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The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (08/07/05)
Mike Millikin, 7 Aug 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:

Propelled by strong growth in the transportation sector, especially in developing economies, world oil consumption will increase to 103 million barrels per day in 10 years, and to 119 million barrels per day by 2025, according to the new International Energy Outlook 2005, released this week by the DOE's Energy Information Administration.

Those levels reflect a 23% increase in oil consumption from 2005 to 2015, and a 42% increase from 2005 to 2025. Those projections are slightly lower than the projections made last year, as the agency has trimmed its expectations for demand growth to reflect higher oil prices.

The analysis forecasts that the growth in the use of alternative fuels through 2025 will remain "modest." (GCC)

July auto sales figures came in this week, showing continued strength in the market for hybrids, with 19,428 total units sold. April remains the month with the highest hybrid sales activity, with 20,974 units sold. (GCC)

That activity was far overshadowed, however, by the sales of light trucks and SUVs during the month, fueled by the employee-discounts-for-all programs of GM, Ford and Chrysler.

Ford broke its 13-month losing streak with a 29% increase in July sales compared to the same month last year. The company sold 366,548 vehicles last month compared with 285,204 vehicles the prior year.

Sales of the F-Series pickup truck line alone accounted for 35% of those sales. The 126,905 F-Series trucks consumers bought in July represent the highest monthly sales for any vehicle in modern day US automotive history, according to Fordóand perhaps the highest monthly sales for any vehicle since Ford's Model T in the 1920s.

By way of comparison, Ford sold 1,138 Escape hybrids during the month, or 0.3% of total sales. Toyota's hybrids, on the other hand, represented a combined 7% (14,517 units) of its July total of 216,417 cars and trucks. (GCC)

Toyota may be leading the market for hybrids, but that doesn't mean it is oblivious to ongoing customer demand for large, fuel-inefficient vehicles as well.

Toyota is increasing the production capacity of its new San Antonio truck assembly plant by 50,000 units. The $50-million investment will raise overall capacity by one-third to 200,000 vehicles per year. (GCC)

China may be finally moving to implement the long-discussed and long-postponed fuel tax. According to the Development Research Center of the State Council and the Ministry of Finance, China will implement the fuel tax policy no later than next year.

Just a few months ago, the Ministry of Finance said that the country would further delay implementation of the fuel tax due to high oil prices and domestic inflation, and that imposing it would add to transportation costs. Now the concern appears more to be using the tax as a policy tool to influence China's future energy consumption and car buying habits. (GCC)

Hybrids

The Southern California Air Quality Management District (AQMD) has decided to acquire and to test an Energy CS plug-in Prius in addition to the fleet of 35 Priuses it is converting to hydrogen-fueled combustion engine-hybrid drives.

This plug-in project complements another plug-in hybrid (PHEV) initiative by AQMD in testing five PHEV commercial vans (the DaimlerChrysler Sprinter). The Southern California Air Quality Management District (AQMD) has decided to acquire and to test an Energy CS plug-in Prius (earlier post) in addition to the fleet of 35 Priuses it is converting to hydrogen-fueled combustion engine-hybrid drives (earlier post). (GCC)

An unnamed large North-American-based company is purchasing an Azure Dynamics parallel-hybrid-electric delivery vehicle for testing and evaluation.

This announcement comes shortly after earlier announcements from Azure on series-hybrid shuttle buses, Class-7 hybrids, and delivery of series-hybrid prototypes to the USPS (GCC).

Cobasys and Motorola have agreed to cooperate in the development and manufacture of battery control system components for hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) battery systems.

The hybrid battery pack controller, which integrates Motorola-designed hardware with Cobasys patent-pending software, will monitor and control the hybrid battery pack and also perform diagnostics for Cobasys' advanced Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery system. (GCC)

Biofuels

Cargill is investing in a new 200,000 tonnes/year (60.4 million gallons US) biodiesel facility in Mainz in Germany. The output will be equivalent to approximately 10% of the currently projected biodiesel production capacity of 2,033,000 tonnes in Germany in 2006, according to figures from the German Union for the Promotion of Oil and Protein Plants. (GCC)

Petrobras, the Brazilian state-owned oil, gas and energy company, made its first export shipment of ethanol this week, destined for Venezuela. Initial forecasts are for a monthly shipment of some 25,000 cubic meters (some 6.6 million gallons US).

The company had announced earlier this year that it intended to begin participating in the renewable fuels export market. Petrobras will invest US$330 million in the next five years to develop the requisite transport infrastructure. (GCC)

Researchers from Norway and the UK have discovered a new protein that is essential for the degradation of the biopolymer chitin. This new molecule could eventually lead to the discovery of similar molecules that could be used in the production of cellulose-based biofuels. (GCC)

A Vermont utility, Green Mountain Power, is fueling its fleet of linetrucks with a B20 blend of biodiesel, sourced from Champlain Oil company. (GCC)

Hydrogen

Although its ultimate success is uncertain, the FreedomCAR (Cooperative Automotive Research) and Fuel Partnership is making "significant headway" on its goals of developing hydrogen-fueled transportation, according to a new report by The National Academies' National Research Council.

