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The Week in Sustainable Transportation (10/09/05)
Mike Millikin, 9 Oct 05

ymc1.jpgUS Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) outlined legislation he is about to propose that will mandate that within three years, 10% of new cars sold in the US be hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or alternative fuel (especially biofuel) vehicles, and that within 7 years, 50% of new cars sold in the US be made of those combinations. The overall goal of the package is to reduce oil consumption by 5 million barrels per day within 10 years, and by 10 million barrels a day within 20. (GCC)

Combined sales of full-size SUVs dropped 43.5% in September from the year before. GM and Ford, the most dependent on SUV sales, were the hardest hit, with drops of 42.5% and 54.5% respectively. (GCC)

Ford has ceased production of the giant Excursion SUV, labelled the “Ford Valdez” by the Sierra Club in 1999. (GCC)

US ridership of mass transit is increasing, according to figures released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). According to research cited by APTA, if Americans used public transportation at the same rate as Europeans (roughly 10% of total daily travel needs) the US would reduce its need for imported oil by more than 40% (at the current level of domestic production). (GCC)

The Chairman and CEO of AutoNation, the US' largest chain of car dealerships, is calling for ongoing increases in the federal tax on gasoline in an effort to encourage conservation and alter buying patterns. (GCC)

Singapore is extending and increasing its rebate program for green vehicles for another 2 years till the end 2007. The incentive is applicable to those who own electric, hybrid cars and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles. (GCC)

The US House of Representatives narrowly passed a Republican-crafted energy bill Friday aimed at encouraging construction of new refineries. In addition to its support for refinery siting and construction HR 3893, the Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005, also tackles gasoline distribution and pricing; reduces the number of specialized fuels in the country from 19 to 6; and codifies the President's ability to waive fuel quality standards in time of emergency. Prior to the vote on the floor, the House Rules Committee blocked an attempt to offer as an amendment to HR 3893 a bill increasing CAFE standards 10% by 2016. (GCC)

HYBRIDS

Azure Dynamics Corporation has sold four of its recently introduced 20-passenger series hybrid electric shuttle buses to UPROSE (the United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park). A grant from the New York Power Authority (NYPA) supported the purchase. (GCC)

Mazda will display a Premacy Hydrogen RE (rotary engine) Hybrid concept vehicle at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show. The Premacy Hydrogen RE combines the dual-fuel, hydrogen/gasoline RENESIS rotary engine with a Mazda mild hybrid system. (GCC)

North American Bus Industries (NABI) has introduced a 5-door hybrid-electric articulated 60-foot coach designed for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) applications. NABI's new diesel hybrid combines a Caterpillar C9 330 hp engine and the GM-Allison EP50 two-mode compound split hybrid drive used in the other GM parallel hybrid transit buses on the market. (GCC)

GM is selling its approximate 20% equity stake (about 157 million shares) in Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI), the maker of Subarus. Toyota is buying slightly less than half of those shares, and will end up with a 8.7% stake in FHI. The tie-up between Toyota and FHI will benefit the development of hybrid and electric vehicles, given FHI’s work with Lithium-ion batteries and its own hybrid technologies. (GCC)

Yamaha Motor Company is hitting the Tokyo Motor Show with a wave of four hybrid, electric and fuel-cell motorcycle and scooter prototypes and one production electric scooter (along with some more conventional motorcycle muscle). (GCC)

BATTERIES

Toyota Motor has increased its equity stake in Panasonic EV Energy from 40% to 60%, making the joint venture with the Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. group a Toyota subsidiary. Panasonic EV provides the NiMH batteries for Toyota and Honda hybrids. (GCC)

HYDROGEN

AC Transit of Oakland, California has unveiled its new hybrid-electric, hydrogen fuel cell bus at the APTA expo last week. The AC Transit design, three years in the making, features a UTC Power 120-kW fuel cell power system and an ISE Corporation hybrid-electric drive system installed in a Van Hool (Belgium) bus. (GCC)

Honda announced it will put a new FCX Concept fuel cell vehicle on display at the Tokyo Motor show. The new FCX Concept breaks with the more utilitarian design of the current Honda FCX fuel cell vehicle that is in limited production and distribution. The new four-door sedan features a low-floor, low-center-of-gravity platform and a full-sized cabin. (GCC)

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign may have opened the door to more efficient mirobial production of hydrogen (biohydrogen) by uneiling some of the mechanisms in hydrogenase. (GCC).

