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The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (07/17/05)
Mike Millikin, 17 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 European Commission invited commentary on its anticipated draft Euro 5 emissions standards this week. The standards, which will be brought forward by the end of 2005 and go into effect by mid-2008 at the earliest, are much more stringent than the Euro 4 standards currently phasing into effect.

Notably, the draft proposal puts SUVs into the same conformance class as passenger cars, rather than allowing the use of the less ambitious standards for light commercial vehicles.

According to the draft, PM emissions from diesel cars would be slashed by 80% and NOx by 20%. Although the standards do not specify technology solutions, the magnitude of the reduction in PM emissions will likely de facto require the universal use of diesel particulate filters (DPF). (GCC)


Ford officially began selling its second hybrid model this week, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid.

A more luxurious cousin to the Ford Escape Hybrid, the mariner Hybrid delivers estimated fuel economy of 33 mpg/city and 29 mpg highway (some 7% less than the slightly lighter Escape). It also meets the stringent California Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions (AT-PZEV) Standard. The Mariner Hybrid can run in electric-only mode up to 25 miles per hour.

The company currently plans to manufacture 2,000 Mariner Hybrids for the 2006 model year, with volume growing to 4,000 annually.

That might not seem like a lot, but it makes sense based strictly on sales numbers.

Ford is targeting some 20,000 units in annual sales for the Escape hybrid (even though it is currently tracking at about 75% of that). Mariner sales (year-to-date) are approximately 20% those of Escape sales. Apply the same ratio to the hybrid sales within the brands (20% of the projected 20,000 Escape hybrid sales) and you get to the 4,000 unit level for the Mariner hybrid. (GCC)


The US Department of Energy (DOE) and the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) announced an agreement that could reach $125 million over five years to develop advanced high-performance batteries for electric, hybrid electric and fuel cell vehicle applications.

The new $125 million agreement for battery development is set for three years with two one-year continuing options in which the government and industry will share the costs of research.

As part of the new agreement, the DOE's FreedomCAR Program and USCAR's US Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) will split the cost of research and development for a number of new battery materials and technologies that have the potential to increase energy storage and charge/discharge performance, improve durability and reliability and reduce cost. (GCC)

Canadian mining group Inco Limited has opened a joint venture in China's Dalian with partners from South Korea and China to produce nickel (Ni) foam.

The nickel foam will be used to produce electrodes for batteries destined for hybrid vehicles and other consumer items. The Dalian venture will produce 2 million square meters of nickel foam a year, about half of Inco's annual global output of the product.

Inco, the world's second largest producer of nickel, has recently grown to become the world's leading supplier of nickel foam. (GCC)


Electrovaya, maker of the Maya EV, is receiving CDN $1.7 million (US $1.4 million) from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to support the development and demonstration of the company's Lithium Ion SuperPolymer battery system for application in zero-emission battery electric vehicles, principally in vehicle fleet applications.

This project is also receiving an investment of CDN $3.9 million (US $3.23 million) from Electrovaya and a consortium including Purolator (the fleet operator), Unicell, SouthWestern Energy and Halton Hills Hydro (a utility company). (GCC)


The Department of Energy (DOE) raised the target it has set for the end-user cost of hydrogen to $2.00-$3.00 per gallon of gasoline equivalent (gge) (delivered, untaxed, in 2005 dollars, by 2015).

The prior target of $1.50/gge (delivered, untaxed, in 2001 dollars, by 2010), was developed in 2002, and was based on hydrogen produced from distributed natural gas reforming.

The rationale is that hydrogen should cost no more than gasoline on an equivalent energy basis. Since one kilogram of hydrogen contains approximately the same energy as one gallon of gasoline, the hydrogen cost goal was set at $1.50/kg (or $1.50/gge) to be equivalent to the untaxed cost of gasoline.

The new hydrogen cost goal of $2.00-3.00/gge is independent of the pathway used to produce and to deliver hydrogen.

By essentially doubling the target price, the DOE has brought it much closer to being achievable by hydrogen producers. (Current pricing is around $5.00-$6.00 gge.) (This is also is a recognition that rising oil prices bring hydrogen closer to being cost-competitive in the market.)

