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The Week in Sustainable Transportation (1/1/06)
Mike Millikin, 1 Jan 06

The year 2005 came to a close with a string of weather anomalies: wildfires ripping through an extra-dry and hot Texas and Oklahoma, heavy rains in Northern California, a sharp cold snap in Europe, and the 27th named tropical storm of the season—Zeta—forming in the Atlantic a month after the official close of the storm season. Zeta ties with Hurricane Alice in 1954 as the latest tropical storm in the season; with 27 named storms, 2005 tops the chart with the most since record-keeping began.

The price of crude oil ended the year at $61.04 per barrel in New York—up 40% from the beginning of the year.

In a recent speech to the state Environmental Quality Commission (EQC), Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski called upon the EQC to create a strategic plan for the state Department of Environmental Quality to follow in developing and expanding existing programs to fight global warming and improve air quality. Noting warnings by regional scientists and economists that climate change poses a real threat to Oregon?s economy and quality of life, the Governor reaffirmed his support for new regulations reducing CO2 emissions from new vehicles. (The California CO2 regulations.) (GCC.)


An appropriations bill passed by Congress before the holidays and now awaiting the President's signature contains a $2.1-million provision for 2006 for the development of Hybrid-Electric Military Vehicles, including Integrated Starter Alternator research and development. This bill—the Support Our Scouts Act H.R. 2863—is a different bill than the large defense appropriations bill H.R. 1815. (GCC.)

Lucky Cab Company in Las Vegas, Nevada, is testing four Prius hybrids as part of its fleet of 120 cars. The move puts Las Vegas in a small group of cities that have rolled out hybrid taxicabs, including San Francisco, New York and San Antonio. A Chicago taxicab operator is expected to introduce hybrids in the coming weeks, according to Todd Sigaty, executive director of the New York-based Coalition for Smart Transportation. (GCC.)

The ex-CEO of Ballard, Dennis Campbell, observed that hybrids will help accelerate [the commercialization of the fuel cell]. “To be honest, the only thing that could change the game is if someone invented a battery that had a range of 400 miles and could be recharged in five minutes. You wouldn?t need a fuel cell. But people have been working on that for years, and while battery technology is improving, it?s not going to happen.” (GCC.)


The Environmental Protection Agency has announced its first rulemaking under the provisions of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program as authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005: a collective 2.78% for 2006. EPA is determining compliance on a collective, rather than an individual, basis for 2006. Under this approach, refineries, blenders, and importers together will be responsible for meeting the default 2.78% standard, and compliance with this standard will be calculated over the pool of gasoline sold to consumers. (GCC.)

In a deal brokered by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), terminal operator SSA Marine will use 800,000 gallons of biodiesel blend in its dockside loading and container-moving equipment at the Port of Seattle next year, starting with a B2 blend but reaching B20 (20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel) within three months. In another aspect of the deal, the Port of Seattle will use some 20,000 gallons of B20 in its service vehicles next year. (GCC.)

Seattle’s Essential Baking Company has shifted its entire delivery fleet to B99 (99% biodiesel). The organic bakery sold off its old fleet of trucks and leased 13 newer diesels: nine Dodge Sprinters, three Ford Cargo E250s and one Isuzu NPR Box Truck. All run on the B99 fuel. (GCC.)

Tucked away in the massive $453-billion defense spending bill (H.R. 1815) passed by both houses of Congress prior to its holiday recess and awaiting presidential signature are provisions for separate reports on two alternative fuels for use by the military: E85 (85% ethanol blend) and Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) synthetic fuels. (GCC.)


Coal-to-Liquids developer Rentech has been awarded a new patent (its 20th in this area) on a process for co-producing Fischer-Tropsch (FT) liquids and electrical power with CO2 emissions reduced through carbon capture. The plant described in the patent combines an air separation unit, a syngas generator, a Fischer-Tropsch unit, a CO2 removal unit and a combined cycle electricity generation unit. Although each of these individual components are well known, Rentech is knitting the units together in its process. (GCC.)

Japan?s Toyo Engineering will design and build China?s first major coal-to-dimethyl ether (DME) with China?s Ningxia Coal Group in northwestern China?s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. This is China?s first major coal-to-DME plant. DME can serve as a synthetic fuel that is to diesel what LPG is to gasoline. It is gaseous at ambient conditions but can be liquefied at moderate pressure. DME is clean-burning, and with a high cetane number, it has very attractive characteristics as an alternative fuel for diesel engines. Without carbon capture and sequestration, however, coal-based DME generates almost twice as much greenhouse gas emissions during the fuel cycle (the production of the fuel) as gasoline or diesel. (GCC.)