Many technical barriers remain and new inventions will be needed, but the program, launched three years ago, has already made an excellent start, according to the committee that wrote the report. (GCC)

Air Products has awarded a subcontract to FuelCell Energy to integrate evaluate, design and demonstrate a Hydrogen Energy Station (HES) that will co-produce electricity and hydrogen for vehicle fueling and electrical power.

The system, which integrates FuelCell Energy's Direct FuelCell (DFC) sub-megawatt power plants with an Air Products' hydrogen purification system, can use a variety of gaseous feedstocks, such as natural gas, propane and anaerobic digester gas from municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities. (GCC)

Honda, GM and BMW are working to develop and to standardize fueling systems (e.g., filler nozzles, couplers) for liquid hydrogen. (GCC)

Exploratory talks between Toyota and GM on developing fuel cell technology have apparently stalled out. (GCC).

Diesel

Bosch announced that it had delivered its 25-millionth common rail fuel injection system for diesel vehicles at the end of July. In 2004 alone, the automotive supplier produced 5.8 million systems.

Bosch first introduced common rail injection in 1997. In 2003, Bosch launched its third-generation common rail system featuring piezoelectric inline injectors, which assist in reducing engine emissions by 15%ñ20%, while simultaneously decreasing combustion noise and fuel consumption. (GCC)

Chrysler is doing better than it expected with its introduction of the diesel Jeep Liberty CRD (earlier post). Through the end of the July, the company has shipped 8,300 units to dealers and sold more than 4,000ócompared to its original estimate of selling perhaps 5,000 in the entire first year.

Speaking at the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Michigan, however, the incoming head of Product Development for the Chrysler Group, Frank Klegon, cautioned against assuming on a rapid expansion of the company's diesel offerings in the US. (GCC)

Natural Gas

Fortune Oil has opened its CNG fueling station at Tongzhou in Beijing. One of the largest in Beijing, the Tongzhou station will sell gas for use by buses, households, businesses in Beijing suburbs.

The Beijing City administration has announced a plan to increase the number of gas-powered buses from the current 2,100 to 5,000 by 2008.

Demand for natural gas in Beijing is growing rapidly, driving the expansion of the distribution infrastructure bringing gas from the gasfields in Xianjing. (GCC)

Hybrid Fuel Systems has finalized an exclusive 15-year agreement with WITCO International for resale of its conversion systems in China and India.

HFS offers a family of conversion systems enabling light-, medium- or heavy-duty gasoline or diesel engines to displace up to 80% of conventional fuel with natural gas or propane. (GCC)

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is testing the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) as a replacement for diesel in its locomotives. (GCC)

Other

Mazda Motor, in collaboration with the Nippon Paint Company, has developed a new electrodeposition basecoat (e-coat) that substantially reduces both volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and CO2 emissions generated as part of the vehicle painting process. (GCC)

Mazda plants in Japan are some the first sites for the use of Ford's new "3-Wet SSS" painting system that itself significantly reduces VOCs and CO2 emissions (earlier post). The new e-coat process will further reduce painting's environmental impact. (GCC)

-Mike Milikin
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Comments

I'm watching and invested (in a small way) in an Idaho Co. call Intrepid Technology and Resources.
They are building Anaerobic Digesters on large dairies to convert the waste to commercial grade Methane gas. The gas will be used for heating fuel, vehicle fuel, ect. The process they use gives a gas that's equal to the Natural Gas we're all aware of. As a matter of fact, InterMountain Power has contracted with them to buy all the gas they produce and add it into their pipeline. (see photos and get the info at the url http://www.intrepid21.com/main1.htm )
We MUST develope AltFuels in the near term or suffer the consciences.
High oil prices are bringing the country much distress even now. With gas well over two bucks, it's putting a strain on the average worker just to commute to work and back.
Maybe the "new" fuels we develope won't be less expensive, but at least the profits could remain in country to find a cheeper energy for the future.
Any other ideas?

DB


Posted by: DBnDallas on 7 Aug 05


I have serious doubts as to whether the world will ever be capable of producing 103 million bbl/d. Either now or in 10 years.

I guess we should look at the bright side though. It seems like slow progress is being made. As long as energy prices climb at a relatively slow rate, the economy will have a chance to adapt. If we were to have a sudden price shock on the other hand...


Posted by: EY on 7 Aug 05

From the developments, I see that the worlds appetite for fossil fuel is not slowing down, and the majority are ignorantly acting negatively than positively. China has been talking about their fuel tax for years, but from the way I see it may never be implemented and The US is still a hotbed for enegy wasting automobiles.

The most effective way to curb fuel consumtion is to place fuel economy mandates on each and every vehicle sold all around the world. i am not suggesting another CAFE legislature, its more in the line of Individual Fuel Economy (IFE) than Cooperate Average.