Membrane Reactor Technologies Ltd, (MRT), a Canadian developer of hydrogen generation and purification systems, today announced that it has signed an agreement with Mitsubishi Canada for Mitsubishi to exclusively represent MRT's commercial interests in Japan, with non-exclusive rights for the rest of the world. (GCC)

BIOFUELS

The Department of Energy (DOE) issued a comprehensive plan for a new generation of biological research that builds on genome project investments to tackle national energy and environmental challenges. The Genomics: GTL (Genomes to Life) Roadmap -- Systems Biology for Energy and Environment outlines a plan to explore the potential of microbes -- starting with information encoded in their DNA sequences -- for achieving cleaner and more secure energy resources, remediating toxic wastes and understanding the natural roles microbes play in the global climate. Two areas of explicit focus are ethanol from biomass and biohydrogen. (GCC)

Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) announced plans to build its first wholly-owned biodiesel production facility in the United States as well as a third German biodiesel plant in Mainz. The US plant will have an annual production capacity of 50 million gallons; the German about 84 million gallons. (GCC)

The Canadian province of Ontario will require an average of at least 5% ethanol in all gasoline sold in the province beginning 1 January 2007. (GCC)

Malaysia will mandate the sale and universal use of a B5 blend of biodiesel beginning in 2008. (GCC)

KAIROS Scientific, a biotechnology company in the fields of digital imaging spectroscopy and protein engineering, announced that it has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant will be used to accelerate the development of optimized cellulases—enzymes that selectively degrade cellulose fibers derived from wood, plant material and recycled paper. (GCC)

DIESEL

Ford Motor Company and PSA Peugeot Citroen announced the fourth phase of their diesel engine co-operation with the launch of two new families of efficient 2.2-liter engines for their light commercial vehicle (LCV) and executive car lines. (GCC)

As it promised earlier this summer, Renault has announced a higher-powered, 175-hp version of its new 2.0 dCi diesel engine, coupled with a periodic regeneration particulate filter. (GCC)

SYNTHETICS

Syntroleum’s stock price fell 41% this week following the company's announcement Monday of the unsatisfactory drilling results from the Aje-3 appraisal well in Nigeria—in other words, a "dry hole." The Aje-3 appraisal drilling was intended to lay the foundation for a stream of oil and natural gas production that would provide the first test for -- and justification for construction of -- Syntroleum's Gas-to-Liquids Barge. (GCC)

NATURAL GAS

The first LNG-fueled yard tractors are going into service at the Yusen terminal in the Port of Los Angeles. Built by Kalmar Industries and powered by the 250-hp Cummins Westport C Gas Plus dedicated natural gas engine, the LNG tractors are projected to cut NOx emissions by 65% and PM emissions by 80% compared to a conventional off-road diesel unit. (GCC)

The announcement came shortly after the California Air Resources Board released its report on PM emissions from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, in which it identified the ports as contributing 21% of the PM emissions in the South Coast Air Basin. (GCC)

The City of San Francisco and Norcal Waste Systems Inc., the city's refuse collection, recycling and transfer company, will deploy and demonstrate Westport's second-generation High Pressure Direct Injection (HPDI) LNG technology for heavy-duty trucks in a pilot program through 2011. This will mark the first deployment of the new HPDI technology in heavy-duty trucks in the US. (GCC)

Citroen and Gaz de France (GDF) have launched a dual-fuel gasoline-natural gas version of its C3, the C3 1.4i GNV, into a pilot program in the French market along with a home refueling system. (GCC)

OTHER

Toyota Motor Corp has developed a derivative of the Cherry Sage shrub that is optimized for absorbing pollutants from the air. The new Kirsch Pink plant is reportedly 1.3 times more effective at absorbing NOx, SO2 and other air pollutants than its parent stock, the Cherry Sage. Toyota is targeting first-year sales of Kirsch Pink at 10,000 plants, priced at ¥380 (US$3.34) each. (GCC)

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Comments

“US Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) outlined legislation he is about to propose that will mandate that within three years”

Bad, bad, bad. This is socialist, central control. How does he know that 10% is the right number? He doesn’t. It’s just a political sound bite, pulled from his ass. Much, much better would be to reflect the true price of pollution at the gas pump. We’ve already seen SUV sales fall off and hybrids pick up under the current price hikes. Add another 50 cents and watch it really take off. The CEO of AutoNation has the right idea.

“The US House of Representatives narrowly passed a Republican-crafted energy bill Friday aimed at encouraging construction of new refineries.”

If they didn’t do anything to prevent NIMBY lawsuits from shutting down construction, nothing will get done. The regs on the books allow refineries to be built; it’s the lawsuits which “ban” them. Same for safe & efficient nuclear.


Posted by: Brock on 9 Oct 05

How could we know that 50 cents, or any amount, reflects the “true price of pollution”?

In the end, it’s all central control.

I agree that we shouldn’t mandate how fuel efficiency is increased, just that it is. The first best way to do this may be increasing the tax on gasoline, but a bill proposing an increase in the price of wouldn’t stand much of a chance with the current administration. Increasing the CAFE standards would be the second best solution, but that ain’t happening either.

It may be that this is our only chance to move forward with fuel standards in the near future, and I’m at least happy to see senators addressing the issue.


Posted by: Ryan Knight on 9 Oct 05

"How could we know that 50 cents, or any amount, reflects the “true price of pollution”?"

