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The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (08/28/05)
Mike Millikin, 28 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:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA—the agency responsible for CAFE standards—this week proposed reforming the structure of the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) program for light trucks and establishing marginally higher CAFE standards for model year (MY) 2008-2011 light trucks.

The agency anticipates that the higher standards over those four years, if adopted, could reduce consumption by an aggregate 10 billion barrels, or by about 2% of projected total (car and truck) light-duty fuel consumption.

During a transition period of MYs 2008-2010, manufacturers may comply with CAFE standards established under the reformed structure (Reformed CAFE) or with standards established in the traditional way (Unreformed CAFE).

For MY 2011, all manufacturers would be required to comply with a Reformed CAFE standard, which is based on vehicle size. This segmentation by size is the major structural change to Reformed CAFE.

Under Reformed CAFE, fuel economy standards are based on the vehicle's footprint: the product of wheelbase by track width. (GCC)

Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell has launched a pilot project to explore the use of alternative-fuel and hybrid vehicles among the state fleet.

The program sets increasing purchase targets for the next five years, culminating in model year 2011 when 25% of all new passenger vehicles purchased for the Commonwealth fleet are to be hybrid or alternative-fuel vehicles. (GCC)

The City of Austin, Texas officially launched "Plug-In Austin," a community-wide campaign to promote the mass production of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Austin has been in the forefront of pushing for the development and commercialization of plug-ins as a solution. Last October, the Austin City Council passed a resolution in support of working with DaimlerChrysler's plug-in diesel-electric hybrid Sprinter van. (GCC)


General Motors announced that it will launch its Belt Alternator Starter (BAS) mild hybrid system starting in mid-2006 with the Saturn Vue Green Line.

Originally announced late in 2003, the BAS system was targeted for deployment first on the Saturn, then followed by the Malibu.

GM is not yet announcing fuel economy numbers or pricing for the Vue hybrid. However, earlier projections on the BAS systems indicate a range of improvement of around 10%-12%. (GCC)

Daihatsu Motor (a subsidiary of Toyota) reportedly will introduce its first hybrid commercial mini-car to the market, the Hijet Cargo Hybrid.

The Hijet Cargo Hybrid combines a 659cc gasoline engine with an electric motor for an approximately 30% increase in fuel efficiency (compared to its gasoline-only counterpart) and uses Daihatsu's proprietary high-performance self-regenerating catalytic converter to achieve Japan-Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (J-ULEV) level emissions. (GCC)

The San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) has ordered 56 Orion VII series hybrid diesel-electric buses, with an option for 56 more units. The order, the fourth-largest ever for hybrid buses, represent the first production hybrid diesel-electric units ordered by a major California transit system.

The Orion VII models are the same as used by NYC Transit (earlier post and Toronto Transit (GCC)

Lexus is kitting out the Rx 400h hybrid for police trials in the UK. (GCC)

BMW apparently is ready to show the supercapacitor-based gasoline hybrid it had discussed earlier in the year.

BMW built a predecessor of this concept in 2003 when it integrated an electric motor between the engine and transmission to create a hybrid for acceleration assistance in a BMW X5 Experimental Vehicle.

The use of high-performance capacitors rather than batteries enables a more powerful, short discharge for the electric motor that can significantly add to the performance of an engine at low revs. The vehicle also reduced its fuel consumption by up to 15% in the usual test drive cycle. (GCC)

Enova Systems has entered into a joint development program with an unnamed North American truck manufacturer. The project will feature Enova's post- and pre-transmission 120-kW hybrid drive systems. The first vehicle prototype is due to be completed by late this year.(GCC)

SatCon Technology Corporation, a developer and manufacturer of power electronics and motors, announced it has begun shipping products both domestically and internationally from its new line of high-voltage electrical and electronic components capable of input voltages up to 450 Vdc for use in hybrid electric vehicles. SatCon recently announced that it was providing components for Azure Dynamics's hybrid electric vehicles.(GCC)

Honda and Toyota are planning to introduce some of their hybrids to South Korea, while Hyundai plans to increase the number of hybrids it is providing to the government. (GCC>


Mitsubishi Motors has announced that it has developed and will enter another new electric test vehicle—the Lancer Evolution 4-wheel-drive MIEV (Mitsubishi In-wheel motor Electric Vehicle)—in the Shikoku EV Rally 2005 to be held August 27-28 on the island of Shikoku, Japan.

