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The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (10/23/05)
Mike Millikin, 23 Oct 05

ecoracer.jpgThe Tokyo Motor Show opened this week, with a heavy emphasis on hybrids and hydrogen. Among the many reveals was the flagship Lexus LF-Sh luxury hybrid, combining a V8 with the hybrid drive.

GM lost $1.6 billion in the third quarter (GCC); Ford lost $284 million (GCC). GM will cut some 25,000 jobs by 2008; Ford will resort to significant plant closings. For the nine months of the year, Ford is still in the black; GM has lost $3.8 billion.

In a keynote address to the Society of Automotive Engineers' "Global Leadership Conference at The Greenbrier," Mark Fields, Ford executive vice president and president of the Americas, noted that the auto industry faces seven specific and serious challenges, one of them being that oil production is peaking. (GCC)

HYBRIDS

The Farmers Insurance Group of Companies announced a 5% discount to customers in California who own a hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle. This is the first such insurance discount offered to hybrid and altfuel owners in the US. (GCC)

Enova Systems announced that several of its existing customers in Asia and Europe have placed new production orders for hybrid drive systems and fuel cell drive system components. Furthermore, several of its customers have announced the commissioning of heavy-duty vehicles utilizing Enova's HybridPower drive systems into commercial service. (GCC)

Railpower has announced the order of nine Green Goat hybrid switcher locomotives by three different companies in Texas. Kansas City Southern is ordering six (two for Dallas and four for Beaumont); Fort Worth & Western Railroad is ordering two; and Lubrizol in Houston, one. (GCC)

ELECTRIC

The Keio University team behind the eight-wheeled electric Eliica has introduced the latest version of the speedster at the Tokyo Motor Showóa public road test car with a bit more of a roomy-sedan feel than the earlier record-setter. (GCC)

HYDROGEN

DaimlerChrylser has had 30 Mercedes-Benz Citaro city buses with fuel-cell drive in operation in Europe within the framework of the CUTE fuel-cell bus project since 2003; three more are in service every day in Australia. Together, these 33 buses have clocked up a total of 70,000 operating hours and passed the mark of one million kilometers (621,500 miles)óthe most operating experience of any trial of fuel-cell buses to date. (GCC)

Honda unveiled its new 3V hydrogen fuel cell drive system in the FCX Concept at the Tokyo Motor Show. The 3V system—vertical gas flow, vertebral layout, and volume-efficient packaging—delivers more power and a longer range than the current FCX model on the road. Honda also introduced its Home Energy System (HES): a combined heat, power and hydrogen fueling station. (GCC)

In a series of four papers presented at an Electrochemical Society conference, a Stanford professor and his students presented work that significantly reduces the operating temperature of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) while maintaining power density, advances that could eventually lead to them being applied in vehicles. (GCC)

Ford Motor Company is delivering five hybrid hydrogen Ford Focus Fuel Cell vehicles (earlier post) to two Michigan cities as part of a 30-vehicle test deployment. Taylor will get four vehicles and Ann Arbor will receive one. (GCC)

Startup hydrogen storage company Hydrexia Pty Ltd snagged the A$100,000 top prize in the University of Queensland (UQ) Business School Enterprize competition. Hydrexia uses cast magnesium-nickel alloys with novel nano-structure to store hydrogen as a solid metal hydride. To maximize the hydrogen storage capacity and hydrogen release rate, modifications have been made to the casting technique, but without adding significantly to the cost or complexity of the production process. Under laboratory conditions, Hydrexia's alloys have demonstrated a hydrogen storage capacity of up to 7 wt%, which would allow a vehicle carrying a 100kg hydrogen storage unit to safely store hydrogen for a 500km driving range (a target set by the US Department of Energy for hydrogen storage systems by 2010). (GCC)

Mazda, which used the Tokyo Motor Show as a platform to outline its strategy of using gasoline direct injection, hybrids and hydrogen-fueled rotaries, said that it would have its dual fuel hydrogen hybrid Premacy van in mass production in three years. (GCC)

