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The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (06/12/05)
Mike Millikin, 12 Jun 05

A new Yale University research survey reveals that Americans overwhelmingly believe that the United States is too dependent on imported oil. The survey of 1,000 adults nationwide shows a vast majority of the public also wants to see government action to develop new "clean" energy sources, including solar and wind power as well as hydrogen cars.

Conducted on behalf of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the survey found that fully 92% say dependence on imported oil is a serious problem, with 68 percent saying it is a very serious problem.

Results of the poll, which covers a number of other environmental issues, indicate that 93% of Americans see higher fuel economy standards for automakers is a good idea to address the issue of oil dependence. Just 6 percent say it is a bad idea.

This sentiment varies little by political leaning, with 96% of Democrats and Independents and 86% of Republicans supporting the call for more fuel-efficient vehicles—and 90% of SUV owners.

Americans are least in favor of tax programs (mileage tax, pollution tax, increased gas tax) as a solution. (GCC)

US Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and fourteen other House Democrats today introduced the New Apollo Energy Act (H.R. 2828) as a clean energy policy in counterpoint to the current House Energy Bill.

Among the many features of the bill, which relies heavily on tax incentives for alternative energy and transportation, are defined targets for reduced oil consumption: 600,000 barrels a day by 2010; 1,700,000 barrels by 2015; and 3,000,000 barrels by 2020. (GCC)

In an unprecedented action, the national science academies of the G8 nations and Brazil, China and India have signed a statement stressing that the scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear and urging world leaders, including those meeting at the G8 summit next month, to take a number of actions to counter the threat. (GCC)

Capping the five-day UN World Environment conference in San Francisco, more than 50 mayors from around the world signed the Green Cities Declaration, a set of urban environmental action accords designed to build sustainable urban centers.

The accords call for 21 actions covering transportation, energy, waste reduction, urban design, urban nature, environmental health, and water improvement programs to be implemented by mayors and delegates from major cities around the world. (GCC)

GM's costs are too high, sales are dropping, and the sales mix is skewing away from the high-profit SUVs to the lower-profit cars.

In addressing the situation, GM announced the closing of additional assembly and component plants over the next few years, and the layoff in the US of 25,000 or more workers—more than 20% of its US workforce—in the 2005 to 2008 period to generate estimated annual savings of some $2.5 billion. (GCC)


Nissan said that it will target of 50,000 Altima hybrids per year, starting next year with US production of the car. (GCC)

Amberjac Projects, a UK company, announced that it is working with EnergyCS and Edrive Systems to launch the EDrive plug-in hybrid conversions in Europe.

EDrive Systems is a joint venture between EnergyCS and Clean-Tech which has introduced a commercial retrofit system that converts a Prius into a plug-in or "Gas-Optional" hybrid (PHEV or GO-HEV).

A converted Toyota Prius will be available for demonstrations at the end of July 2005, with a fully commercialized vehicle conversion available in early 2006. (GCC)

The Connaught Type-D performance V-10 hybrid represented sustainable vehicle technology at the Climate Change -- Focus on Scotland conference this week.

Unveiled as a concept last year, the Connaught Type-D is designed to be a high-performance hybrid, with the emphasis on sportiness and handling (true to the Connaught heritage), rather than fuel savings. (Connaught helpfully offers an alternative to "hybrid": "HigherBred.")

The new 2.1-liter V-10 engine gets an assist from a 48v electric motor coupled with a supercapacitor system for energy storage. The hybrid has a target of 42 mpg (UK) (35 mpg US) on the combined test cycle, with CO2 emissions of 150 g/km. (GCC)

SporTran, the transit system for Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana, has added a GM diesel-hybrid bus to its mass transit fleet -- the first such bus to operate in the state of Louisiana.

To date, GM has delivered 353 hybrid buses to urban mass transit systems in 23 cities. (GCC)

Energy Storage

Maxwell Technologies launched the first of a new family of large-cell ultracapacitor cells and multi-cell modules with increased energy storage and power delivery per unit volume and double the lifecycle of its earlier products.

Ultracapacitors—with their ability for rapid recharge and pulse discharge (good in acceleration and hill climbing)—are being explored as energy storage systems in hybrid and electric vehicle applications.

