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The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (07/10/05)
Mike Millikin, 10 Jul 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:

The G8 meeting this week ended with a Plan of Action on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development that reviews, promotes, invites, encourages, labels, educates, explores, asks, discusses, raises, supports, partners, capitalizes, endorses, collaborates, welcomes, draws together, identifies, launches, recognizes, expresses, seeks, dialogues, continues, reaffirms, monitors, moves forward, strengthens and agrees—but that sets no actual quantitative, measurable goals for reductions in emissions, mix of renewables or the like and provides no additional funding.

To pluck a quote from Sen. John McCain during the debate on the energy bill in the US Senate:

"You've got to have an immediate effort [i.e., a cap] to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," McCain said, adding that any climate change plan that doesn't do that is "a fig leaf" and "a joke." (Reuters)

In the US, GM decided to extend the universal employee discount program for another month. Ford and Chrysler quickly announced their own versions of the employee-discount-for-everyone program. Based on the program in June, GM’s monthly sales climbed to the highest in almost 20 years, with record gains in SUVs and light trucks—a sector that had been down 25% on the year—as well as with its cars. (GCC)

The European Commission meanwhile has proposed that member states restructure their car tax schemes away from registration levies to link taxation directly to CO2 emissions from passenger cars.

The Commission proposes that charges based on emissions account for 25% of tax charges by the end of 2008, and for half of such tax revenues by 2010. The directive does not attempt to harmonize tax rates or obligate member states to introduce new taxes. (GCC)


Honda kicked off the week by revealing some of the specifications for its new Honda Hybrid System, which will be introduced in the new Civic Hybrid being launched this fall. The new system delivers 20% more power with an estimated 5% better fuel economy than the current Civic Hybrid.

The new system features a new 3-stage i-VTEC engine that employs Honda's intelligent VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) system to provide three stages of valve timing (low-rpm, high-rpm, and cylinder idle mode), combined with a more compact and efficient IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system. (GCC)

Toyota Motor indicated that it will double its production of hybrid vehicles to 500,000 units in 2006 from the 2005 level to meet rising global demand, especially in North America.

Separately, the company confirmed that it will bring 12 new hybrids to market, many configured on current production vehicles, over the next 24 months. (GCC)

Maple, the Shanghai-based unit of China's Geely Automobile, is working with Tongji University in Shanghai to develop hybrid cars.

The partnership has set out an aggressive development plan that, if realized, would see the hybrids in commercial production in 2008, in time for the Olympics. (GCC)

Malaysia's national carmaker Proton also said that it is developing its own hybrid-electric car and hopes to roll it out in less than five years. (GCC)

Cobasys and Panasonic EV Energy (PEVE), a joint venture between Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. and Toyota, expanded the license terms between them for NiMH battery systems for hybrid and electric vehicles. (GCC)


Ford introduced its new generation Focus Flexi-Fuel, plus, for the first time, a Flexi-Fuel version of the Ford Focus C-MAX in Sweden this week. The flex fuel vehicles (running on E85, gasoline, or any mixture of the two) will appear in other countries in Europe as well.

Working closely with the Swedish Flexi-Fuel Buyers' Consortium, a conglomeration of public organizations, commercial enterprises and private individuals, Ford was the first manufacturer to offer ethanol-powered vehicles in a European market. Ford has sold more than 15,000 Focus Flexi-Fuels in Sweden since the model's introduction in 2001. In 2003 and 2004, more than 80% of alternative fuel cars sold in Sweden were Focus Flexi-Fuels. (GCC)

A new Cornell University and University of California-Berkeley study from long-standing critics of biofuels slammed both ethanol and biodiesel.

"There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel," says David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell. "These strategies are not sustainable." (GCC)

That conclusion was countered by the Ag Energy Working Group during a conference call update on its progress to achieving its 25 by 25 vision: 25% of US energy needs delivered from the land base managed by agriculture by 2025. (That 25% includes wind and solar electricity as well as biofuel.) (GCC)

In response to a question about the new Cornell-UC Berkeley study, James Woolsey, former director of the CIA and member of the National Commission on Energy Policy, said:

The National Commission on Energy Policy completely disagrees with them... You need only about one barrel of oil equivalent to produce seven barrels of cellulosic ethanol. They are running foursquare against the considered judgement of the National Commission on Energy Policy. I don't know where they got their numbers.

The Ag Energy Working Group maintains that all feedstocks will be needed to meet the 25 by 25 goal.

For many years, one of the biggest barriers to moving toward cellulosic ethanol so one can use about 80% of what grows instead of just of the biggest barriers was people who wanted ethanol just to be made from corn. Today one of the biggest barriers to moving toward 25 by 25 is people who want to limit biodiesel just to material like soy and rapeseed and restaurant grease. Europe makes 300 million barrels a year of biodiesel and we make 25. One of the reasons is that we limit the types of [feedstocks]...

As long as we try to limit ethanol to corn and not cellulose, and try to limit biodiesel to things like soy rather than being all inclusive the way Europe is, we are going to end up having 25 by 25—but it will European 25 by 25.

The European Commission is taking further action against member states failing to comply with the biofuels Directive requiring 2% of all diesel and gasoline sold be biofuels in 2005, progressively increasing to reach a minimum of 5.75% of fuels sold in 2010. (2003/30/EC). (GCC)

The Government of Canada allocated a further C$46 million (US$ 37 million) for the construction or expansion of five ethanol plants across Canada. The funding comes as the second round of the Ethanol Expansion Program, which allocated C$72 million to six projects in its first round.