BIOFUELS

The American Trucking Associations's Board of Directors has revised ATA's alternative fuels policy to advocate the use of biodiesel in blends up to 5 percent (B5) as part of the national diesel fuel standard. Through a federation of other trucking groups and its fifty affiliated state trucking associations, ATA represents more than 37,000 members covering every type of motor carrier in the United States. (GCC)

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will begin distributing $300,000 in federal grant money to support the installation of additional fueling infrastructure—storage tanks and pumps—for ethanol and biodiesel at fueling stations. (GCC)

Four major automakers—Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Holden—have acceded to pressure from the Australian Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, to label their Australian-made cars as compatible with 10% ethanol-gasoline blends (E10). The labelling campaign is designed to increase consumer confidence in ethanol. (GCC)

DIESEL

At the Tokyo Motor Show, Volkswagen presented its EcoRacer—a mid-engine diesel sports car with fuel consumption as low as 3.4 liters/100km (69 mpg US) and a maximum speed of 230 km/h (143 mph). (GCC)

Volvo Trucks North America announced that it will offer a complete family of heavy-duty diesel engines to meet the more stringent US emissions standards which take effect in 2007. The new family of engines will include 11- and 13-liter models, in addition to the 16-liter Volvo D16 introduced earlier this year. Volvo North America has selected high-performance exhaust gas recirculation (HEGR) as the primary NOx emissions control and a diesel particulate filter (DPF) for particulate control for its EPA 07-compliant engines. (GCC)

An EU project—IMITEC: Integrated Material and Information Technologies for Novel Emission Control Systems—has developed a set of new pollution sensors as part of an Emissions Control System for diesel engines that achieve anticipated Euro 5 emissions standards. (GCC)

SYNTHETICS/UNCONVENTIONAL OIL

The provincial government of Alberta, Canada, and 16 oil and petrochemical companies are evaluating a proposal to build a new C$7 billion (US$5.9 billion) refining and chemicals complex in the central part of the province to handle oils sands output. The refinery, with an initial capacity of 300,000 barrels per day, extendable to 450,000 bpd, would upgrade the bitumen extracted from oil sands into finished product: about 70% fuel products, 30% petrochemicals. (GCC)

Also in Alberta, Premier Ralph Klein is dismissing the possibility of building a nuclear power plant in the oilsands region to support the production and upgrading of the resource. Klein also says that he is firmly set against using natural gas for the processing, preferring to see the oil sands companies use coal, hydroelectricity, coal bed methane or the bitumen itself as "much better alternative than using natural gas.&rdquo. Using natural gas would be a "tremendous waste of a resource." (GCC)

NATURAL GAS

Honda is offering customers in Southern California's South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) who purchase a Honda natural gas-powered Civic GX the Phill home refueling appliance at no additional cost for 48 months without any additional commitment at the end of the term. (GCC)

OTHER

Mazda is displaying a new form of an idle-stop system for direct-injection spark-ignition engines that uses combustion and the reverse operation of the engine as a restart trigger rather than an electric motor. Called the Smart Idling Stop System, it injects fuel directly into a cylinder while the engine is stationary and ignites the fuel to create downward piston force that serves to start the engine. Mazda claims that the Smart Idling Stop System is more energy-efficient than an electric motor restart, and also restarts the engine more quickly and quietly than a conventional idle-stop system. (GCC)

Mitsubishi Motors will begin supplying fuel-efficient 700cc gasoline engines to DaimlerChrysler for use in the smart car starting as early as 2006. The engine is a slightly enlarged version of the 660cc MIVEC engine Mitsubishi will use in its i minicar. Mitsubishi Motors is expected to supply an annual 80,000 to 100,000 engines to DaimlerChrysler. (GCC)

Reaction Design, a leader in computer-aided chemical-process simulation, has announced the launch of its Model Fuels Consortium (MFC). MFC's goal is to accelerate the development of software tools and standardized databases to support the design of cleaner-burning, more-efficient engines and fuels. (GCC)

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