Step 1. - Have the government pay for pollution clean up.
Step 2. - Add in the Medicare bills caused by air, soil, and water pollution.
Step 3. - Tax polluters appropriately.

It's not central control; it's accounting.

PS - Yeah, I'm sure I missed stuff too, I'm just trying to get the point across, not be comprehensive.


Posted by: Brock on 9 Oct 05

I think the Environmental Accounting and the New Wealth of Nations article just below this one does a pretty good job of explaining just how hard that would be.


Posted by: Ryan K on 9 Oct 05

The point isn't to reflect the "true cost" of anything - that's a futile exercise using flawed methods. The point is to send a signal and to affect behavior. Where I live, we have a 5¢ to 15¢ deposit on virtually all beverage containers. That's not the "true cost" of a broken bottle on the roadside - sometimes it hardly matters, another time a kid might crash her bike and cut her femoral artery. So we urge people not to chuck bottles, using an easily-understood language. Yes, it's "coercive", but so are traffic lights, contracts and seismic codes.

The comments seem to reflect a debate about "appropriate coercion." Brock prefers a price signal through a fuel tax; Ryan is skeptical about that. If our market system did a better job of sending clear signals to well-informed consumers, I think I'd agree with Brock. But I understand Ryan's doubts.

Here's a weird suggestion: what if we had a different way of receiving price signals? What if the price of a vehicle was both the vehicle cost, and the cost of the fuel to run it for some time period? This would be like cell phones, in which few care about the phone price - what matters is the cost-per-minute to talk. Why not try that with vehicles? A vendor could offer, say, a five-year lease that includes use of the vehicle, and a debit card for up to, say, 10,000 miles (16,200 km) of fuel per year. (Folks could purchase extra "debit card" fuel at their discretion.) This would be for one monthly lease payment, reflecting the service of personal transport.

Then, I think, a gas tax would be effective. I think you'd see very innovative behavior by consumers and producers.


Posted by: David Foley on 10 Oct 05

"According to research cited by APTA, if Americans used public transportation at the same rate as Europeans (roughly 10% of total daily travel needs) the US would reduce its need for imported oil by more than 40% (at the current level of domestic production)."

Good point.. however... The U.S. doesn't nearly have anywhere close to the same infrastructure in public transit as does Europeans. I wish we did, but we don't. So that statistic is appealing.. but oil alone isn't going to bring on change. It has to be a social and cultural change. We need to redesign cities, communities, and transportation.. more than anything we need to redesign habits.

Hopefully oil can be a starting point... the tipping point.


Posted by: Chad Weinman on 10 Oct 05

No what needs to be done is we need to build more roads so that people take less time to get to work or to shop.

Our road system is still in the 70s and as a result people spend too much time to get to work and as a result of that need a bigger more confortable commute car to avoid health problems.

Part of the fix for that will be robotic cars but the rest will have to come from expanded roadways in the chokepoint areas where commutes grow too long.

We also need to separate bulk cargo and commuters onto different roadways as we used to do. You cant have a 500lb podcar puttering amid 100000lb trucks. In fact I dare say we likely need commuter roads designed for narrow width cars where the lanes are only 6 feet wide. We also of course need more truck roads for all the stuff we need.


Posted by: wintermane on 10 Oct 05

The hybrid bike pictured for this post is the coolest looking bike I have ever seen!! Bright Green and Good Looking, Bruce Sterling would be proud.


"Gen-Ryu. This high-performance hybrid motorcycle combines the YZF-R6 600cc engine with a high-output electric motor. Yamaha claims that the Gen-Ryu offers the running performance and handling of a 1,000-cc machine."


Posted by: jim moore on 10 Oct 05

I live in Connecticut, and Lieberman has the right idea, normally I think he's a weasel but this time i think he has the right idea. THe law seems pretty tough, and it points us in the rigth direction to alternative fuels instead of gasoline (which we have been using since 1900)


Posted by: David on 11 Oct 05

The alt fuels are already well on thier way to being in the production stream. With the cost of getting them to market anything less then something as drastic as dropping the farm sub and then subin alt fuels with the saved money wouldnt do a damn thing.

And most of those alt fuels wont do anything for pollution itself. If anything they will make it worse.


Posted by: wintermane on 11 Oct 05


Mon Dieu! The Gen-Ryu is a prime example of why eco-design has never taken off.... Packaging. Aesthetically speaking, that is the most unrefined, patently ugly motorcycle I have ever seen. If the sustainable design community can't make an eco-friendly form of transportation aesthetically palatable, they're never going to win over the masses. What is this insistence upon making a sustainable product look sleek and futuristic to the point of absurdity? I'm 100% for sustainability, but how can we convince those who aren't to open their eyes (let alone their wallets) if this odious product is the best we can offer?

Word.

Design Dave


Posted by: David Parrott on 13 Oct 05

Two words you aren't ready for: stop driving. There, that is the end of it.


Posted by: person on 15 Oct 05



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