Based on the company's Lancer Evolution IX high-performance 4WD sports sedan (minus the conventional 4WD powertrain), the Lancer Evolution MIEV uses a lithium-ion battery system to power four newly-developed 50-kW in-wheel motors. (GCC)


Panda Energy, a division of the Panda Group, announced that it will build a second 100-million gallon per year ethanol plant in Yuma, Colorado, fueled by renewable biogas generated from cattle manure. (GCC)

A new report sponsored by the Biodiesel Cold Flow Consortium studied the blending properties of biodiesel in response to the need for more data on the part of petroleum blenders and distributors on the most cost-effective means to achieve a homogeneous biodiesel blend in cold weather. The study concluded, based on its testing, that successful B2 blends were made when the biodiesel was 10?F above its cloud point. (GCC)

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced that the city's garbage and recycling trucks are upgrading their exhaust systems and switching to a B20 biodiesel/ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) blend fuel in an on-going effort to reduce emissions. (GCC)


Drilling began at the Aje-3 appraisal well off the western coast of Nigeria. Should there prove to be commercial quantities of oil and gas in the Aje field, this will become the first test of Syntroleum's Gas-to-Liquids barge.

Syntroleum Corporation owns a proprietary air-based GTL process for converting natural gas as well as other materials like coal and petroleum coke into liquid hydrocarbons. The air-based technology is more compact, and Syntroleum strategically is targeting stranded resources: hydrocarbon reserves that are either too small or too remote from major GTL installations.

Should the "mobile" GTL technology prove itself with Aje, it will open up the possibility of numerous types of deployments, such as being able to process gas flared during oil production in locations that have no other processing capabilities for the gas. Gas flaring continues to be an issue of major concern in Nigeria. (GCC)


Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have discovered that a chemical—triazole—when used in a PEM (polymer electrolyte membrane), could allow fuel cells to operate at a higher temperatures without moisture.

This could lead to polymer fuel cells that are more simple in design (and less expensive) and able to run at temperatures high enough to make them more efficient for use in cars and small electronics. (GCC)

Fort Collins, Colorado, is moving ahead with the investigation of Hythaneóa 15% by volume hydrogen, 85% CNG mixtureóas a transportation fuel.

The project, which originated several years ago, began last year by switching one of the city's 12-seater minibuses to the fuel. Fort Collins is now in the process of expanding that trial to another five minibuses. (GCC)

China is also actively exploring Hythane use, having entered into a memorandum of Understanding earlier in the year to convert some 10,000 buses in Beijing to the fuel in time for the Olympics.

Mixing hydrogen in with the compressed natural gas reduces the emissions produced without affecting the performance of the engine.


China will have some 150 trucks powered by natural gas plying the expressway between the eastern coastal city of Qingdao and the Chinese capital of Beijing by 2008, as part of the government's efforts to clean up for an environment-friendly Olympics. (GCC)


Ford in Europe is increasing the availability and types of Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) systems across its best-selling carlinesóincluding retrofit systems for the majority of diesel-powered Ford vehicles already in service.

The automaker now offers current-generation DPFs requiring the use of a liquid fuel-borne additive for regeneration, a new generation of catalyst coated DPFs (C-DPF) which require no fuel-borne additive, and simpler retrofit DPF filters. (GCC)

Cummins and Scania are working together to produce higher-pressure fuel systems for heavy-duty on-highway diesel trucks.

Higher injection pressures create smaller fuel droplets and higher injection velocity to promote a more complete burning of the fuel. This, in turn, maximizes power and minimizes pollution. By squirting needed amounts of fuel in a shorter time frame, a high pressure system can accommodate multiple injection events during each combustion cycleóagain, allowing the engine control software to optimize combustion for particular conditions. (GCC)


VW is introducing the first of a newly-developed gasoline engine family that combines downsizing with dual charging (super- and turbo-) to provide high power output and maximized torque with low fuel consumption.

The first such dual-charged engine from the new TSI family (VW's current main gasoline engine line is the FSI) will be the 1.4-liter version in the new Golf GT 1.4 TSI, to be introduced at the 61st International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt in September. (GCC)

By way of comparison, compared to a current 2.0-liter Golf FSI, the dual-charged and downsized Golf 1.4-liter TSI engine:

  • Is 30% smaller

  • Delivers 14% more power and 20% more torque

  • Reduces fuel consumption by 8%

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