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The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (07/31/05)
Mike Millikin, 31 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 House and Senate this week quickly passed the conference version of the energy bill, sending it on to the White House for signature. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 is a plump 1,724 pages of policy, programs, and pork -- as well as showing the occasional hint or glimmer of a shift in focus and attitude.

In general, the bill (a) incents more production through generous subsidies (some $14.5 billion) to the energy industry, but with some increasing emphasis on renewables (b) invests heavily in long-term, high-ticket technologies (hydrogen, fusion, clean coal, next-generation nuclear) (c) does essentially nothing for the short- to medium-term to reduce the consumption of petroleum.

Three of the more egregious omissions in the bill specifically are (1) the failure the increase fuel economy requirements, (2) the failure to set any sort of target or timeline for quantitative reductions in petroleum use; (3) the failure to set any sort of quantitative target or timeline for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Each of those had been proposed as amendments during the debates on the bill; all were rejected.

That's not to say that there are no positive aspects to the bill. It significantly increases the amount of money targeted toward renewables. It significantly ups the ante on the hydrogen front (which, admittedly, is not a benefit for some). It supports and funds the development of forest biomass as an energy feedstock, and supports the development of cellulosic ethanol. It even manages to squeeze in a relatively minor funding initiative on flex-fuel/plug-in hybrids. (GCC)

That bill wasn't the only major piece of energy or transportation legislation on the floor this week. Also passed was the $286.4-billion Transportation Equity Act, another 1,700-page pile of special projects for each state, ranging from bus stops to snowmobile trails to funding for hydrogen fuel cell bus demonstrations. (GCC)

Separately, the EPA released its annual report on auto technology and fuel economy trends, which showed an average fuel economy of 21 mpg. That's a scant 0.2 mpg improvement from last year, but down 5% from the best years of fuel economy 1987-1988.

The data highlights that fuel economy has been essentially flat for the past dozen years, although the size and power of the vehicles sold has increased dramatically.

In other words, the efficiencies of new technology are applied to creating vehicles (in an aggregate view) with roughly equivalent fuel consumption, but that are bigger and more powerful. (GCC)


China is moving determinedly toward preparing the market for hybrids. The Standardization Administration of China has announced that a set of national standards on hybrid vehicles will be published and implemented in October 2005.

The China Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC) had recommended developing technical regulations for hybrid technology as a key step to broad commercialization. The center worked to analyze and identify key performance standards elements, and to developing standards and test procedures for certification -- particularly emissions and fuel efficiency tests as well as complementary technical policies and certification management procedures. (GCC)

UQM Technologies, a provider of motors, generators and control technologies, has received an order for additional permanent magnet motors and controller systems from Eaton's Truck Business Components business unit.

Eaton will integrate the UQM systems into its hybrid-electric powertrains for trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles. (GCC)

India's Tata Motors is in talks with a variety of electric motor manufacturing companies to explore having them set up shop in India and thereby to reduce the cost of motors needed in hybrid and fuel cell vehicles.

Tata plans to have concept prototypes ready for hybrid cars (based on the Indica and Indigo) and hybrid buses over the next six months. The company is also working on a fuel cell bus, the prototype of which will be ready over the next one-and-a-half to two years. (GCC)


Novozymes received the 2005 Technology Leadership of the Year Award from Frost & Sullivan in the field of alternative fuel technologies for its research to reduce the enzyme cost for cellulosic ethanol. (GCC)

A new Illinois law requires state government, county and local governments, school districts, universities and community colleges and mass transit agencies to use a minimum of B2 (2% biodiesel blend) in their diesel vehicles.

