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The Week in Sustainable Transportation
Mike Millikin, 15 Jan 06

reflex_overview.jpgMike Millikin covers the continuing evolution of personal transportation at Green Car Congress.

The opening of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) overshadowed most transportation news this week, as the major automakers selling into the US market displayed their new products and prototypes.

The event was notable for the amount of talk about fuel-economy, as well as for the retro, high-powered concepts rolled out by some of the automakers (a Camaro with 400hp, for example).

It's two markets. The whole country is schizophrenic. At one end of the spectrum, you have people who want ecology. At the other end, they want power. I would call this diversity.

—Bob Lutz, GM's vice chairman of global product development

Or, the market is beginning a major change. (GCC) On the green side, new hybrids, hybrid prototypes and lithium-ion battery systems definitely dominated.

Concurrently, and on the other side of the planet, Indian vehicle manufacturers introduced their own hydrogen and hybrid vehicles and concepts at the New Delhi Auto Expo. (GCC)

Two recent 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.)

Ministers from Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and the United States launched the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP-6) this week in Sydney with an initial two-day set of meetings. AP-6, organized by the US, seeks to take a voluntary, public-private, technology-transfer based-approach "to address climate change, energy security and air pollution"—without binding targets or commitments to levels of absolute reduction from a baseline. The next meeting is in 2007. (GCC.)

The DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) has issued a progress report on the projects it undertook between 2002 and 2005 to support energy and environmental science. The Institute mission is to develop and exploit new sequencing and other high-throughput, genome-scale, and computational technologies as a means for discovering and characterizing the basic principles and relationships underlying the organization, function, and evolution of living systemsóespecially as applied to challenges in energy and the environment. As one example, JGI will be sequencing the community of microbes that inhabit the hindgut of the termiteóone of the planet's most efficient hydrogen bioreactors. (GCC.)


Topping the hybrid news from Detroit this week was Toyota's launch of the Camry hybrid. The Camry Hybrid uses a lower-power engine (compared to the engines in the new conventional Camrys) coupled to a new application of the Hybrid Synergy Drive. The result is a combined 192 hp (143 kW) from the hybrid system with 275 Nm of torque, with estimated fuel economy for the hybrid of 43 mpg US city, 37 mpg US highway (40 mpg US combined). (GCC.)

Toyota also introduced the new high-end Lexus 460 luxury sedan, with the promise of introducing a hybrid version of this in April. The non-hybrid LS 460 uses a 380hp 4.6-liter V8 with a dual fuel-induction system. The result is an increase in horsepower of about 40% compared to the current LS 430 along with more efficient fuel consumption. The non-hybrid LS 460 offers an estimated combined fuel economy in the mid-20s. (GCC.)

GM used NAIAS to debut its mild hybrid 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line and the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Two-mode Hybrid, featuring the first application of a two-mode full hybrid system in an SUV. GM also announced that it would apply the two-mode system in an upcoming hybrid version of the Cadillac Escalade. (GCC.)

Ford introduced its new Reflex diesel hybrid concept at the Detroit show. The Reflex is a full hybrid that uses a 1.4-liter Duratorq as its engine, uses a rear-wheel motor in addition to the front-wheel hybrid drive, features a lithium-ion battery pack, and uses small arrays of solar cells to support non-traction electrical systems and provide a slight recharge. The goal with the latter feature is to conserve as much of the Li-ion battery system's storage as possible to apply to torque. The company estimates the Reflex could deliver up to 65 mpg in city driving. (GCC.)

Subaru's new B5-TPH hybrid concept made its North American debut at the 2006 North American International Auto Show. The B5-TPH concept vehicle applies the company's Turbo Parallel Hybrid (TPH) powertrain system and lithium-ion battery technology in a two-seat grand touring car that offers fuel economy of 40 mpg. Subaru will apply the powertrain in the Legacy for upcoming road testing. (GCC.)

Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) unveiled the Concept-CT in-wheel gasoline-electric series/parallel hybrid at the Detroit auto show. The Concept CT is electric-dominant, obtaining the majority of its drive torque via the electric in-wheel motors, which are powered by a 1.0-liter genset and Li-ion batteries in a conventional series-hybrid configuration. At constant speed, however, the Concept CT can add engine-powered rear-wheel drive for extra driveability (the parallel-hybrid aspect). (GCC.)

On the components side, Volkswagen AG and Continental Automotive Systems agreed on a strategic partnership for the development and supply of power electronics for future hybrid projects. Volkswagen has also awarded a contract for a hybrid drive module, including the power electronics, to Continental Automotive Systems and ZF Friedrichshafen AG. (GCC.)

TRW Automotive has introduced a broad suite of technologies designed to support the growth of hybrid electric vehicles. The products and systems range from simple lighter-weight components to advanced braking technologies such as TRW's Slip Control Boost, a fully integrated slip control system, as well as electrically powered hydraulic steering systems. (GCC.)


Johnson Controls and Saft launched their new joint venture to supply advanced-technology batteries for current- and future-generation hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs) at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. On display was a concept hybrid SUV (a de-branded Escape) retrofitted with a prototype lithium-ion battery pack. The prototype weighs about 50% less than the NiMH battery system it replaces, and occupies about 50% of the footprint. (GCC.)

UQM Technologies has been awarded a $1.08 million contract supplement to an existing U.S. Air Force contract to convert a conventional one-half ton pickup truck to all-electric operation. The contract supplement expands the scope of work to add the development of an electronic motor/generator controller that utilizes high operating temperature silicon carbide power switching modules. (GCC.)

DaimlerChrysler's GEM subsidiary introduced its new six-passenger GEM neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) at the Los Angeles and Detroit auto shows. (GCC.)


Ford introduced a tri-flex fuel truck concept that runs on gasoline, E85 ethanol blend or hydrogen. The F-250 Super Chief, which took its design cues from the Super Chief locomotive, uses the same Ford 6.8-liter V-10 Triton engine deployed in the company's E450 H2ICE trucks. (GCC.)

Volkswagen, Shell and Iogen Corporation will conduct a joint study to assess the economic feasibility of producing cellulosic ethanol in Germany. Iogen, a Canadian biotech company, uses recombinant DNA-produced enzymes to break apart cellulose in biomass such as wheat straw, sugar-cane bagasse and corn stovers to produce the sugars that are then fermented to make fuel ethanol. (GCC.)

AGRA Biofuels began operations in its Middletown, Pennsylvania facility on 1 January 2006. The plant, the first of 11 the company plans to build, will produce 2ñ3 million gallons of soybean biodiesel annually. It is the first commercial biodiesel production facility in the state, according to Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who announced the opening, with company executives, at the state's Farm Show. (GCC.)

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) and the Minnesota Biodiesel Council (MBC) today presented an action plan to the Minnesota Department of Commerce to increase quality control measures and ensure that only high-grade biodiesel is released into the state's diesel fuel pool. Quality problems that lead to clogged fuel filters resulted in a 21-day suspension of the state's new B2 regulations requiring that all diesel in the state must be sold with a minimum 2% biodiesel component. (GCC.)

Repsol YPF, one of the ten major private oil companies in the world and the largest private energy company in Latin America, will invest US$30 million to build a biodiesel plant in a suburb of Buenos Aires, Argentina. (GCC.)

Malaysia's state of Sabah, the country's largest palm oil producer, is the site for two separate initiatives building what would be the largest palm-oil biodiesel plants yet. (GCC.)


Rentech and Headwaters Technology Innovation Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Headwaters Incorporated have dissolved their 50/50 joint venture named FT Solutions, LLC. They formed the joint venture in June 2004 to combine each company's respective iron-based Fischer-Tropsch gas-to-liquids technologies for use in global Headwaters projects and for all Headwaters and Rentech projects in China. (GCC.)


