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The Week in Sustainable Transportation (11/12/05)
Mike Millikin, 13 Nov 05

greentaxinyc.jpgMike Millikin writes about the ongoing evolution of transportation at Green Car Congress

The just-released 2005 edition of the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook (WEO 2005) projects world energy demand to increase by more than 50% between now and 2030, assuming policies remain unchanged.

Although the IEA estimates world energy resources are adequate to meet this demand, the implications of the investment required and the rise in CO2 emissions (52% higher than today) lead to "a future that is not sustainable," according to William C. Ramsay, Deputy Executive Director of the IEA. (GCC)

New York became the second state to follow California in restricting emissions of greenhouse gases from vehicles. The New York State Environmental Board approved State regulations, proposed earlier this year by Governor Pataki, that adopt the greenhouse gas emissions regulations passed earlier by California. Vermont last week also adopted the California restrictions, under which new motor vehicles would be required to emit approximately 30% fewer GHGs by 2016 than without the regulation. (GCC)

The UK's Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO), announced this week by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, will require that 5% of all UK retail fuel come from a renewable source by 2010. A 5% level would represent a 20-fold increase in biofuels sales over current amounts.

The feasibility study behind the RTFO looks ahead to a "second generation" of biofuels by 2020 that would use lower-value feedstocks such as straw and even organic waste materials. Those fuels, notes the government, offer even higher levels of carbon savings, and potentially lower costs, and could provide a steppingstone to renewably-produced hydrogen. (GCC)

US Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) recently introduced legislation calling for a "Renewable Diesel Standard" (RDS) that would mandate 2 billion gallons of bio- and synthetic diesel in the national supply by the year 2015. (GCC)

In a move to encourage higher fuel efficiency, China is preparing to cancel local restrictions on low-emission and small-engine cars in 84 cities in 22 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. (GCC)


New York City's first hybrid taxis—a mini-fleet of six Ford Escape hybrids—officially entered operation today with a ceremony in midtown Manhattan where officials from government, advocacy groups and industry gathered for the send off. (GCC)

Lexus is adding a front-wheel drive (FWD) version of its RX 400h hybrid to the all-wheel drive (AWD) model which has been on sale since April of this year. With a combined system output of 268 hp (200 kW), the RX 400h FWD delivers zero-to-60 mph acceleration in 7.5 seconds, and offers a combined fuel economy rating of 30 mpg. This is a tad slower off the mark than its AWD cousin, but with incrementally better fuel economy. (GCC)

Ford Motor Company announced that it has begun developing the third-generation of its hybrid transaxle in-house. The new transaxle will handle both 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder engines. The transaxle is a central device in hybrid vehicles, responsible for transferring the power from the battery and/or the gasoline engine to the wheels. The hybrid transaxle also allows for the recovery of kinetic energy through the hybrid's regenerative braking system. (GCC)

Shanghai Automotive (SAIC) put on display at the 2005 Shanghai International Industrial Expo some of its accelerating R&D work in alternative and efficient vehicles, including a prototype of the hybrid Touran under development with its partner Volkswagen. Exhibits included alternative fuel engines (dimethyl ether engines (DME) for city buses, methanol engines for sedans); hybrids (buses in addition to the Touran); and fuel-cell prototypes (multi-purpose vans (MPV) and sedans). (GCC)

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has purchased 20 New Flyer diesel-electric hybrid buses as part of a larger US$95-million order of 265 new low-emissions buses. The hybrids use the GM-Allison parallel hybrid drivetrain. (GCC)

RailPower Technologies, makers of the Green Goat hybrid switch locomotive, and Mitsui Bussan Transportation System Co. have agreed to explore the market potential for RailPower's hybrid locomotive technology with Japan Freight Railway Company (JRF). (GCC)

Cyber Defense Systems, a designer and developer of next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Techsphere Systems International (TSI), a designer, developer and manufacturer of manned and unmanned airships, has entered into an exclusive agreement with ISE Corporation for the purchase of ISE's hybrid drive trains for application in Techsphere Airships. (GCC)


Electro Energy Inc. (EEI) will receive $1.5 million from the US Department of Energy (DOE) for continued development and demonstration of its bipolar wafer-cell Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery energy storage program. EEI, among its other projects, is currently working with CalCars on developing a bi-polar NiMH battery system for the Prius+ plug-in hybrid testbed. (GCC)