Maxwell's new 2.7-volt, large cell ultracapacitor and 16-volt ultracap module (incorporating six MC2600 cells) offer increased voltage from Maxwell's older ultracapacitors and double the duty cycles from 500,000 to one million. (GCC)

Chinese battery manufacturer Advanced Battery Technologies has successfully completed phase one tests of lithium-ion polymer cells built with electrode nanomaterials from Altairnano (formerly Altair Nanotechnologies). The two companies announced a mutually exclusive development agreement in April 2005.

The testing indicated a significant improvement in recharge time. With Altairnano's rapid charge Lithium Titanate Spinel electrode nanomaterials, recharge time was approximately 30 to 45 minutes, compared to recharge time for existing ABAT batteries of approximately 3 to 3.5 hours. (GCC)


A joint venture between SeQuential Biofuels and biodiesel pioneer Pacific Biodiesel is developing the first biodiesel refinery in Oregon.

Ground-breaking on the SeQuential-Pacific refinery is targeted for August on a one-acre industrial parcel on the Kelly Point peninsula in Portland. Production would begin in November with expected output of a million gallons of biodiesel per year, with waste vegetable oil as the feedstock.

Oregon-based Kettle Foods, a maker of all-natural potato chips and nut butters, will supply all of its used cooking oil to the new facility. The company is the first natural foods manufacturer to recycle all of its waste oil into biodiesel and the first of its size to contribute to the new facility. The company already runs a fleet of company cars on biodiesel. (GCC)

Cargill, the US' third-largest ethanol producer, announced plans to build a 37.5-million-gallons-per-year biodiesel plant and 30-million-pounds-per-year glycerin refinery in Iowa Falls, adjacent to its existing soybean crush facility. Pending regulatory permitting approvals, construction will begin this summer, with biodiesel production commencing in April 2006. (GCC)

A gasification/biocatalytic process developed for BRI Energy by a team led by Dr. James L. Gaddy enables the co-production of electricity and ethanol (and/or hydrogen) from municipal solid waste or other carbon-based materials.

The BRI process utilizes a culture of acetogenic bacteria (Clostridium ljungdahlii) that ingests synthesis gas (gasified wastes) and emits ethanol at a yield of some 75 gallons or more per dry ton of biomass. From used tires or hydrocarbons it can yield approximately 150 gallons or more per ton.

Theoretically, a mid-sized BRI Renewable Energy Plant could process 1,000,000 tons of municipal solid waste, waste tires and/or biosolids per year, producing 80 million gallons of ethanol and generating 50 MW of power, 35 MW of which is excess to the operation of the plant. Such a plant would require ten modules and approximately 30 acres. (GCC)

The Malaysian government is developing a plan for domestic use of palm oil-based biodiesel in blends of between 2%-5% (B2 to B5). (GCC)

Beginning 1 August 2005, the City of Bloomington, the Bloomington Transit System, the Monroe County Highway Department, the Monroe County Community Schools, and the Indiana University Campus Bus Service will all use a B20 soy biodiesel blend (20% biodiesel) in city, county and university diesel vehicles.

This marks the first county-wide commitment to alternative fuel use in the state of Indiana. (GCC)

CHS, a diversified energy, grains and foods company and a supplier of energy products marketed under the Cenex brand, will begin offering E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) blends at 22 fuel terminals located in Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

This will integrate E85 into the existing petroleum distribution infrastructure, simplify the process (including the tax process) for retailers, and better position Cenex-branded marketers to meet demand for E85 use in flex-fuel vehicles. (GCC)

Scania, a leading global manufacturer of heavy trucks and buses as well as industrial and marine engines, sees the combination of a gradual shift to bio- and synthetic fuels and increased use of robust hybrid systems as foundations for sustainable and affordable public transit systems.

Hasse Johansson, Group Vice President for R&D at Scania, outlined the company's view of sustainable transport during the opening session of the biennial UITP congress (Union International Des Transports Public) in Rome. One of the most favored approaches: synthetic diesel manufactured from natural gas or from biowaste. (GCC)

Natural Gas

The Swedish Association of Green Motorists has voted the Fiat Punto Natural Power as the "Best Environmental Car 2005" in Sweden.