Honda Motor Co announced that it will begin production in Japan of its next-generation FCX hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV) in three to four years, signalling rapid advancement in Honda's fuel cell technology. (GCC.)

Basin Electric Power Cooperative (Bismarck, N.D.) has awarded Hydrogenics Corporation a contract to supply an electrolyzer-based hydrogen vehicle refuelling station for installation in Minot. The station is one of the first United States-based hydrogen fueling stations to use electricity from a wind power resource to produce hydrogen from water, in this case using electricity generated by wind resources either owned or contracted by Basin Electric. (GCC.)

PSA Peugeot Citroen and the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), unveiled the GENEPAC (GÈnÈrateur Electrique ‡ Pile ‡ Combustible-Fuel Cell Electricity Generator) fuel cell stack, which offers maximum power of 80 kW. Developed jointly by PSA Peugeot Citro"n and the CEA, the new stack is the result of a 27-month, Ä12.115 million (US$14.6 million) project the stated goal of which was a medium-power fuel cell with power output of around 60 kW with 55% efficiency and a power density of 1.5 kW/liter and 1 kW/kg. The modular GENEPAC offers 1.4 kW/liter. (GCC.)


Mercedes-Benz announced that it will introduce an E320 BLUETEC sedan to the US market in the Fall of this year. This would be the vehicle's first introduction, worldwide. The company also announced a BLUETEC version of its just-introduced full-size SUV GL family—the VISION GL 320 BLUETEC—using the same powertrain and similar emissions control system, as well as a Jeep Grand Cherokee BLUETEC.

The E320 BLUETEC will deliver about 35 mpg US (6.7 l/100km) and be "50-state ready" for emissions restrictions (given the availability of the EPA-mandated ultra low-sulfur diesel)ómeeting, in other words, even the more stringent emissions standards of states such as California where new diesels currently are not sold. (GCC.)

BLUETEC is an umbrella term for a set of emissions aftertreatment technologies that Mercedes-Benz selects and applies based on the vehicle and emissions targets. The term also refers specifically to the NOx reduction technologies in the systems. (GCC.)

Cummins Inc. will participate in a public-private partnership led by the California South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) to demonstrate advanced diesel engine emissions control systems meeting the stringent EPA 2010 on-highway standard. Next-generation Cummins aftertreatment research and technology will be utilized on the Cummins ISL 9-liter engine to verify the emissions reduction capability of a combined system incorporating both a Diesel Particulate Filter and NOx Adsorber. (GCC.)

The Port of Oakland, California, has awarded TIAX, a collaborative product and technology development firm, a contract to support the development and implementation of a program to replace heavy-duty diesel trucks that service the port with newer, lower-emission vehicles. (GCC.)


The EPA proposed new rule and test methods for calculating fuel economy estimates, as well as four options for a new design of the fuel economy label that will provide a more quantitative view of "your mileage may vary." Under the new methods, fuel economy ratings will drop for most vehicles. EPA estimates conventional (non-hybrid) vehicles would drop on average by about 10ñ20% from today's labels, while the highway estimates would drop by about 5ñ15%, depending on the vehicle. For hybrid vehicles, the city MPG estimates would drop 20ñ30% from today's labels. (GCC.)

Japanese auto supplier DENSO had its CO2-based air conditioning system on display in Detroit. (GCC.)

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Posted by: Gilbert on 20 Jan 06

I think it is great that JCI and Saft have teamed up to develop a prototype lithum-ion battery pack that is 50% lighter and with a 50% smaller footprint. I can see how this addresses substitution and dematerialization within the vehicle. A question that arises for me (and I'm directing to JCI and Saft) is that since lithium is a scarce metal (not naturally in abundance in the bioshpere), will it be possible to re-use the lithium once the life of the battery has reached its end? This would keep the lithium in a closed loop and prevent it from being introduced into the biosphere during disposal in concentrations that are typically not found naturally.

Posted by: RoyaKhaleeli on 29 Jan 06



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