Environmental considerations aside, if the supply of hydrogen was linked only to the supply of natural gas, costs would inexorably rise as the price of natural gas rises.

The decoupling of pricing from the steam methane reforming of natural gas (currently the lowest-cost method) acknowledges the possibility that the crossover in cost will happen much sooner (and also recognizes the amount of research that is flowing into different mechanisms for hydrogen production).

The announcement is also an acceptance, from a planning point of view, that the prices of oil and oil products are not coming back down. (GCC)

And speaking of alternative methods for hydrogen production, NanoLogix, formerly InfecTech, is scaling up a bio-reactor system using waste organic matter from a winery as feedstock for hydrogen-producing bacteria.

There are two basic approaches to the microbial production of hydrogen: fermentative and photosynthetic. Clostridia species, methanogens and archeabacteria are known fermentative producers of hydrogen, while purple sulfur bacteria and green algae are examples of photosynthetic producers.

There are a number of requirements to be met for such a bioconversion process to be commercially viable. One is to keep the bacterial culture healthy and thriving. Another is to increase the stability of the process and the conversion yield to the point of commercial utility.

In a natural fermentative process, some of the hydrogen produced by Clostridia would be used (inter-species transfer) by methane-producing bacteria (methanogens) in the inoculum. Reducing or eliminating the methanogens is one approach to increasing the ultimate yield of hydrogen.

NanoLogix incorporates heat into its production process to remove the methanogens, while maintaining the Clostridia. In its studies, NanoLogix found that the bioreactor produced biogas consisting of 50% hydrogen by volume, without any trace of methane. (GCC)

The University of South Carolina and Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems are establishing a research partnership that will encompass fuel cells, hydrogen storage, hydrogen production, chemical-energy conversion and other electrochemical storage devices.

This announcement comes just three weeks after USC announced a fuel-cell partnership with the Korean Institute for Energy Research (KIER). (GCC)

Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe said Monday that a partnership with GM on fuel-cell vehicles is in its final stages, and that it was just a matter of time before the final details were hammered out. (GCC)

DaimlerChrysler has delivered one of its F-Cell hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to Inergy Automotive Systems, making Inergy the first F-Cell customer in Michigan since the DOE Hydrogen Learning Demonstration Project kickoff in Washington, DC. (GCC)


Toyota has begun negotiations with BP on a joint research effort into biofuels.

By entering into a new partnership with BP, Toyota hopes to conduct research into areas such as the economic viability of biofuels, their effect on vehicles, and possible feedstocks. Talks are currently focused on narrowing down the research interests. (GCC)

Researchers at the US Department of Agriculture's Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) are working to develop specialized variants of barley that could be used in ethanol production.

In the US, most ethanol is corn-based -- hence most production facilities are located in the Corn Belt, not on either of the coasts. Barley, the reasoning goes, grows well in areas where corn does not, and so might become a financially cost-effective ethanol feedstock, once a number of severely limiting problems are solved. (GCC)

The Chief Minister of the Indian state of Chhattisgarh has called on India's central government to formulate a national biodiesel policy. Chhattisgarh seeks to become the country's first bio-fuel self-reliant state by 2015, and is looking to a national policy for support. (GCC)


The IEA in its monthly Oil Market Report trimmed its forecast of demand for 2005 back down to 83.9 million barrels of oil per day.

Demand in the fourth quarter of 2005 should spike to 85.9 million barrels a day, according to the report. The agency also forecast a drop in supply of 155,000 barrels per day.

In its first projection for 2006, however, the IEA forecasts that growth in demand will rebound, with average consumption hitting 85.7 million barrels per day for the year. (GCC)

Hurricane Dennis finished its sweep through the Gulf, after halting more than 96% of Gulf of Mexico (GOM) oil production due to evacuations and shut-in production. In total, Dennis caused a total loss of production of 5,297,404 barrels of oil, or about 0.97% of annual Gulf of Mexico oil production.

GOM production contributes some 1.5 million bpd -- about 30% -- of domestic US production. (GCC)

The force of the storm caused BP's giant Thunder Horse rig (not yet hooked up for production) to list at 20-30 degrees. (GCC)

--Mike Millikin
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