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The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (08/21/05)
Mike Millikin, 21 Aug 05

88 mpg 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:

Electric

Mitsubishi Motors (MMC) is reportedly working with Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) on the development of its previously announced electric car.

TEPCO will provide the recharging system--which can use a standard household circuit--and the rechargeable batteries to support the new EV minicar being developed by MMC. With the new partnership, Mitsubishi is advancing the planned release of the EV, which will use the Mitsubishi In-Wheel Electric Vehicle system, from 2010 to 2008. (GCC)

Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru brand vehicles, announced that it will release the R1e electric minicar by 2010, and that the vehicle will begin roadtests in Japan this year.

Based on the R1 minicar, the R1e uses a lithium-ion battery can be recharged to 90% of capacity in five minutes. The current prototype can be driven 120 kilometers (75 miles) without recharging, but the distance is expected to be expanded to 200 kilometers (124 miles). Fuji Heavy plans to start testing the R1e on public roads this year. The company also unveiled a new capacitor with quadruple the energy density of earlier models. (GCC)

Investors reponded well to the announcement; share prices of both companies rose.

Hybrids

Fuji Heavy also announced that it plans to start selling a hybrid car built using its own powertrain in fiscal 2007. The hybrid will use a turbo engine and thin electric motor, as well as a lithium-ion battery developed jointly with NEC. Fuji Heavy expects the hybrid to deliver 30% better fuel economy and better acceleration than comparable gasoline-powered cars. (GCC)

Albemarle County, Virginia, has added its first hybrids to the county fleet: two Ford Escape hybrids. The county also plans to add two Toyota Priuses to its nine-car fleet within six months. (GCC)

The Charlotte (NC) Area Transit System (CATS) is adding two GM-Allison diesel-electric parallel-hybrid buses to its mass transit fleet. During the first week of use, customers will ride for free when a hybrid vehicle is used on their route. (GCC)

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has posted its estimates of tax credits for 31 hybrid and diesel cars and light trucks that fall under tax credit provisions of the new federal energy bill.

Estimated credits for hybrid vehicles range from $250 to $3,150 (the maximum possible under the provision is $3,400), with the Toyota Prius projected to receive the highest credit. (GCC)

A Canadian engineer has prototyped a Photovoltaic Prius--a 2001 Prius augmented with roof-top solar panels and an additional battery system to supplement the charge in the original equipment NiMH batteries. (GCC)

Biofuels

Shell Deutschland Oil GmbH has acquired a minority equity stake in CHOREN Industries, the producers of a synthetic diesel--SunDiesel--via a Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) process.

The core of CHOREN's technology is its biomass-gasification process that converts biomass into ultra-clean tar-free synthetic gas. This syngas, in turn, is taken through a Fischer-Tropsch process to produce clean synthetic fuels. (GCC)

Capital Technologies, Inc. (CTI) is commercializing a new biodiesel production process developed with Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Advanced Fuel Technology that promises faster and cleaner production of biodiesel at lowered costs through the use of a solid catalyst, rather than a liquid. (GCC)

A researcher at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) has developed a process for converting glycerin, a byproduct of the biodiesel production process, into propylene glycol--a substance that can be used as nontoxic antifreeze for automobiles. (GCC)

Matsushita Electric Industrial, one of the world's top consumer electronics companies, is piloting a project that uses waste vegetable oil from its cafeterias as a feedstock for biodiesel for its fleet. That biodiesel will then be used to create a B20 blend (20% biodiesel) for use by Matsushita's distribution subsidiary in Shiga prefecture. (GCC)

State-owned oil marketing companies in India will set up 20 depots across the country to buy biodiesel from entrepreneurs for blending with diesel.

To ensure quality procurement the companies--Indian Oil Corp, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum--will set up laboratories alongside the collection depots to test the quality of biodiesel being supplied. (GCC)

The South African Energy Development Corporation (EDC), a division of the state-owned Central Energy Fund, is reportedly in talks to buy 30% of maize-to-fuel company Ethanol Africa in a deal potentially worth R180 million (US$27.5 million). This may signal a possible shift in the government's biofuels policy, which currently does not mandate the blending of ethanol into gasoline and of biodiesel into diesel. (GCC)

Flying V formally launched the sale of a B1 biodiesel blend (1% biodiesel, 99% petroleum diesel) using Chemrez's locally-produced coconut biodiesel at Flying V filling stations in the Philippines. (GCC)

Synthetics

Syntroleum Corporation and Australian-based Linc Energy are planning to develop a coal-to-liquids (CTL) project in Australia that integrates Syntroleum's air-based Fischer-Tropsch technology with Linc Energy's underground coal gasification (UCG) technology.