The new projects represent some 512 million liters per year of production capacity, and will increase total Canadian capacity to 1.4 billion liters (369.8 million gallons US) per year—seven times what it was prior to the beginning of the program and enough to meet the climate change target for ethanol production two years ahead of schedule. (GCC)

The UK government is exploring the potential viability of a different pathway to a diesel-biofuel blend by issuing a tender to encourage refineries or other companies to investigate the use of hydrogenation.

Hydrogenation is a process in which biomass is mixed with conventional diesel through heating in the refinery process in such a way as to create a product chemically very similar to petroleum diesel, but somewhat more environmentally friendly.

The UK government is wondering whether or not hydrogenation, owing to economies of scale and integration with the existing petroleum refining infrastructure, might provide a cheaper way of introducing biofuel into the market. The stated intention is not to replace the conventional method of biodiesel manufacture in the UK but to augment it and work alongside it. (GCC)

The Des Moines, Iowa, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) became the latest organization to adopt O2Diesel's ethanol-diesel blend (e-diesel) in its transit fleet of 140 diesel-powered coaches and para-transit vehicles.

The Des Moines MTA represents the largest fleet conversion under the e-diesel program to date. (GCC)


During their work on the budget, California state lawmakers on Thursday approved just slightly more than 60% of the funds Gov. Schwarzenegger had recommended to begin building his Hydrogen Highway.

The administration had recommended spending $10.7 million a year over the next five years; AB 141 specifies spending an initial $6.5 million on the project. (GCC)

In an interesting partnership, Reg Technologies, owner of the worldwide rights to the Rand Cam rotary engine (GCC), is entering into a financial and sales partnership with Anuvu, a maker of automotive fuel cells. (GCC) Anuvu also has a partnership agreement with ZAP, the importers and modifiers of the Americanized Smart car.

As part of the deal, Reg Technologies, and its US distributor REGI US, are acquiring exclusive distribution rights for Canada and Europe for Anuvu fuel cells.

The companies have a common objective of developing a clean burning new source of power for vehicles, which are currently using gasoline driven piston engines. REGI is in the final phase of developing a light weight rotary engine that will run on any fuel, including cleaner burning fuels, such as hydrogen, propane and natural gas.

AeroVironment (AV), a developer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and electric vehicle systems, has successfully completed the world's first liquid-hydrogen-powered UAV flight tests.

The fifty-foot wingspan prototype aircraft operated entirely on liquid hydrogen fuel for more than one hour on each of two test flights flight and was flown under both manual control and autonomous waypoint navigation. (GCC)


GM's Opel has announced that it is offering a particle filter (DPF) on all diesel-powered cars it sells in Germany. The move follows the German government's decision to offer tax subsidies to owners of vehicles equipped with such filters, effective from 1 January 2005. (GCC)

The Renault-Nissan alliance is introducing a new 2.0-liter dCi diesel engine, to be first applied in a 150-hp version in the Laguna this summer. With this engine, the Laguna is projected to deliver some 40.6 mpg US(combined Euro cycle). (GCC)

Natural Gas

The French government and carmakers, fueling stations operators and energy companies have signed a five-year protocol designed to increase the use of natural gas vehicles in the country.

According to François Loos, the French industry minister, the government will introduce tax incentives to buyers of new natural gas-powered cars, and will offer a tax break on natural gas at the pump to encourage its use. (GCC)

The fleets of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and North County Transit District (NCTD) in the San Diego area of California have received 103 more CNG buses, powered by Cummins Westport (CWI) 8.3-liter C Gas Plus natural gas engines. (GCC)

Cummins Westport has also received an order for 30 CWI natural gas engines for new transit buses in Bangladesh. Delivery of the initial 30 buses, manufactured by Chongqing Yutong Coach Manufacturing Co. Ltd. of China, begins this month, with options for a total of 120 buses by the end of November.

The order marks Cummins Westport's entry into the Bangladesh transit bus market. (GCC)

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Re: A new Cornell University and University of California-Berkeley study from long-standing critics of biofuels slammed both ethanol and biodiesel.

These studies come up with 1000 gallons of input fuel per acre of corn. Any farmer will tell you that it does not take 1000 gallons of fuel (of any type) to farm an acre. Something is seriously wrong with this study.


Posted by: John Powers on 10 Jul 05

Ignoring fuel consumed off the field invalidates your analysis.  Even ethanol's producers will tell you that it takes a large fraction of a gallon's worth of ethanol (or equivalent in natural gas or LPG) just to distill it from the mash.  Then you have the production of the ammonia used for the fertilizer, the chemicals, and the transport chain.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 10 Jul 05

How about using magnetic force to power the car like a Hovercar ? Very clean, powerful and no need to refuel for life.

Posted by: Kuokings on 11 Jul 05

I think the real question to ask, regardless of if the study is correct or not, is how do you take down the cost of farming along with the fuel consumption. maybe we need a study on how to harvest the corn using hybrids or powering portions of the process with solar or wind. That multi-level farm that was posted here could be ideal, several different lawyers of corn all in the same complex. Which reminds me about that post on the multi-level farm, is it possible to chill the higher levels? I was under the impression if you chilled the roots of some plants their harvestable several times a year. Wired had an article on a guy using sea water to chill grape vines for wine.


Posted by: andrew on 12 Jul 05

Solar grain dryers and farm equipment driven by zinc-air fuel cells could manage two loads currently handled mostly by petroleum.  Farms have plenty of space, so either solar PV panels or wind turbines have the potential to supply the power for equipment.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 12 Jul 05

There have have been numerous newswires from the Indian press about the use of jatropha trees to make biodiesel. Wouldn't there be some critics of this strategy if it were not doable?

And if jatropha-derived or jojoba biodiesel (as reported bt sveral years ago) could be produced economically, why weren't we doing this thirty years ago?

Posted by: kenneth johnstone on 16 Jul 05



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