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The Week in Green Vehicles (09/18/05)
Mike Millikin, 18 Sep 05

88 mpgEvery Sunday, Green Car Congress' Mike Millikin gives us an update on the ongoing evolution of sustainable transportation. Here's Mike:

With the sharp rise in gasoline prices catalyzed by the disruptions caused by Hurricane Katrina in the background, the biennial Frankfurt International Auto Show (IAA) was the venue for a number of automakers to show some hybrid concepts, and make announcements on future plans.

Unfortunately, the emerging tendency in applying hybrid technology is oriented more toward maintaining or increasing power while delivering smaller gains in fuel efficiency. Gains of that magnitude, while not to be disparaged, are also potentially achievable through a variety of other approaches with combustion engines: spray-guided gasoline direct injection, turbocharging, cylinder deactivation and others.

To put it another, cruder way: the current development activity demonstrated by most automakers with hybrids is akin to piling up a couple of rows of sandbags on top of a Category 3 levee. It’s not going to do much for you when the Cat 5 storm hits.

The Chairman of PSA Peugeot Citroën observed in remarks to the press at the IAA: (GCC)

If hybridization involves combining a gasoline and an electric engine, the benefits are comparable to those provided by substituting diesel engines for gasoline engines, except that one of these solutions is much less costly than the other. That's why I believe there is no real advantage in developing hybrid gasoline engines in those parts of the world where diesel engines are well established. Only a hybrid diesel engine is attractive because it offers both benefits.

And those are the benefits we need to see, but more.

What we need in the hybrid market is intense, focused development on plug-in hybrids: vehicles that feature a downsized combustion engine combined with a robust electric motor and energy storage system. Those are the vehicles that will take us up the order of magnitude in fuel economy that will become necessary as we transition, in the longer term, to electric drive (whether that be hydrogen-fueled or grid-charged).

Hybrids at the Frankfurt IAA:

  • Toyota had no new hybrids to introduce, but Executive Vice President Kazuo Okamoto said all of the company’s vehicles will eventually be based on hybrid powertrains. Toyota also indicated that it aims to increase hybrid production by 60% in 2006 and will cut costs and prices to make them more affordable. Toyota also said that it will boost production of its motors for hybrids next year by 30% to keep up with rapidly rising demand.(GCC)

  • As noted last week, Honda introduced its 2006 Civic Hybrid with the next-generation IMA hybrid drive. (GCC)

  • Audi introduced a concept hybrid version of its new SUV, the Q7, at the Frankfurt IAA, and also announced that it was collaborating with its parent Volkswagen and Porsche on hybrid powertrains, although no contracts, letters or memoranda have yet to be signed. This is a large (2,410 kilograms; 5,313 pounds), performance hybrid that has fuel consumption of 12.0 liters/100km (19.6 mpg US)—13% better than the conventional Q7. (GCC)

    Audi also announced that it was collaborating with its parent Volkswagen and Porsche on hybrid powertrains.

  • Porsche, accordingly, announced that it would develop a hybrid version of its Cayenne SUV based on the Audi/VW powertrain sometime before the end of the decade. (GCC)

  • BMW introduced its latest supercap hybrid concept vehicle, the X3 EfficientDynamics. Combining a next-generation direct-injection inline six cylinder engine with an electric motor and supercapacitor energy storage allows the SUV to accelerate from 0-100km/h in about 6.7 seconds. Fuel consumption compared to a conventional X3 is reduced by approximately 20% to an estimated 9.4 l/100km (25 mpg US) from the current 11.8 l/100km (20 mpg US). (GCC)

    BMW also announced that it would implement spray-guided gasoline direct injection technology, stop/start and regenerative braking on all models in the future. (More on this below).

  • DaimlerChrysler introducing gasoline and diesel Mercedes mild-hybrid concept cars based on the S-Class.