This will be the first such project to combine the two technologies for the production of synthetic diesel from coal. (GCC)

Hydrogen

Ballard Power Systems is to provide 27 Mark 902 4.8-kW fuel cell stacks to Cellex Power for integration into its power units destined for trials in electric lift trucks.

Cellex's power products are designed to replace industrial lead acid batteries in electric lift trucks used in high throughput distribution centers. (GCC)

The US and South Korea will work together to develop a next-generation nuclear reactor that will also produce large quantities of hydrogen according to officials from the S. Korean Ministry of Science and Economy.

The announcement comes less than a week after the South Korea government signed off on an ambitious plan for the country to become a functioning hydrogen economy by 2040, with more than half of all cars to operate on fuel cells by the target date. (GCC)

Diesels

A new Peugeot diesel 4-door 407 HDi Sedan with a manual transmission, rated at 4.9 l/100km highway in Australia (48 mpg US), achieved a substantial 3.46 l/100km (68 mpg US) when driven from the north coast of Australia to the south by John Taylor, a fuel economy driving expert. (GCC)

Suzuki's compact new Swift, unveiled in March at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show, is now hitting global showrooms in its diesel as well gasoline configurations. The new Swift is a ìglobalî car--designed for world markets, it is to be manufactured in Hungary, Japan, China and India. Using the 1.3-liter diesel, the Swift delivers 51 mpg US combined. (GCC)

A number of Germany's major cities are considering plans to ban older diesel vehicles so as to meet European targets on the reduction of PM emissions.

So far this year, 15 German urban areas have already exceeded the annual 35-day limit for exceeding the maximum levels of PM permitted by EU law. (GCC)

Other

GM is working with supplier Robert Bosch and Stanford University to accelerate development of HCCI (homogeneous charge compression ignition) engines with a three-year, $2.5-million research program.

GM estimates that HCCI, which can use a range of fuels including but not limited to gasoline and diesel, could enable the improvement of gasoline-engine fuel efficiency by 20%, while achieving near-zero oxide of nitrogen (NOx) emissions and particulates--contributors to ozone depletion and smog. (GCC)

Zipcar, the US's largest self-service car-sharing company, announced that San Francisco is to become its first West Coast market. The company is expanding nationwide after securing its first institutional round of funding in July. (GCC)

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Comments

I paid a premium to get a low miles 2004 Toyota Prius earlier this year. I commute 80 miles a day, and so far the car is doing it on a little over a gallon. Prius is comfortable and stylish. The computer screen panel is a cool/useful feature. Hybrids cost a little more but the benefits are current green technology and excellent gas mileage. I feel like I am living in the 21st century! I highly recommend the vehicle. Go green: go hybrid.


Posted by: marvin on 21 Aug 05

I am surprised not to hear much of HONDA in the
matter of hybrid technology. I believe that my
2000 (model) year INSIGHT was the first hybrid
automobile to be put on the road. From all that
I have read since then, my INSIGHT continues to
be THE most energy efficient vehicle in existence.
Modulo AMSOIL SAE 0-W30 synthetic crankcase oil,
under "ideal" conditions (flatland, warm highway
cruising near the Florida Keys), I "scratch"
90 mpg tankful average with this vehicle.


Posted by: RAYMOND A BYRNES JR on 22 Aug 05

I purchased new in 2002 I paid a little over $22k (including tax) for a 2002 Prius. That year I claimed a one time Clean Fuel federal tax deduction of $2,000. Since then I have driven across the US 5 times in all kinds of weather conditions and terrain. I was utterly astounded by it's "intelligent" traction in the snow. Along with the Insight, the Prius is truly a hallmark of green engineering for the 21st century. It has such smooth acceleration and deceleration that you begin to feel more in tune with it as an extension of yourself. During my first trek across the US from Seattle to Philadelphia, I quickly realized how much more Toyota could improve power distribution regulation: if only the computer could determine the type of terrain to anticipate. For example, more battery power could easily have been used in generally hilly terrain, rather than using gas power to charge them unnecessarily. Over 64,000 miles so far, my average fuel utilization averages only 43.6 miles per gallon. If I am making local trips on rural roads or city streets, however, I can easily average 60 to 80 MPG. Strangers have been inquiring about my car in proportion with recent increases in gas prices. I almost always say something like, "You know, it is both so efficient and zippy, that I just don't understand why most people aren't driving one! And, why on earth would people insist on giving their money to oil companies while sitting in stop-and-go traffic every day?"


Posted by: Dennis Grayson Morgan on 22 Aug 05



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