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The Week in Sustainable Transportation (12/18/05)
Mike Millikin, 18 Dec 05

smartev.jpgMike Millikin covers the ongoing evolution of transportation at Green Car Congress.

Among its other attributes, December is the month in which a number of major organizations release their projections for energy supply and demand for the coming year and beyond.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that global demand will continue to grow annually at an average of 1.8 to 2.0 million barrels per day (bpd) through 2010, resulting in “possible strains” on the supply side. The IEA raised its forecast for growth in oil demand next year to 1.79 million barrels a day, an increase of 7.8% over its prior estimate. This marks the first increase in the forecast since July. (GCC.)

The Energy Information Administration of the US DOE released a preview edition of its upcoming Annual Energy Outlook 2006 (AEO2006) in which it increases the projected price for crude oil by about 64% from this year's forecast. In the new reference case, EIA assumes world oil supplies are tighter as the combined productive capacity of the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) does not increase as much as previously projected.

Higher world oil prices in AEO2006 lead to some increases in domestic crude oil production and increase the demand for unconventional sources of transportation fuel, such as ethanol and biodiesel. The agency sees the stimulation of production for domestic coal-to-liquids production and, in some of the alternative scenarios with even higher oil prices, domestic gas-to-liquids and shale oil production.

The higher prices also slow the growth in petroleum demand. Delivered energy consumption in the transportation sector in the AEO2006 reference case is projected to total 37.3 quadrillion Btu in 2025, 2.7 quadrillion Btu (7%) lower than the AEO2005 projection. The IEA forecasts market demand driving increases in fuel efficiency, and with hybrids and diesels each eventually accounting for about 7% of annual new car sales by 2025. (GCC.)

ExxonMobil’s view in its Energy Outlook 2006 is that while the increase in global energy demand through 2030—a hefty 60% jump—remains the same as its view last year, the mix is slightly different. ExxonMobil is projecting a slight slowing in the growth in oil demand, based largely on the impact of higher oil prices and an increasing focus on vehicle fuel efficiency.

The company sees non-OPEC oil production (of all sorts, including coal- and gas-to-liquids, oil shale and sands and other unconventional sources, plateauing around 2020. And although in ExxonMobil's view the call on OPEC is down from last year, the company forecasts that the OPEC oil producer must increase their daily production from 30 million barrels to 47 million barrels per day to meet the coming demand, which will be driven largely by the growth in the Asia-Pacific economies.

ExxonMobil has a much more aggressive view of the penetration of hybrids than does the EIA, assuming that by 2030, full hybrids will approach 30% of new sales per year in the US and Canada. (GCC.)

HYBRIDS

Sichuan FAW Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. (SFTM), a joint-venture vehicle production company established with China FAW Group Corporation (FAW), began assembling the Prius hybrid in China this week on schedule. The company hopes to sell 3,000 Prius in China next year. (GCC.)

BMW Group Research and Engineering is developing a steam-powered auxiliary drive -- called the Turbosteamer -- that uses the waste heat present in the exhaust gases and cooling system from a conventional gasoline engine as its source of power. In tests with a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine, the new auxiliary power unit reduced fuel consumption by up to 15% while generating nearly 14 additional horsepower and 20 additional Nm of torque. (GCC.)

DaimlerChrysler's smart division has developed a series of concept test cars that incorporate a range of advanced and alternative-fuel technologies: gasoline and diesel hybrids, cng-fueled, and electric. (GCC.)

Hyundai Motor Group announced it will collaborate with the LS Group and LG Chem on the development of hybrid cars. Hyundai recently introduced a mild hybrid version of its Accent.

Hyundai will work with industrial electrical goods supplier LS Group on hybrid components such as motors, power transmissions, inverters and wires. The two companies already set up a joint research and development team and plan a joint venture to make the hybrid car components.

LG Chem will supply Hyundai with lithium-ion polymer batteries it is developing under a US$4.6 million contract from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC). LG Chem and Compact Power Inc. (CPI, LG Chem's US battery system research institute) are jointly carrying out the project. (GCC.)

First Auto Works (FAW) of China began producing a hybrid city bus, powered by an Enova pre-transmission 90-kW parallel-hybrid drive system. (GCC.)

Enova Systems has integrated and delivered a post-transmission 120 kW parallel-hybrid truck to a major unnamed North American truck manufacturer as an initial milestone in a joint-development program announced earlier this year. As delivered, the hybrid drive system provided an average reduction in fuel consumption of more than 31%, and an increase in mileage in excess of 48%. Given the demonstrated performance, Enova believes that the vehicle could be in production in the second half of 2006. (GCC.)

Enova Systems also announced a joint Hybrid-Electric School Bus program with a major North American Truck Manufacturer—possibly the same one. The School Bus project will feature Enova's post-transmission 80-kW Hybrid Drive System and has the potential to lead to future production 2006 and beyond. A prototype is scheduled to be completed before 31 December 2005. (GCC.)

North American Bus Industries (NABI) has been taking a new 60-foot articulated parallel hybrid bus designed for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) applications on a promotional tour in the West. The new diesel hybrid combines a Caterpillar C9 330 hp engine and the GM-Allison two-mode compound split hybrid drive used in the other GM parallel hybrid transit buses on the market. (GCC.)

BIOFUELS

Ford began production of the first F-150 E85-capable flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs). The company has committed to producing 250,000 FFVs for the US market in the coming year; it has produced more than 1 million FFVs globally in the past decade. The flexible fuel technology is being built into the 5.4L, V-8 engine model and is available at no additional cost. (GCC.)