    The 'Direct Hybrid' is a V6 gasoline hybrid that uses spray-guided direct injection (GDI) to optimize efficiency of the engine. The 'Bluetec Hybrid' uses a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system to meet future diesel emissions requirements. Both use the same mild hybrid transmission—not the full two-mode GM/DaimlerChrysler hybrid powertrain under development. (GCC)

  • Ford indicated that it is considering putting micro-hybrid capabilities into the Duratorq 2.0-liter diesel engine line by using a belt-driven integrated starter generator (B-ISG). The Ford Focus and the C-MAX both feature the engine, and Ford believes that it is this segment in which such micro-hybrids would be the most appreciated by customers. (GCC)

  • Daihatsu unveiled the HVS, a new lightweight hybrid concept sportscar. The HVS combines a 1.5-liter gasoline engine and a 4WD hybrid system. The company suggests that the performance will be reminiscent of a 2-liter engine, but with fuel economy exceeding that of a 1-liter engine. (GCC)


Purolator Courier, Canada's largest courier company, is purchasing 115 new series hybrid-electric delivery vans from Azure Dynamics. This marks the largest hybrid order to date in the commercial delivery industry.

In Purolator's testing, emissions dropped by a minimum of 50% while fuel consumption was reduced by approximately 50% compared to conventional delivery vehicles. (GCC)

NexxtDrive (formally DriveTec UK), a UK-based design and development company, has developed a power-split electronic Continuously Variable Transmission (e-CVT) with dual motor-generators. NexxtDrive claims that the DualDrive can provide potential fuel and CO2 emissions savings of up to 20% even in non-hybrid applications. With the addition of a more robust energy storage and management system enabling full hybrid capabilities, NexxtDrive projects savings of up to 35%. (GCC)


Anuvu is producing and delivering a fuel cell-battery hybrid Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) to Reg Technologies for evaluation and testing. The 2.5-kW fuel-cell unit will serve as a range extender to the NEV battery, effectively tripling its operating time from two hours to six, and thus providing a range increase from 25-50 miles per charge to 100-150 miles. (GCC)

Hydro Technology Ventures, the investment company of oil, energy and aluminum giant Hydro, has invested in SuperProtonic, a development-stage company formed by CalTech scientists working on Solid-Acid Fuel Cells (SAFC).

The goal of the solid-acid fuel cell work is to develop a fuel cell that is equivalent on a $/kW basis to internal combustion engines based on reducing the use of precious metal catalysts, lowering the cost of the electrolyte and the electrodes, and enabling a simpler design than in PEM cells. (GCC)


Biofuel Solutions and Cargill are planning a 110 million-gallon-per-year (mgpy) ethanol plant to be located in Fairmont, Minn. adjacent to the local Cargill Ag Horizons grain elevator. The plant would be one of the largest in the US, and Cargill’s largest in the country. Cargill is the third-largest US ethanol producer with an 85 mgpy ethanol plant in Blair, Neb. and a 35 mgpy plant in Eddyville, Iowa. (GCC)

The City of Berkeley has reduced its carbon emissions by 14% since 2002. The largest percentage by far of the net 2,066 metric ton reduction came from vehicles, primarily due to the use of biodiesel and expanded use of electric and natural gas vehicles. (GCC)

Three Indonesian investors are starting ethanol plant projects in Lampung province, each with an annual capacity of 150 million liters (40 million gallons US). (GCC)


Executives from Sasol, the South African energy company and the world's largest producer of synthetic fuels, are visiting Montana this weekend as they scout for potential sites for a $5-billion Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) plant. Other potential locations include Wyoming, Illinois and Alaska. (GCC)

Total is planning to invest some €500 million (US$612 million) in France on biomass-to-liquids, gas-to-liquids and renewable energy projects over the next four years. The company is also investing some €2.8 billion (US$3.4 billion) in its refining operations in the country. (See below) (GCC)


Westport Innovations has signed a Letter of Intent with Weichai Power Co. Ltd. to cooperate on the development, marketing, and sales of CNG, LNG and hydrogen engines and vehicles for the Chinese market. Weichai is one of China’s largest manufacturers of internal combustion engines with more than 70% share in both the heavy-duty vehicle and construction machine markets. (GCC)

Magna Steyr has introduced a CNG-fueled concept single-seater sports car, the MILA (Magna Innovation Lightweight Auto) at the Frankfurt IAA. (GCC)


