click here to take a brief survey

The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (05/29/05)
Mike Millikin, 29 May 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:

Policy tops the week again as the US Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee reported its marked-up version of the energy bill to the full Senate. As noted last week, the Committee declined to include any increase in fuel efficiency standards in the bill. Unlike its counterpart from the House, however, the Senate Bill does direct the president to devise means for a 1-million barrel per day reduction in oil consumption by 2015. (Without any enforcement provision in the bill, however, achieving that target, assuming in remains in the final bill, seems doubtful.)

The Senate bill pushed more aggressively on energy-efficient appliance and building codes than does the House bill—the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy calculates that all the provisions in the Senate bill would result in 3 quads (quadrillion BTUs) of energy saved in 2020; the House bill would result in 1.4 quads of savings. That savings is measured against the projected baseline consumption of 127.92 quads in 2020 (estimate from the DOE’s EIA). That 127.92-quad consumption represents an increase of 31% from 2002. (GCC.)

The Senate bill incorporates an 8-billion barrel Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to be achieved by 2012. An 8-billion RFS would represent a 3.8% renewable component in national fuel use. (GCC)

The bill contains controversial provisions that will: allow the government siting authority for LNG terminals; put nuclear power and nuclear waste disposal back on the front burner; provide incentives for offshore oil and gas production in the North Slope of Alaska; and take first steps toward altering the moratorium on oil and gas drilling on the Continental shelf. Yet, aside from the proposal to cut oil consumption by 1 million barrels per day and the RFS, the bill includes very little to alter dramatically the trajectory of oil use in transportation. In its lead editorial this week, Nature magazine, the international, multi-disciplinary, peer-reviewed journal of science, slammed Congress for “having not grasped the scale” of the energy problem. (GCC) Nothing that came out of committee this week will alter that assessment.

Across the Atlantic, the UK's Royal Society -- the national academy of science -- is calling for the government to implement a carbon tax on all emissions of carbon dioxide from all sectors including industrial, domestic and transport in light of the failure of current policy to reduce CO2 emissions.

An analysis by the Royal Society determined that the impact of a carbon tax on the long-term global GDP would be negligible. (GCC)


Nissan announced that it will begin building a hybrid version of its Altima sedan at a US plant starting in late 2006. Nissan thus will become the second Japanese carmaker, after Toyota, to produce hybrid vehicles in the world's largest auto market. (GCC)

Honda announced that the cumulative worldwide sales of Honda hybrid vehicles reached 100,000 units in April 2005, including approximate sales of 89,000 units in the U.S., 5,900 units in Japan, 3,800 units in Europe and 1,500 units in Canada.

Cumulative global sales of the Toyota Prius reached 250,000 units in November 2004. (GCC)

With sales of its best-selling model, the Cayenne SUV, rapidly dropping (down 28% year-to-date through April from the same period in 204), Porsche announced that it will provide in mid-September the first details of plans to eventually build a hybrid version of the Cayenne SUV.

The company is in talks with several partners. Initial German press reports favored Volkswagen, but Volkswagen is less than enthusiastic about hybrids in general. Toyota emerged as a potential partner for Porsche last autumn. (GCC)

A modified Honda Insight was the top placing vehicle at the National 2005 Tour de Sol Monte Carlo Rally this year, achieving 94 mpg. A plug-in Prius demonstrated by Valence and Energy CS hit nearly 102 mpg measured by the fuel tank, but also consumed 10 kWh of electricity for charging the Li-ion batteries. After computing the grid power used, the net effective mileage was 67 mpg. (GCC)

On a larger scale, RailPower, makers of the Green Goat series hybrid switcher (locomotive) has developed a cabless version aimed at the remote control switching market.

BNSF Railroad has ordered four of the new cabless hybrids with delivery this year for operation in Texas. BNSF also announced that it plans to keep its original Green Goat hybrid operating in Los Angeles for five more years. BNSF's LA Green Goat joins four Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) locomotives in service elsewhere in the area; the four are the only LNG locomotives in the country. (GCC)


Hydrogen was much in the news this week, helped along by a Presidential photo op in which he visited the Shell hydrogen station in Washington DC.

The California EPA formally released its Hydrogen Highway blueprint plan, in response to Governor Schwarzenegger’s enabling directive in April 2004. The $54.5 million Phase I of the plan, which is less ambitious than the governor had envisioned, calls for development of up to 100 refueling stations and 2,000 hydrogen vehicles in the state by 2010. There are more than 40 current or planned stations throughout the state and a small number of vehicles all provided by major auto makers who are investing heavily in hydrogen vehicle technology.

