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The Week in Sustainable Transportation (12/04/05)
Mike Millikin, 4 Dec 05

Montreal2005%28logo%29_140w.gifMike Millikin writes about the ongoing evolution of transportation at Green Car Congress

Some 10,000 delegates gathered in Montreal this week in two major international climate change conferences: the 11th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP11) and the first meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP 1).

Bridging the gap between the Kyoto approach of mandatory reductions based on an absolute threshold and the US preference to rely on technology to reduce greenhouse gas intensity (a reduction of emissions per unit of economic activity) rather than adopt an absolute Kyoto-like framework is one of the essential tasks of the two-week conference.

In his annual anniversary address to the UK Royal Society, Royal Society President Lord May invited a comparison of the potential effects of climate change with those of weapons of mass destruction. (GCC.)

A pre-COP11 issue of Nature providing a number of reviews, original research and comment on regional effects of climate change. (GCC.):

  • One study suggested that climate warming already contributes to ill health and thousands of premature deaths across the world, and is likely to have serious health implications in the future.

  • Another suggested that near-surface warming will affect regional hydrology, diminishing natural water storage capacity and resulting in severe consequences for the water supply of one-sixth of the Earth's population.

  • Another modelled out potentially crucial regional effects on streamflow in the future that could threaten the availability of freshwater in many regions of the world by the year 2050.

  • And in the editorial for the issue, Nature posits that Washington DC still doesn't seem to understand the threat posed by global warming.

Writing in Nature this week, researchers in the UK have measured an apparent 30% weakening in the warm Atlantic Ocean currents that carry heat from the tropics to the high latitudes of Western Europe.

The team behind the new study are the first to spot these signs of decline in Atlantic currents, which has been projected as one of the likely effects of on-going global warming. Should this prove to be a sustained decline (there is a degree of uncertainty estimated in the paper), the findings would be extremely significant, and could mark an intensification of European winters in a relatively short period of time. (GCC.)

Without taking additional measures, the EU 15—the 15 longest-standing members of the European Union—will fail to meet their target reduction in greenhouse gases of 8% from the 1990 level required under Kyoto, according to an official report released by the European Environment Agency.

According to the report, The European Environment: State and Outlooks 2005, given current trends and measures, the 15 will deliver a reduction in GHG emissions of 1.6% below the 1990 base year levels—a shortfall of 6.4%. The transportation sector, with an increase in greenhouse gas emissions of 24% from 1990 through 2003, is one of the leading impediments to achieving the target. (GCC)

Using hydrogen and fuel cells in transport and power generation could halve global carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 but major challenges need to be overcome—and more private and public investment needs to be made—according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). But even under the most optimistic conditions, hydrogen will support just 30% of the global stock of vehicles by 2050, according to the IEA study, Prospects for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells. As a result, transportation will require a mixed portfolio of fuel technologies, including biofuels and synthetic fuels. (GCC.)

CalSTEP, a new public/private state organization dedicated to making California a model state for transportation energy consumption by 2020, pledged to develop a plan to lead to a sustainable reduction in the state's overall on-road petroleum fuel consumption of at least 15% below 2003 levels by 2020 while increasing the proportion of alternative transportation fuels to at least 20% of total on-road fuel demand. (GCC.)


Toyota Motor (TMC) will supply hybrid systems to Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI)—the maker of Subarus—and help train FHI engineers in hybrid technology. Toyota became a major shareholder in Fuji Heavy in October following its purchase of share from General Motors. The details have yet to be worked out, such as when and how many hybrid systems Toyota will provide. However, Toyota will be delivering core components, including drive and control systems.(GCC.)

A report commissioned by the US Chamber of Commerce concludes that current revenues at all levels of government devoted to transportation investments are grossly insufficient to maintain, let alone improve, US highways and transit systems. The report, Future Highway and Public Transportation Financing, recommends a variety of short- and long-term financing policy changes, including a special fee on hybrid and alternative-fueled vehicles and the eventual transition to a tax on vehicle miles travelled (VMT). (GCC.)

Reg Technologies announced that modifications on a 42hp (31kW) diesel version of the Rand Cam sliding-vane rotary engine have been completed and that testing is beginning on a genset application for a series hybrid vehicle as well as for an unmanned aerial application. (GCC.)

FedEx Express and Environmental Defense were awarded the CALSTART Blue Sky Award 2005 for "their nearly single-handed placement of commercial hybrid trucks on the map for corporate America." The FedEx and Environmental Defense joint effort led the commercial truck market's interest and efforts into the hybrid market. (GCC.)


