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The Week in Sustainable Transportation (01/08/06)
Mike Millikin, 8 Jan 06

gx3.jpgMike Millikin covers the continued evolution of personal transportation at Green Car Congress

French President Jacques Chirac gave New Year’s address in which he called for the reduction of oil consumption, using a number of approaches. His speech was wide-ranging, touching on the launch of a Generation IV nuclear reactor prototype, and calling for the development of fuel cells; development of diesel hybrids and electric vehicles within 10 years; a fivefold increase in biofuels and the development of solar energy. One way of phrasing his goal: "That RATP and SNCF [the French railroads] not have to use one drop of oil in 20 years."

Russia halted natural gas deliveries to the Ukraine briefly over a price dispute. The mechanism—halting pipeline deliveries to the Ukraine—is imprecise, and by Monday a range of European countries were reporting reductions in their deliveries. The situation put increasing European concerns over the security and stability of their energy supplies into sharp relief. (GCC)

Preliminary figures from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate for 2005 indicate that average daily production on the Norwegian Shelf dropped to around 2.5 million barrels per day in 2005, down 11% from 2.8 mbpd in 2004. Final figures will be available later in January. The results mark a continued decline from the peak in 2000 of 3.14 million barrels per day (excluding condensate). (GCC)

Statistics from the other major North Sea oil country, the UK, showed a drop in that country's oil production of 12.8% in the third quarter of 2005 compared to Q4 2004. Although seven new fields have started production since September 2004, their production is insufficient to compensate for the general decline in production from older established fields, according to the UK Department of Trade and Industry. As a result, the UK became a net oil importer. Demand for petroleum products, at the same time, increased 2.2% year-on-year.(GCC)

Consumption of petroleum in the US reached record highs in 2005, climbing 1.7% over 2004 levels to an average 20.7 million barrels per day, according to data from the DOE's Energy Information Administration. Three of the weeks in December 2005 ranked first, second and third in terms of the highest average weekly amount of petroleum consumed in the US, with the week of 16 December topping the chart at 22.156 million barrels per day. (GCC)

In an interview with Germany's Capital economics magazine, Matthew Simmons, founder of the energy investment bank Simmons & Co and former energy adviser to President Bush, projected oil prices of between $200 to $250 a barrel in the coming years. Simmons suggested in the interview that daily global oil production might drop to 65 million barrels per day by 2012. (GCC)

New research from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia shows that children riding in SUVs have similar injury risks to children who ride in passenger cars. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that an SUV's increased risk of rolling over during a crash offset the safety benefits associated with larger, heavier-weight vehicles. (GCC.)

The Minerals Management Service (MMS), the federal agency chartered with oversight of offshore oil and gas, is requesting comments for a regulatory program to support the development of alternate-energy projects—including wind-, wave-, current- and solar-power├│on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. (GCC)


Hybrid sales in the US closed out the year with strong December results of 18,238 total units sold, pushing to the total number of hybrids sold in the US in 2005 to 205,749. Hybrids thus represented 1.2% of the total 1,477,697 light duty vehicles sold in the US in December, as well as 1.2% of the total 16,950,679 vehicles sold during the year. (GCC.)

Auto executives surveyed by KPMG for its annual Global Auto Executive Survey believe that hybrids and low-cost, small cars will make the biggest gains in market share over the next few years. Eighty-eight percent of auto executives worldwide believe that hybrids will increase market share. That number is 100% for North American auto executives, the first time the KPMG survey has encountered a 100% response. (GCC)

Travelers personal lines, a member of St. Paul Travelers, will implement a 10% discount on auto insurance to hybrid vehicle owners in the United States beginning in February 2006. (GCC.)

PSA Peugeot Citroen announced that it will unveil prototypes of diesel-hybrid versions of a Peugeot 307 and Citroen C4 on 31 January which may be on the market by 2010. The announcement coincided with the call (above) by French President Jacques Chirac to develop diesel hybrids and electric vehicles within 10 years. (GCC)

Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies announced that its Alternative Mobility Vehicle (AMV) and Mobile Hydrogen Infrastructure (MHI) programs will receive a total of $6.95 million in funding in 2006 from the Department of Defense for production-intent hybrid vehicle and hydrogen programs. (GCC)

Beijing will soon begin a large scale of test of hydraulic hybrid technology deployed on 50 buses. The hydraulic hybrid vehicles (HHVs) can reduce fuel consumption by more than 30% and reduce emissions from 20% to 70% according to the Chinese developer, Chargeboard Electric Vehicle Co. A hydraulic hybrid (earlier post) uses an accumulator (which stores energy as highly compressed nitrogen gas) and one or more hydraulic pump/motors rather than the battery pack, electric generator/motor and power electronics used in electric hybrids. (GCC)

In his final State of the State address (viewed by many analysts as a first step in a campaign for the Presidency) to the opening of the 2006 Legislative Session, New York Governor Pataki provided a preview of his coming legislative initiatives for his final year in office. Among his initiatives will be spurring the development of plug-in hybrids that use biofuels in the engine (e.g., flex-fuel plug-ins). (GCC).

The Philippines National Economic and Development Authority NEDA has endorsed for President Arroyo's approval an executive order that would remove tariffs on components imported for the local manufacture of hybrid, electric, flex-fuel and compressed natural gas vehicles. (GCC)


Saab unveiled a 310-horsepower 9-5 Aero BioPower Concept midsize wagon at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The flex-fuel vehicle, capable of running on gasoline or ethanol blends of up to 85% (E85) is a more powerful version than its European cousin. (GCC)

General Motors will join the state of California, Chevron Technology Ventures, and Pacific Ethanol in a project designed to learn more about consumer awareness and acceptance of E85 (an 85% ethanol blend) as a motor vehicle fuel. GM intends to offer between 50 to 100 of its E85-capable Chevrolet Impala passenger cars and Silverado pickup trucks. Flexible-fuel vehicles will be used by the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) at various operations in Northern California and the state's Central Valley.(GCC.)