Separately, China?s Ministry of Science and Technology announced the successful development of a Euro-3-compliant prototype DME-fueled automobile.

One of China?s top five power producers, China Power Investment Corp (CPIC), is planning to develop oil shale resources, in addition to expanding beyond coal-fired power generation into wind and nuclear. The State-owned electricity generator has inked a framework agreement with the local government in Jilin Province for joint development of oil shale resources. Jilin has 546 million tons of total proven oil shale reserves, and 317 million tons can be commercially exploitable, according to reports. (GCC.)

A group of Japanese companies intent on making gas-to-liquids (GTL) fuels a commercially viable overseas business by 2011 plans to start building a trial GTL plant in Niigata Prefecture in fiscal 2006. The ¥36 billion (US$306 million) facility is targeted to begin operation in 2008 with a daily output capacity of about 500 barrels per day (21,000 gallons) of synthetic fuels and chemicals using natural gas that Japan Petroleum Exploration produces from the Iwafuneoki gas field off the coast of Niigata. (GCC.)


Myers Motors has introduced its NmG (No More Gas) personal electric vehicle: a sealed lead-acid battery-powered tricycle with a top speed of 70 mph and a range of 20?40 miles. The NMG is a direct descendant of the Corbin Sparrow, which was made at the Corbin plant from 2000 until late 2002. (GCC.)

Tianjin Qingyuan Electric Vehicles has exported 106 of its Happy Messenger electric vehicles to buyers in the US. According to the company, the US buyers are townships, military bases, ports and research institutions. (GCC.)


Hydrogenics has won a $US8-million contract for multiple units of its recently-introduced HyPM 500 Series Fuel Cell Power Modules from a world-leading military OEM. The power modules, representing in aggregate over 600 kW of power capacity, will be delivered over a two year period starting in 2006. The modules will be used for an undisclosed application. (GCC.)

Kettering University?s (formerly the General Motors Institute) Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integration has received a $1.62-million grant from the US Department of Commerce to help build an Advanced Technology and Renewable Energy (ATRE) building. The ATRE building would be the first research building in the proposed research and technology park the school has been trying to launch for several years. Delphi Corporation is currently on track to become the main tenant in the $2.76-million park. (GCC.)

The Hythane Company is beginning demonstrations of its low-emission hydrogen-compressed natural gas fuel system in support of a major bus conversion project (up to 10,000 buses in five cities) in China. Hythane (generically called HCNG: hydrogen-CNG) is essentially CNG mixed with a small percentage of hydrogen (usually about 7% by energy or 20% by volume). (GCC.)


Daimler Chrysler plans to begin producing natural gas vehicles (NGV) in Thailand—the company's first instance of NGV production outside of Germany. The announcement came during a ceremony in which DaimlerChrysler delivered the bi-fuel E200 NGT to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for testing for one year. (GCC.)

Officials at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport—the world?s third-busiest—are looking to move into the natural gas business. The airport?s 18,076 acres sit atop the eastern edge of the Barnett Shale, which has emerged as the largest natural gas field in Texas. (GCC.)


Toyota has put its completely redesigned bB on sale in Japan. The car, cousin of the Scion xB and shown as a concept at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, is, according to Toyota, a ?Car-shaped Music Player". This boom box on wheels, which incorporates an advanced audio system, interior lighting that flashes in rhythm to the music, and newly-developed super-reclining front seats (to ?create a sense of privacy?), uses either a 1.5-liter or a 1.3-liter VVT-i engine and delivers between 36 to 39 mpg US in a combined Japanese cycle, depending upon the configuration. (GCC.)

Renault purchased an additional 10% interest in South Korea?s Renault Samsung Motors (RSM) for 55 billion won ($54.3 million). The exercise of these options brings Renault?s stake in the Korean company to 80.1%. Samsung Group owns the remaining 19.9%. Late last month, Renault Chairman Carlos Ghosn announced that RSM will begin to export the compact SM3 model under the Nissan brand beginning in 2006. (GCC.)

The Environmental Protection Agency is issuing two actions related to vehicle emissions durability testing procedures. This comes on the heels of the $90-million settlement with DaimlerChrysler to repair defective catalytic converters on nearly 1.5 million Jeep and Dodge vehicles. (GCC.)

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