Volvo has begun the production of flexible fuel cars capable of running on gasoline or any blend of ethanol of up to 85% (E85). The FlexiFuel engine -- the 125 hp (92 kW) 1.8F -- is available on the S40 and V50 models. FlexiFuel cars will initially only be offered on the Swedish market. (GCC.)

GreenShift Industrial Design Corporation (GIDC), a wholly-owned GreenShift portfolio company, has developed a process to reduce the wastewater sludge that is a byproduct of animal slaughter and processing to allow it to be converted cost-effectively into biodiesel. (GCC.)

Lurgi AG has racked up $200 million in recent biofuel plant contracts: five new biodiesel plants in Germany worth about $82 million and a Panda Energy ethanol plant contract worth about $118 million. Once the new German biodiesel plants have been completed, between 60 and 70 percent of global output of biodiesel will be produced using Lurgi technology. In Germany this proportion will be between 70 and 80 percent. (GCC.)

Starting 1 Jan 2006, diesel-powered public transport vehicles and army trucks and the plantation industry will be the first in Malaysia to use a B5 palm oil biodiesel blend on a trial basis. (GCC.)

Researchers at the USDA Agricultural Research Service have cloned a gene from the Shiitake mushroom and are using that as the mechanism for yeast or other organisms to be able to process cellulosic biomass for ethanol production. The Xyn11A gene encodes for xylanase, an enzyme that breaks down xylan, one of the main components of hemicellulose. The resulting genetically modified yeasts could then process cellulosic biomass for the production of ethanol. (GCC.)


Enerstruct, a subsidiary of Ener1 jointly held with ITOCHU Corporation, has received funding from SBIC (Tokyo Small and Medium Business Investment & Consultation Co.), Japan&rtsquo;s oldest venture capital firm, to further the ongoing research and development of lithium battery production and battery production processes. EnerDel, Ener1's lithium battery subsidiary in which Delphi owns 19.5%, is working closely with Enerstruct to develop a new type of high-rate lithium battery for hybrid electric vehicles. (GCC.)


Hydrogenics' series hybrid fuel-cell Midibus has received public road certification from Germany's TUV Rheinland Group, allowing the bus to be put into full public transit service in Germany. (GCC.)

Nuvera Fuel Cells announced it has reached a multi-year agreement with Fiat Powertrain Technologies and Centro Ricerche Fiat to research and develop a high-efficiency hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion system for fuel-cell vehicles. Nuvera is privately-held, and owned by Amerada Hess, Gruppo de Nora and Renault. The company provided the fuel-cell stack for the Fiat Seicento hydrogen fuel-cell prototype which took first in the compressed hydrogen vehicle category at this year's Monte Carlo and Fuel Cell Hybrid Rally. (GCC.)

Proton Energy Systems, Inc., a subsidiary of Distributed Energy Systems Corp. has received its third consecutive award from the University of Nevada Las Vegas Research Foundation (UNLVRF) to continue its development of hydrogen fueling stations for automobiles and other motor vehicles. (GCC.)

Scientists at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) have sequenced the genome of Carboxydothermus hydrogenoformans, a fast-growing thermophilic microbe that lives on carbon monoxide and produces hydrogen gas and CO2 as waste. The analysis of the genome is providing insights into the metabolism of this organism that should aid those trying to develop this and similar species into systems to produce hydrogen gas biologically from water. (GCC.)

Metal-organic framework (MOF) compounds consist of metal-oxide clusters connected by organic linkers. MOFs are a relatively new class of nano-porous material that show promise for hydrogen storage because of their tunable pore size and functionality. A research team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) used neutron scattering techniques to visualize where hydrogen latches onto the lattice-like arrangement of zinc and oxygen clusters in a particular nanoscale material called MOF5, and pushed hydrogen uptake to about 10% of weight. The FreedomCar and Fuel Partnership involving the Department of Energy has set a level of about 6% as a minimum capacity for economically viable hydrogen storage. (GCC.)


The Government of Canada will contribute C$3.6 million (US$3.1 million) through the Climate Change Technology Early Action Measures (TEAM) program to a consortium of companies that is developing and demonstrating natural gas vehicles (NGV) in India. The project, designed to demonstrate the potential for reduction of greenhouse gases through the use of NGVs, runs through the end of 2008. (GCC.)

A European research consortium is wrapping up a three-year project to develop a three-wheeled, natural-gas powered micro-car: CLEVER (Compact Low Emission VEhicle for URban Transport). (GCC.)

AFV Solutions has received a certificate of conformity from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its gasoline/LPG bifuel conversion system for the model year 2003 Ford Motor Co. 4.6 liter engine. The system allows a vehicle to operate on either gasoline or Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) with a flip of a switch, unlike dedicated propane or natural gas systems which can only operate on one fuel source. (GCC.)