The CAFE system is flawed and has too many loopholes. For example, BMW is pushing to sell more of the mini to offset their load of high performance, high fuel consuming line-up. That tactic in itself is a sin. Legislature around the world should install fuell economy mandates ad prohibit the sale of vehicles that fail to meet the criteria. China could benefit from such an implementation, but it seems the government is more concerned about economic expansion than saving the planet.

All in all the sale of those huge Pickups in america should stop and the reat of the world should do everything possible to prevent wastefull fuel usage, because even if we switch to an all Biomass fuel supply or the so=called Hydrogen economy, at our current rates of consumption, those green alternatives would cause probles of their own.


Posted by: Tman on 7 Aug 05

Thanks very much for the great capsule of relevant energy-related news. Concise and editorial free--what a rare feat in the environews world.

Anyway, I wondered if you have any more info on a process I recently became aware of called a biodryer. In short, the concept is to capture the heat evolved from an aerobic compost of mixed MSW and C&D, and use that heat to dry the resultant compost to ~15% moisture. Normal compst comes out ~50% moisture.

The biodried product can then be burned as biofuel. With proper separation on the front end and screening on the back of the process, the material that makes it into the fuel is largely organic so it burns fairly clean. It comes in at ~8K BTU/lb--about what soft coal has for heat value. I would argue this is also a fairly carbon neutral burn given that no new carbon is being used.

Wright Environmental makes one such version and I suspect others do as well.

Anyway, if this process works, it has great upside. Garbage is everywhere-but it is collected and brought to central points daily. Adding a biodryer operation is fairly cheap, the biofuel in Europe sells for upwards of 18Euros/tonne, and then there's the avoided tipping fees.

Is this news? Thanks.


Posted by: clib chubley on 8 Aug 05

DBnDallas:  Great scheme for getting rid of manure, but you might notice that nobody says much about the total quantity of gas available.  Every time I've compared actual numbers for bio-fuel potential against our consumption, it has been glaringly obvious that we have an enormous gap to fill.

EY:  That's one thing that's so interesting about e.g. wind power.  The top twenty states for windpower have something like 1.2 TW of potential between them (by an old estimate which assumes shorter towers than are now current).  Current US electric consumption averages a mere 440 GW or so, and the energy consumed by road vehicles in the US is a paltry 183 GW.  A bunch of turbines and an off-the-shelf energy storage solution like zinc-air fuel cells and we'd be free of both petroleum AND coal.

It would mean changes; LD electric transmission capacity would have to be multiplied many times over, and probably converted to DC.  But I'm certain that we could do it.


Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 8 Aug 05

The discussion surrounding energy availability and usage is a bit myopic. Not all energy sources are equivalent or used for the same purpose. Efficiencies, new energy sources and re-tooling are the areas that need to be looked at for a transition. I agree with Engineer-Poet, that electricity supply in this country can be met with current technology, but a vast effort in efficiency needs to be undertaken. The Europeans rely more on electricty for heating, people transport and food production than we do. It is no surprise that Western Europena nations (on average) can extract twice as much GNP per barrel of oil than we can. They have a vastly more diversified and electrified economic base.


Posted by: Xavier on 8 Aug 05

I for one see some potential positive things in high fuel prices. Here they are:

1)High prices force consumers to make better choices about how to get from point A to B(smaller cars, public transportation, carpooling, riding bikes)
2)High prices help bring our dependency on these fuels to the political and economic forefront.
3)Over the long run high prices will make the car manufacturers who lobbied against CAFE standards pay for their short-sightedness
4)The higher prices go the more economical the clean alternatives are.

I want to see fuel prices jacked up even higher. From what I've heard and read above, the current prices hasn't changed American driving habits or purchase habits much.

Will that possibly cause a recession? Maybe, and that's OK if it causes the people and the politicians to START ACTING DIFFERENTLY.


Posted by: Erik Ehlert on 8 Aug 05

i a gree i think u got it about right, keeep up the good work i allso think that the price of fuel need to go up i think it will be 3§ a gallon by the end of the year


Posted by: m green on 9 Aug 05

Current US electric consumption averages a mere 440 GW or so, and the energy consumed by road vehicles in the US is a paltry 183 GW.

Engineer-Poet, I appreciate your analyses to the skies, but your language is misleading. What you mean to say is that the energy delivered to the wheels is a paltry 183 GW. The amount consumed by road vehicles is much higher, but most of it is wasted through inefficiencies, as your linked post makes clear.


Posted by: Laurence Aurbach on 9 Aug 05

Indeed.  I use the 183 GW number (I should recalculate that now that the 2003 data are available, and cross-check with BTS statistics) because so many people look at the raw energy input and think that there's no way we can replace it.

Looked at in terms of outputs rather than inputs, replacement looks a lot less intimidating.


Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 9 Aug 05



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