GM announced that it will feature seven new models at the upcoming Greater Los Angeles Auto Show in 2006, one of which is a more powerful concept version of a flexfuel Saab, the Saab 9-5 Aero BioPower Concept. The 2.3-liter turbocharged Saab 9-5 Aero BioPower Concept can burn ethanol blends of up to 85% (E85), and delivers almost 20% more maximum power -- 310 hp (231 kW) vs. 260 hp (194 kW) -- and 25% more torque -- 441 Nm vs. 350 Nm -- than its gasoline counterpart. (GCC.)

GreenShift Corporation, a business development company that is aggressively expanding its portfolio of renewable or sustainable energy companies, has acquired rights to Ohio University's patented cynaobacteria-based bioreactor process for reducing greenhouse gases emissions from fossil-fueled combustion processes. The algae are then cycled out of the system to produce biofuel or for other uses. In concept, this is very similar to GreenFuel Technologies' "Emissions-to-Biofuels" reactor; the implementation is, however, quite different. (GCC.)

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is proposing an energy plan intended to accelerate the development of a market for biofuels as well as to help households pay power bills and to put new resources into energy conservation. One component of the plan is a minimum B2 (2% biodiesel) blending for retail diesel. (GCC.)

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) announced nine recipients of the newly-created Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Grant Program within the Iowa Values Fund Program. The program provides funding to gasoline retailers and biodiesel suppliers to help offset the infrastructure cost of bringing biodiesel and E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) to the public. (GCC.)

Agri-Ethanol Products, LLC will build a $150-million ethanol plant in Beaufort County, North Carolina. The plant will produce 114 million gallons of ethanol per year. This will be the first ethanol plant in North Carolina and the first on the East Coast of the United States. (GCC.)

Another first ethanol plant comes in Indonesia, with Medco Energi International, Indonesia's largest upstream oil and gas exploration firm, plans to build a $34.13-million, 16-million gallon ethanol plant in Lampung province in 2006. (GCC.)

BATTERIES and ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Toyota Motor is accelerating efforts to develop a practical lithium-ion battery to power hybrid motor vehicles in a bid to reinforce its presence in the market. The project will be led by Panasonic EV Energy, a joint venture between Toyota and Matsushita Electric Industrial, as part of Toyota's program to develop a smaller, more powerful hybrid vehicle. Toyota recently increased its stake in Panasonic EV to 60%, making it a subsidiary. (GCC.)

Lithium Technology Corporation (LTC) announced that it will supply two of the vehicles in Challenge X—one of which is a plug-in hybrid—with its GAIA high-power lithium-ion polymer batteries. Challenge X, sponsored by GM, is a three-year competition to re-engineer a GM Equinox crossover sport utility vehicle to minimize energy consumption, emissions, and greenhouse gases while maintaining or exceeding the vehicle's utility and performance. (GCC.)

HYDROGEN

Mazda has moved up the start of leasing of its hydrogen RX-8 in Japan to the beginning of next year -- almost a year earlier than initially planned. (GCC.)

Hyundai Motor Company has delivered the first two of an eventual ten Hyundai and Kia Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) to the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) in California for testing and evaluation. (GCC.)

Shell Hydrogen will convert an station in West Los Angeles to a public integrated hydrogen/gasoline refueling station by the end of 2006. (GCC.)

Hydrogenics Corporation has sold a hydrogen-generation and refueling system to Korean Gas Technology Corporation (KOGAS-Tech) for refueling vehicles at the KOGAS research and development facility in Incheon, near Seoul. Unlike its standard hydrogen-generation system based on water electrolysis, the Hydrogenics generating unit for KOGAS is based on natural gas reforming. (GCC.)

NATURAL GAS

SMART Automobile, a Singaporean taxi operator, has launched the nation's first fleet of CNG-powered taxis—a set of 30 Mercedes-Benz E200 NGTs. The four-cylinder 1.8-liter engine delivers 120 kW (163) of power and peak torque of 240 Nm. In natural gas mode it reduces CO2 emissions to 168 g/km -- down more than 20% compared to gasoline mode. (GCC.)

SYNTHETICS

DynaMotive Energy Systems Corporation and Future Energy GmbH of Freiberg, Germany, have entered into a comprehensive Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) as a first step in the implementation of a strategic alliance based on the gasification of DynaMotive's BioOil and BioOil-char for the development of Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) fuels and chemicals.

DynaMotive produces bio-oil via fast pyrolysis; bio-oil is not biodiesel, and it is not used directly in vehicle engines (it has about half the energy content of diesel). Rather, it is used in the power sector, but it can be reformed to produce hydrogen or gasified to provide input to a Fischer-Tropsch process to produce synthetic fuels.

Future Energy is an entrained flow gasification company. The two believe that their combination will provide a highly competitive platform for synthetic fuels and chemicals from biomass. (GCC.)

A new spin-off form Oxford University&nmdash;Oxford Catalysts—has developed novel catalyst technology that can be used to transform waste methane into hydrogen for use with fuel cells, or into Fischer-Tropsch liquid fuels (GTL or CTL) that can be used for engines or heating and are easy to transport. Further applications include the partial oxidation of natural gas and removal of sulfur from crude oil. (GCC.)

Digital Gas has signed an agreement to partner with a private US-based company that owns the exclusive rights to a high temperature fuel cell (HTFC) method to be applied to in-situ geothermic production of oil shale and other unconventional sources of synthetic crude. (GCC.)

OTHER

The University of Manchester (UK) has been awarded £5.98 million (US$10.6 million) to develop a new class of light alloy solutions for use in aircraft, trains and automobiles. (GCC.)

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