Westport Innovations and Energy Developments Limited (ENE) of Queensland, Australia, have completed the initial feasibility study (earlier post) and are now moving into the next phase of program and business planning for liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered mine trucks. The program involves the application of Westport's proprietary High Pressure Direct Injection (HPDI) technology to allow large mine trucks to operate on liquefied natural gas (LNG). (GCC.)


Syntroleum will begin testing the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) catalyst used in its gas-to-liquids (GTL) process with coal-derived syngas produced at an established gasification facility. The new testing program is designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Syntroleum FT-410 cobalt catalyst with proven coal-derived syngas clean-up and treatment processes for use in a coal-to-liquids (CTL) application. Syngas, which consists of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, is the building block for many chemical processes including FT synthetic fuels. (GCC.)

Suncor Energy, the No. 2 oil-sands producer in the world, will spend about C$3.5 billion ($2.98 billion) in 2006—a 30% increase over 2005—to boost its oil-sands output and to modify its Canadian and U.S. refineries. In its 2005 Sustainability Report released earlier this year, Suncor acknowledged the challenge that increasing oil-sands production will have on its greenhouse gas emissions. Although the greenhouse gas intensity—the emissions per unit of production—has decreased, the absolute emissions of GHG, as well as criteria pollutants, have risen sharply given the increases in production. (GCC.)

Alberta's oil sands are going to be the focal point of the largest-scale competition for energy resources ever seen, according to Donald Coxe, Global Portfolio Strategist, BMO Financial Group and Chairman, Harris Investment Management Inc. Speaking beside a DaimlerChrysler smart car, Coxe said, "Even if the Chinese all have cars like this, we're still going to need massive new oil production." (GCC.)


GM used the Bologna Motor Show as a venue to introduce the new generation of its successful Opel Meriva compact minivan, which has sold more than 500,000 units since its introduction in May 2003. The refreshed minivan line now includes a new entry-level model with the 1.3-liter CDTI (Common rail Diesel Turbo Injection) ECOTEC diesel engine co-developed by GM Powertrain and Fiat. The 1.3-liter CDTI -- winner of an International Engine of the Year 2005 award -- delivers 56 kW (75 hp) of power and 170 Nm of torque with fuel consumption in a combined European cycle of 5.0 liters/100 km (47 mpg US). (GCC.)

Fiat also introduced two new diesel four wheel-drive vehicles at the Bologna Motor Show: a new compact SUV and new Panda CROSS supermini. The new CROSS also uses the 1.3-liter diesel engine and offer fuel consumption of 44.4 mpg US. (GCC.)

Coupling Clean Diesel Technologies' (CDT) Platinum Plus fuel-borne catalyst (FBC) with various emissions aftertreatment retrofit technologies can reduce emissions from older diesel fleet vehicles such as school buses, and local delivery and refuse trucks by as much as 70%, according to recent tests by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). (GCC.)

At the 8 December public meeting of the California Air Resources Board (ARB), ARB staff will propose for Board consideration two new regulations designed to mitigate criteria emissions from cargo-handling equipment used at California ports as well as ocean-going vessels docked the ports or within 24 nautical miles of the coast. (GCC.)


Toyota introduced the new Belta, the sedan version of the Yaris. The Belta delivers fuel efficiency under the Japanese test cycle of 4.6 l/100km (51 mpg US) with a 1.0-liter engine or 5.1 l/100km (46 mpg US) with a 1.3-liter engine, both gasoline-fueled. (GCC.)

Daihatsu Motor has introduced its new KF minicar engine, previewed earlier this year at the Tokyo Motor Show. The 660cc Topaz KF achieves 5% greater torque, 10% better fuel economy and is 25% lighter than its predecessor. (GCC.)

Renault Chairman Carlos Ghosn announced that Renault Samsung Motors (RSM) will begin to export the compact SM3 model under the Nissan brand beginning in 2006. Ghosn is also the chairman of Nissan. RSM, of which Renault owns 70%, is Korea's smallest automaker, and the SM3, originally based on Nissan's Bluebird Silphy platform, is its entry-level vehicle. (GCC.)

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I keep reading about this Ammonia Salt approach to storing Ammonia, which is itself a source of hydrogen:{E6FF7D39-1EDD-41A4-BC9A-20455C2CF1A7}

Has this been featured yet? I was just looking to hear some critiques on it, to see where it comes up short.

Posted by: sanman on 4 Dec 05

Yup it was featured awhile back. As with all things mass market its not the best design that will win its whatever people wind up picking.

Posted by: wintermane on 4 Dec 05

It could be a giant hoax or it could be transforming for the hydrogen economy. So far, the only thing I've seen is the DTU press release at the link posted above.

Posted by: Timetrvlr on 4 Dec 05



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