GM Opel introduced a new 1.9-liter, twin-turbo diesel crossover concept, the Opel Antara GTC at the Frankfurt IAA. As applied, the twin-turbo, based on the popular 1.9-liter diesel ECOTEC family, dramatically increases the power and torque range of that engine family while maintaining comparable levels of fuel consumption. (GCC)

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) is ordering more new clean diesel buses with Caterpillar engines to replace older CNG fueled buses. The RTA has exercised options to purchase 92 additional clean diesel buses manufactured by North American Bus Industries, Inc. (NABI). The new buses will feature Caterpillar C9 engines with ACERT technology. (GCC)

Maruti Udyog, Suzuki's Indian subsidiary, is targeting the domestic diesel passenger-car market with plans to roll out a line of diesels cars beginning by the end of 2006. Suzuki has already announced that it will manufacture the 1.3-liter diesel engine licensed from Fiat and Opel for its new Swift at the Indian plant. As the New Swift is a 'world car' and already on sale in India, it seems pretty safe to assume that a number of those new Maruti diesel sales will come from the New Swift. With the 1.3-liter diesel, the New Swift delivers 51 mpg US (4.6 l/100km) and emits only 122 g/km CO2. (GCC)

Oil and energy major Total will spend some €2.8 billion (US$3.4 billion) investment in refining in France to increase diesel production at four refineries; to improve energy efficiency and further reduce the environmental footprint of refineries; and to build an upgrader at the end of the period to convert surplus heavy fuel oil into automotive fuel. The combined capital expenditures (three times the amount spent in the first half of the decade) will enable production of an additional 4 million metric tons (about 29 million barrels or 1.2 billion gallons US) of diesel. The company is also planning to spend some €500 million (US$612 million on renewable energy projects (See above). (GCC)

ArvinMeritor has introduced a diesel-fuel vaporizer system for reliable, low-cost diesel particulate filter (DPF) regeneration. The company said that the system would be ready for 2007 model year vehicles. (GCC)


A bipartisan coalition of 16 House Members has introduced legislation calling for increasing fuel economy (CAFE) standards by 32%ófrom the current level of 25 mpg to 33 mpg over the next 10 years. (GCC)

Declaring that a few per cent less fuel consumption throughout an entire model range gives the public and society in general more than a significant improvement of fuel economy on just one niche model, BMW has stated that it will implement spray-guided direct injection on all its gasoline models in the future, as well as regenerative braking and stop/start functionality.

High-Precision Injection (HPI) is a lean spray-guided gasoline direct-injection technology that BMW projects will increase fuel efficiency by up to 10% in the Euro test cycle and between 5%-15% in real world driving. (GCC)

French Ecology Minister Nelly Olin has announced a number of initiatives focused on decreasing CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. The measures include a license tax on cars that emit high levels of CO2, funding for R&D to develop a family car that emits less than 100 g/km of CO2, and increased tax incentives for hybrids and alterative fuel vehicles. (GCC)

Dana Corporation has demonstrated that its AtmoPlas microwave atmospheric plasma technology can be used to initiate combustion in an internal combustion engine. A modified spark plug not only ignites the fuel/air mixture, but also radiates microwave energy into the cylinder for enhanced, more complete combustion to improve efficiency. The presence of the microwave field during the combustion process can also modify chemical reactions to reduce engine emissions. (GCC)

UPS is turning to new route optimization technology in an attempt to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Based on initial results, the new package flow technology will reduce the number of miles driven each year in Sacramento by as much as 265,000 miles—some 6%—saving more than 30,000 gallons of fuel and emitting 288 fewer metric tons of CO2. (GCC)

California's South Coast Air Quality Management District is implementing a landmark $4-million voluntary program to detect grossly polluting passenger vehicles and provide incentives to repair them or scrap and replace them. The $4-million pilot program is the only one in the nation to include both remote sensing and a voluntary repair/replacement component. Remote sensing of 1 million vehicles, followed by repair and scrapping of about 1,000 to 2,000 of the highest-emitting ones is expected to begin early next year and last about 12 months. (GCC)

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Eddie King 09-29-05

Posted by: Eddie King on 30 Sep 05



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