State facilities already use B2 in accordance with an executive order issued by the Governor in 2004. Local governments, community colleges and mass transit systems will now join the state in boosting biodiesel use. (GCC)

Cyprus's Commerce Ministry is poised to announce a pilot project to introduce biofuels in an attempt to cut down on the cost of petroleum imports and the emissions from fossil-fuel use. The island will set an initial biofuels target of one percent (6,000 metric tons, or approximately 2.16 million gallons US) of annual transport fuel consumption. (GCC)

The president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) wrote Australian Government's Biofuels Taskforce to detail the AMA's support for the mandatory use of ethanol and biodiesel in the interests of protecting and improving human health. The organization is suggesting a mandated 10% ethanol blend (E10) and 20% biodiesel blend (B20). (GCC)


Hydrogenics is preparing to enter a second phase of one of its early-adopter, light-mobility programs by deploying fuel cell-ultracapacitor hybrid forklifts at a Fedex facility in the Toronto area.

The light mobility program is designed to seed early-adopter markets for hydrogen fuel cells with Hydrogenics systems, to focus product development and to build distribution channels. Hydrogenics believes that forklifts can be one such early adopter application of its technology. (GCC)

Honda is equipping all of its hydrogen fuel cell-powered 2005 FCX vehicles with a "hydrogen homing" navigation system that incorporates the location of hydrogen fueling stations, including those being developed as part of California's ìHydrogen Highwayî initiative. (GCC)

Natural Gas

According to a report released by the consultancy TIAX, heavy-duty natural gas powered vehicles (NGVs) in 2010 that meet strict emissions standards will be comparable in owner lifecycle costs (LCC -- to own, operate and maintain) to equivalent diesel-powered vehicles when the price of crude oil is between $22 per barrel and $31 per barrel (2010 prices), depending upon the vehicle and application.

At $60/barrel (in 2005 dollars) NGVs will have an advantage over their diesel counterparts in the three applications examined in the report (refuse hauler, transit bus, and short haul heavy-duty truck). (GCC)

The Government of Canada has extended the Natural Gas for Vehicles Market Transformation Pilot Project to include conversions as well as the buying or leasing of a new natural gas vehicle.

An additional C$1.855 million (US$1.5 million), provided by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), will provide fleet owners up to C$3,000 (US$2,400) per vehicle toward the installation of an advanced natural-gas vehicle (NGV) conversion system. This is the same maximum benefit allocated toward new vehicles. (GCC)


Corning announced that it is investing an additional $100 million to expand capabilities at its new clean-diesel products manufacturing facility in Erwin, N.Y. This expenditure is in addition to a $70-million expansion announced in February 2005.

This incremental investment will provide more firing and finishing capability to meet anticipated demand for the recently introduced Corning DuraTrap AT filter, for diesel passenger car use, as well as demand for Corning substrates and filters for medium and heavy-duty diesel engine applications. (GCC)


The University of Michigan won the 2005 North American Solar Challenge (NASC) with a cumulative time of 53 hours, 59 minutes and 43 seconds, for an average speed of 46.2 mph.

The University of Minnesota placed second in the race with an unofficial total time of 54:11:35. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology placed third with an unofficial time of 56:34:43. Rankings are preliminary, subject to final review and approval. (GCC)

British scientists working under the aegis of the Foresight Vehicle program have perfected a way of producing self-reinforced polypropylene (SrPP) vehicle parts. SrPP is up to six times stronger than conventional polypropylene (PP).

The breakthrough opens the door to a large array of lightweight car, truck and van parts that can be made more simply and cheaply than would be possible using conventional materials. The ultra-strong, ultra-light parts will help lower exhaust emission levels and decrease fuel consumption. (GCC)

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When asked if you wana be rich and early death or poor and long life what do most peope say?... they pick thier cars accordingly.

IF you wish to change thier picks you must change the roads.. but as you have about as much likelyhood to build enough new roads to matter and we have about as much want to be squished... lets all sing merrily as we all go to hell together.

As people get older they stop thinking it will never happen to me and instead ask WHEN will it? And guess what realy big ass group of americans reached that milestone? CHEERS:)

Posted by: wintermane on 31 Jul 05



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