The Punto Natural Power is a dual fuel car with two independent fuel systems: natural gas and gasoline. The vehicle starts on gasoline, then automatically switches to natural gas. The driver can change fuel manually at any time with the touch of a button. When the natural gas level drops to near zero the car switches automatically back to gasoline. (GCC)

French oil company Total is working with a consortium of nine Japanese companies on a $250-million dimethyl ether (DME) pilot project with a goal of volume production by 2010.

DME is an LPG (liquefied petroleum gas)-like synthetic fuel that is produced through gasification of various renewable substances or fossil fuels. The synthetic gas is then catalyzed to produce DME.

DME is a gas that becomes a liquid under low pressure (i.e., like LPG). It has excellent characteristics as a compression ignition fuel; the primary work that needs to be done is on the fuel-injection system because of the different handling characteristics of the gas. (GCC)


DaimlerChrysler has unveiled a new "bionic" diesel concept car that achieves outstanding results for fuel consumption and emissions with a combination of diesel engine technology, innovative emission control methods and aerodynamic design inspired by a natural example.

The Mercedes-Benz bionic car seats four, delivers better than 70 mpg in the US test cycle and exceeds Euro 4 emissions standards.

The car uses DaimlerChrysler's Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology -- more widely used in the commercial vehicle sector -- to reduce NOx emissions. This aftertreatment sprays an aqueous urea solution into the exhaust system in precisely metered quantities, depending on the engine operating status. The reaction converts the nitrogen oxides into nitrogen and water.

The process requires a separate reservoir for this service fluid, which, in the concept car, is located in the spare wheel recess, and offers enough capacity to last a typical service interval for a Mercedes diesel.

(As an aside, Ford also used an SCR system in its Meta One diesel-hybrid concept car.)

DaimlerChrysler will initially offer passenger car SCR technology in the US when its trials have been completed. (GCC)

Chrysler's 2005 Jeep Liberty CRD (Common Rail Diesel), the first diesel-powered mid-size SUV in the U.S. market, has gotten off to a strong sales start, with some 3,000 units sold by the end of May. (GCC)

Scania introduced Euro 4- and Euro 5-compliant diesel bus engines at the biennial UITP (Union International des Transport Public). Euro 4 becomes mandatory in October 2006 and Euro 5 in October 2009.

Scania's 9-liter, 5-cylinder Euro 4 and Euro 5 bus engines use EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) to reduce emissions to the required level. The company so far has sold some 2,000 Euro 4 trucks with Scania EGR. (GCC)

The Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) today re-emphasized the critical importance of refiners' maintaining the schedule for delivery of Ultra Low-Sulfur Diesel (less than 15 parts per million sulfur).

In late May, the EPA announced that it will issue a rule later this year that will shift the retail compliance date for offering ULSD from September 1 to October 15, 2006, to allow more time for terminals and retail outlets to comply with the 15 ppm ULSD standard.

In order to meet the 90% emissions reductions required by EPA's 2007 clean diesel rule, a systems approach including improved engines and aftertreatment devices is needed to achieve the goal of near-zero emissions from diesel vehicles.

Ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel is the third leg in the systems approach and is a necessary prerequisite that enables the successful emissions reductions. Sulfur in diesel fuel poisons the aftertreatment equipment needed to achieve the emissions reductions called for by the 2007 rule. (GCC)

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BRI's process makes two schemes that look good for turning municipal solid waste into fuel (CWT's thermal depolymerization is the other).  How long before one or the other of these goes pilot-scale?

The CWT process appears to have higher yield, though.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 12 Jun 05

The entire reason milage rate pushes are slow going is neither side wants to get the fallout from the bad side effects a rate push would create. Main fallout being the utter destruction of the uaw and countless other unions tied directly or indirectly to the car industry. The fat from fat margin car sales is what keeps all these unions aloft and its running out quickly.

If you want to know what the politicians realy feel look at what they own and drive. Not what they have the political clout to get past congress.

Posted by: wintermane on 14 Jun 05

For some reason, the Big 2.5 seem to be unable to make a profit on economical vehicles produced in the USA.  They have ceded this market to imports, preferring to build guzzling trucks and SUV's.

This may be due to UAW pressure; if so, the UAW has what amounts to a death wish.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 15 Jun 05



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