The California legislature must now approve the expenditure. (GCC)

ZAP and its technology partner Apollo Energy Systems announced the successful demonstration of an on-board ammonia reformer -- the "Ammonia Cracker" -- to produce hydrogen for use in a ZAP-Apollo alkaline fuel cell (AFC)-powered vehicle.

In August 2004, ZAP announced a partnership with Apollo to develop a prototype alkaline fuel cell car based on the Smart cars that ZAP imports and modifies.

The approach is to develop an on-board reforming capability to fuel the alkaline fuel cell. (Thus the basic components of the system would be on-board ammonia storage, the on-board reformer, and the alkaline fuel cell itself.) The Smart Car prototype will use a 60 kW Apollo Fuel Cell, equipped with an 8.7 gallon ammonia fuel tank, and will have a cruising range of up to 200 miles per refueling. (GCC)

The PAC-II hydrogen fuel-cell prototype achieved a new record of 3,836 km/l (gasoline equivalent energy) -- that's 9,024 miles per gallon during the Shell Eco-marathon in France. Made by the Eidgenssische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH), Switzerland, the PAC-II used 1.75 grams of hydrogen to travel 25.272 kilometers.

Hydrogen-powered cars were the most efficient on the track during the event, but two gasoline-powered cars used less overall lifecycle energy for the vehicles and the fuel. (GCC)

On the research side, the DOE and USDA agreed to cooperate more closely to develop cost-effective technologies for hydrogen production from biomass resources.

A good deal of the initial focus of the partnership is on speeding the deployment of hydrogen technology in the agriculture industry and in rural communities: renewable, farm-based biomass can fuel hydrogen production; agricultural vehicles fueled by hydrogen can have the same efficiency and environmental benefits planned for light-duty cars and trucks; and hydrogen fuel cell technology can provide power for remote locations and communities.

Separately, Energy Secretary Bodman announced $64M in hydrogen research projects in storage; membrane technology; catalysts; solar hydrogen production; and bio-inspired materials and processes. (GCC)


AGE Refining, an independent petroleum refinery based in San Antonio, TX is blending its own B20 (20% biodiesel) biodiesel product for sale to distributors.

The B20 blend combines soybean-based biodiesel provided by Houston-based Gulf Hydrocarbon, and AGE's own diesel product. This marks the first availability in Texas of biodiesel at the refinery rack. Typically distributors have had to load fleet fuel tanks with 2,500-7,500 gallons and transport it to wholesale petroleum distributors (known as jobbers) across the state. (GCC)

The broad partnership between Japan and Brazil on ethanol continues to gain momentum. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva agreed on the need for more non-governmental cooperation to promote ethanol use, according to a statement released in Tokyo by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Japan expects to introduce more vehicle fuels containing ethanol, and will pursue ongoing talks with Brazil.

Separately, Mitsui & Co. has begun working with Brazil's Petrobras and Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) to study how to expand Brazil's exports of ethanol.

Earlier this year, Brazil's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Supply and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) announced that they were developing a bilateral program to increase the production of ethanol and biodiesel in Brazil and its supply to the Japanese market. (GCC)

Combustion Engines

Five heavy-duty trucks equipped with Westport Innovations' High-Pressure Direct-Injection (HPDI) technology and fueled by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) are beginning a one-year demonstration project along Canada's busy Highway 401.

Challenger Motor Freight will operate five new Volvo trucks equipped with 15-liter, 450-hp Cummins ISX engines equipped with Westport's HPDI-LNG technology will travel Canada-US routes between Ontario and Michigan, routes dubbed by the project partners as "The Clean Air Corridor".

LNG provides two-and-a-half times the energy storage as the same volume of compressed natural gas (CNG), which allows for on-board fuel capacity on the Challenger trucks to achieve 500-mile (800 km) range. LNG imports to the United States made up less than two per cent of the gas consumed in 2004, but analysts predict that LNG imports will account for 15%-20% of US natural gas consumption by 2025.

The Westport HPDI system directly injects a small quantity of pilot diesel fuel into the engine cylinder to provide diesel-like compression ignition for natural gas. This gives the engine the efficiency and low-speed torque advantages of compression ignition while using natural gas as the primary fuel and significantly reducing emissionscompared to diesel.

The DOE announced six projects in a public-private partnership with itself, industry and academia aimed at improving the vehicle efficiency of cars and trucks. The six projects carry a value of more than $14 million, of which DOE is contributing approximately 50%.