Work being done by ArvinMeritor, IAV (Ingenieursgesellshaft fžr Auto und Verkehr) and MIT on enhancing gasoline combustion with a small hydrogen gas stream produced by a compact on-board plasma reformer is pointing toward a potential estimated improvement in gasoline fuel economy of 20% to 30%, depending upon the baseline engine. (GCC)

A new research project at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is tackling the challenge of the robotic mass production of fuel cell stacks. (GCC)


Bunge, the world's leading oilseed processor, is taking advantage of the expanding biodiesel market by expanding the rapeseed crushing capability in its Oil Mill in Mannheim, Germany. The new rapeseed crushing capacity is expected to come online in the second quarter of 2006, bringing the total capacity of the facility to approximately 1.3 million metric tons annually, up from its current level of 1.1 million tons. (GCC)

Abengoa Bioenergy has obtained financing to build its fourth ethanol plant in the US, a 330 million liter (87 million gallon) per year facility in Ravenna, Nebraska. The plant will almost double Abengoa's current US capacity of 365 million liters (96 million gallons) per year. (GCC)


Rentech, a Fischer-Tropsch process company, announced two major Coal-to-Liquids projects for in the US. First, the company is acquiring a Royster-Clark nitrogen fertilizer plant in East Dubuque, Illinois, that it will convert to support its polygeneration strategy: the co-production of fertilizer, Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuels and electric power via coal gasification. (GCC)

Second, the company announced it will build a new Coal-to-Liquids plant near Natchez, Mississippi. Although FT fuels are the primary output, the plant may export some electric power as well. Both plants will use Illinois coal. (The coal will come down the Mississippi river for the Natchez plant.) (GCC)


TransLink, the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority, is ordering up to 95 40-foot, compressed natural gas (CNG) heavy-duty buses for the Greater Vancouver area. The base order for New Flyer buses is for 73 vehicles, with a contract value of C$30 million (US$ 25.3 million). The buses are due to be delivered in mid-2006. (GCC)


The EPA has issued its final schedule for the mandated transition to ultra low-sulfur diesel (containing less than 15 ppm sulfur) next year. In the schedule, the agency grants a 45-day extension for terminal and retail outlets to comply with the implementation of the rule. The start date for refinery production of ULSD is not affected by the change. (GCC)

International Truck and Engine Corporation gave its customers a preview of what to expect from changes required in its trucks to meet the more stringent EPA emissions guidelines coming into effect in 2007: rising prices and a greater degradation of fuel economy than expected. (GCC)

The EPA has announced the recipients of 10 off-road Clean Diesel grants totaling more than $1 million. The value of the grants will nearly triple to $3 million, as industry partners contribute almost two dollars for every dollar of federal funds. Technologies introduced through the projects will include the use of ultra low-sulfur diesel (ULSD), after-treatment devices such as oxidation catalysts and particulate filters, and engine replacement. Many of the grants will support projects that reduce emissions in low income neighborhoods and areas that don't currently meet federal air quality standards. (GCC)

Researchers at Clarkson University are developing an implementation of a "boat tail"—an aerodynamic device attached to the rear— for Class 8 tractor trailers that could help improve highway fuel economy by up to 10%. (GCC)


Moving forward on the Memorandum of Understanding signed earlier this year, Fiat Group and Ford Motor have signed a definitive agreement to co-operate on the joint development and production of vehicles in the European small car (sub-B) segment. The automakers are already working jointly on the development of the new vehicles, a new Fiat 500 and a replacement for the current Ford Ka in Europe. (GCC)

Toyota plans to outsource to Fuji Heavy Industries the full redesign of an existing subcompact, possibly a sporty subcompact. Toyota bought an 8.7% stake in FHI, the maker of Subarus, from GM earlier this year. (GCC)

Ford has unveiled its new 3.5-liter V6 engine platform, a more powerful and cleaner engine that eventually will be under the hood of one in five Ford products in North America. An all-new architecture provides significant flexibility to incorporate additional engine technologies. The 3.5-liter engineering team included extra provisions to make upgrades relatively simple. These upgrades include such potential features as hybrid capability, gasoline direct injection and direct-injection turbocharging. (GCC)

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