Sales of flex-fuel cars in Brazil climbed in December to about 120,000 units, the highest level yet. Flex-fuel vehicle sales represented 65% of the vehicle market for the month, according to figures from Associa├?┬äo Nacional dos Fabricantes de Ve├îculos Automotores (ANFAVEA), the Brazilian auto manufacturers' association. (GCC.)

Speaking to reporters at the Oxford Farming Conference, Lord Ron Oxburgh, former chairman of Shell Trading and Transport, said that biomass waste should be a preferred feedstock for biofuels rather than crops such as rapeseed and grain. While using biomass waste also addresses the problem of waste disposal, the fertilizer and energy input required for growing crops reduces if not negates the benefits of a biofuel, he said. (GCC.)

Diester Industrie has awarded global engineering and construction firm Technip a contract for a new biodiesel unit to be built in Venette, near Compiegne, France. The new unit, with a capacity of 100,000 tonnes/year (about 30.2 million gallons US), is based on the Axens Esterflip-H process, and will double the site's current production. Start-up is scheduled for the third quarter of 2006. (GCC.)

The last few weeks of December saw a rush of announcements in Malaysia about building palm-oil biodiesel plants, mainly for export, but also for domestic use. The spate of announcements reflects rapidly growing awareness in the country of the economic potential for palm-based biodiesel overseas, especially in Europe where demand for biodiesel is already high. (GCC.)


Calgary-based Suncor Energy, the No. 2 oil-sands producer in the world, announced that it has sold its billionth barrel of oil sands crude since it began operations in 1967. Suncor, which primarily uses mining but is exploring in-situ methods for processing oil sand bitumen into synthetic crude, currently has production capacity of 260,000 barrels per day. It is targeting production capacity of 500,000-550,000 barrels per day by 2012. (GCC.)


Beijing has lifted a ban on electric bicycles from the beginning of 2006 in an attempt to alleviate the congestion caused by the rapidly rising number of cars. As of 4 January, electric bikes that meet national standards are officially allowed to take to the road after being registered with the city's traffic administration. (GCC.)

Electro Energy (EEI), developer of bi-polar wafer-cell technology for batteries and a partner with CalCars on developing a bi-polar NiMH battery for the plug-in Prius (earlier post), will receive $1.0 million from the U.S. Army for development and demonstration of its bi-polar lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery. (GCC.)

ZAP provided a ZAP XEBRA electric vehicle as the grand prize for the Scientific American Innovations People's Choice Award drawing at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this past week in Las Vegas. (GCC.)


Hy-Drive Technologies, makers of a compact, on-board, on-demand electrolyzer that produces hydrogen for mixture with conventional hydrocarbon fuel (gasoline, diesel or propane), has secured C$2.3 million (US$2.0 million) in investment to fund its working capital and equipment requirements as it nears commercialization of its new generation G2 unit. (GCC.)

The development of different means of hydrogen production (not dependent upon natural gas) for use in transportation and energy systems remains one of the longer-term priorities of the US Department of Energy. Accordingly, the agency has made grants to five specific nuclear hydrogen research projects as part of a larger $12-million tranche of funding to 24 nuclear energy research projects awarded by the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (NERI). (GCC.)

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have discovered that a phenomenon called carrier multiplication, in which the absorption of a single photon by a nanocrystal quantum dot can generate multiple electrons, is applicable to a broader array of materials that previously thought. The discovery increases the potential for the use of nanoscrystals as solar cell materials to produce higher electrical outputs than current solar cells, as well as possible application for the photocatalytic production of hydrogen. (GCC.)


Some 4,000 motor vehicles in Yangon (Rangoon), the capital city of Myanmar (Burma) have been converted to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) under a plan to modify all vehicles in the country in terms of fuel operation, according to the Myanmar Ministry of Industry (2). That is 1,200 (23%) shy of the goal of 5,200 conversions set by the government in January 2005. (GCC)


Georgia state environmental officials plan to draft a state-wide rule in January to limit the time drivers of diesel vehicles would be allowed to idle their engines. (GCC.)

The federal government of Pakistan has directed provincial governments to phase out diesel-engine buses, mini-buses, wagons and two-stroke rickshaws from major cities by the end of 2007. (GCC)


Volkswagen introduced its concept GX3 a three-wheeled, two-seater vehicle it calls a crossover between a motorcycle and sports car. With a 1.6-liter engine, the GX3 offers acceleration from 0-100 km/h in 5.7 seconds and an estimated fuel consumption in the city of 46 mpg (5.2 l/100km). The four-cylinder gasoline engine delivers 92 kW (125 hp) and 152 Nm of torque. The vehicle, with an estimated price of less than $17,000, itself weighs a mere 1,257 lbs (570 kg). (GCC)

Chemists at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, working with colleagues at Stony Brook University, have developed a new experimental technique to measure the flow of energy inside a molecule in the process of breaking apart. The experiments provide a test of theories used in computer models of combustion, which are used, for instance, by combustion engineers to design more fuel-efficient and less polluting machines. (GCC.)

Two separate studies from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) illustrate the effects of warming on the ocean, ocean organisms and climate. (GCC.)

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