DOE has a goal of improving the efficiency of internal combustion engines from 30% to 45% by 2010 for light-duty vehicles and from 40% to 55% by 2013 for heavy-duty vehicles. The DOE estimates that the project technologies under development could reduce fuel use for all highway vehicles by 10%. (GCC)

The Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is conducting a cooperative research program to develop a higher-efficiency gasoline engine for both light- and heavy-duty applications.

The research consortium, known as HEDGE (High-Efficiency, Dilute Gasoline Engine), seeks to develop new technologies for the gasoline engine market that will make the platform more competitive with diesel in efficiency and emissions. (GCC)

A year-long joint US-Mexico demonstration diesel retrofit project is reducing PM emissions in a test fleet of 20 Mexico City buses by 90% and NOx emissions by 10%. More widespread implementation of the technology may be hampered by a lack of Ultra Low-Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) fuel (15 ppm), which has been imported for the project. PEMEX currently is producing diesel at 250 ppm, down from 500 ppm, and is shooting for 50 ppm by 2008 -- but which will require an investment in its refineries of some US$2 billion. (GCC)

Bookmark and Share


This is what we should be building right now. In my opinion Ford and GM will go bankrupt before they even begin to catch on.

For about the past year I have offered anyone who would listen the following info: None of the American automobile companies have even responded. I have had some positive response from several educational institutions but - as far as I know - none have done any experimental work to verify my claims.

Here is what I have been proposing:

In one scale or another everyone of these systems have been proven.

Like to produce a vehicle that can burn rubber on takeoff on all four wheels and get 90+ mpg?

What I would like to see the automakers working on would have:

A turbocharged, two cylinder opposed, 2-cycle, air-cooled diesel directly
driving a generator. (It would not be running most of the time.) A 111 volt Lithium-Ion Polymer battery pack. Nothing but wires going from the controller to every wheel, except for the necessary additional friction
brakes (of course). An added advantage of this would be the ability to recharge from the electrical grid while at home, saving even more on fuel.

Each wheel, depending on the feedback to the controller from wheel speed sensors would drive with just the right power depending on the accelerator position. You would get recharging from deceleration just as you do in today's hybrids. You would also use this feedback to stop the wheel from skidding.

Each wheel would have a stationary stator and a series of fixed magnets closely adjacent all around the inside of the wheel. In a sense it would operate each wheel in a very similar fashion that the mag-lev trains use,
except the motion would be circular, of course. Something very different about this type of motor is that the stators are fixed to the axles and the magnets are driven around them. This gives a significant increase in
mechanical advantage. That's like turning an ordinary electric motor inside out.

There would be no need for ordinary electric motor brushes. In fact, many electric motors operating today are brushless.

Such motors already exist in the model airplane field and their efficiently
is amazing - approaching 90%. I've got a couple and doubt that I would ever buy any other type.

It's possible to hang the model on the prop right out in front of you and
accelerate straight up, like a rocket, with this type motor

In the vehicle the motor/generator would not turn on to recharge the
batteries until they needed it. There are already experimental Lithium-Ion
driven cars that can get in excess of 200 miles before they have to be
recharged by plugging them in. You would top off your batteries overnight by plugging them in. Some cutting edge research by Toshiba - employing nano-technology - indicates that recharging can be done so fast that you could top off while eating lunch.

Lithium -Ion battery technology is so new that I doubt that very many
automotive engineers have even heard of them, much less thought to use them in this manner. Their energy density exceeds that of any other form of rechargeable energy storage.

The Lithium Ion battery is the most efficient battery available right now. So is the outer rotor electric motor the most efficient motor.

Build an Automobile right and it will weight less and have simpler, easier to repair/replace modules.

Lets see what we can eliminate while improving performance and efficiency.

Transmission - None

Ignition system - None

Liquid cooling - None

Valves and valve train - None

Use bio-oil/fuels for both fuel and lubrication.

Feel free to pass this along to anyone you know in the Transportation business.

I bought a Honda Civic Hybrid last summer. I enjoy it more than any vehicle I've ever owned. I will Never buy another vehicle that isn't a Hybrid and doesn't get at least 50 mpg.

As far as I can tell, Detroit isn't even thinking the same way I and the vast majority of it's potential customers are.

William Lucas Jones
490 Mauldin Rd.
Sautee, GA 30571-3159

(706) 219-3333

Posted by: William Lucas Jones on 31 May 05

They have the tech they just hadnt planned to bring it out yet because they hadnt expected people to wana buy the cars yet. Now that they know it can sell they are making deals and speeding up on final phase dev on thse uber gadgets we call cars.

Posted by: wintermane on 31 May 05



MESSAGE (optional):

Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg