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The Week in Sustainable Transportation (02/26/06)
Mike Millikin, 26 Feb 06

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

On a week-long swing to promote his Advanced Energy Initiative, announced in the State of the Union address (earlier post), President Bush selected battery-maker Johnson Controls as a venue to make the case for the importance of plug-in hybrids. (GCC.)

Other members of the Administration fanned out through the country promoting the initiative and twin messages of conservation and new technology. Transportation industries will have to go on an "energy diet" to help end America's addiction to oil, according to US Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. Mineta made the comments in Omaha, NE, where he commended Union Pacific railroad for its Fuel Masters fuel-reduction program. (GCC.)

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced $160 million in cost-shared funding over three years to construct up to three biorefineries in the United States. Bodman also separately promoted the hydrogen and solar power messages.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced $176.5 million in loan guarantees and almost $11.4 million in grants to support investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements by agricultural producers and small businesses. (GCC.)

Scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have found evidence that tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures may have once reached 107°F (42°C)—about 25°F (14°C) higher than ocean temperatures today.

The surprisingly high ocean temperatures, the warmest estimates to date for any place on Earth, occurred millions of year ago when carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere were also high, but researchers say they may be an indication that greenhouse gases could heat the oceans in the future much more than currently anticipated. The study suggests that climate models underestimate future warming. (GCC.)


Hybrids continue to outperform other sectors of the new vehicle market. Hybrid sales in the US in January 2006 almost doubled from January 2005 with a total of 15,868 units sold, compared to 8,455 the year before. By contrast, sales of total light duty vehicles in the US increased by 3% in January 2006 from the year before. (GCC.)

Frost & Sullivan, a global research and consulting firm, forecasts that all European automakers are likely to hybridize their vehicles to some degree—micro, mild and full—by the end of the decade due to stringent emission requirements combined with increasing fuel prices. (GCC.)

A Japanese newspaper reported that Honda Motor plans to start selling a hybrid version of its Fit subcompact worldwide as early as fiscal 2007 (April 2006 to April 2007). Honda said, however, that it has yet to come to a decision on a new hybrid. The Fit Hybrid reportedly would offer fuel economy in the mid 50- or low 60-mpg range, and be the first hybrid priced at less than $16,900. (GCC.)

Hymotion, a Canadian company, introduced plug-in hybrid (PHEV) upgrade kits for the Toyota Prius and the Ford Escape and Mariner Hybrids at the Canadian International AutoShow this week. The Hymotion PHEV kits supplement the OEM NiMH battery with a lithium-ion battery system that can be recharged by plugging it into a regular household electrical outlet. (GCC.)

Hino Motors, owned by Toyota, plans to upgrade the hybrid systems in its trucks with more powerful battery packs and a smaller and lighter motor by the end of the year with the goal of improving fuel economy by about 10% from the current hybrid levels. (GCC.)

NextEnergy, Michigan's non-profit alternative energy technology incubator, has formally launched a Hydraulic Hybrid Working Group. A hydraulic hybrid system uses an accumulator (which stores energy as highly compressed gas) and one or more hydraulic pump/motors rather than the battery pack, electric generator/motor and power electronics used in electric hybrids. A number of commercial hydraulic applications are under development. (GCC.)


DaimlerChrysler and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) aimed at progressing towards sustainable mobility with a specific focus on biofuels. The MoU regulates the scope of cooperation and specifies certain sustainability projects that DaimlerChrysler and UNEP will be focusing on between 2006 and 2008. (GCC.)

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) plans to invest about $2.3 billion before 2009 to expand its capacity for the production of ethanol and other biofuels and on the development of PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate, a biodegradable plastic made from plant sugar), according to Allen Andreas, the CEO. (GCC.)

A West Florida company is looking to rent 11,000 hectares (42.5 square miles) of land in the Philippines to grow e-grass as biomass input to a gasification process to produce transportation fuels. (GCC.)

Veridium Corporation announced the receipt of its first order for its system that extracts high-grade corn oil from a corn ethanol by-product called distillers dried grain (DDG). The corn oil can then be used as a feedstock for biodiesel production. (GCC.)

Separately, Veridium announced it is applying its algae-based carbon-dioxide scrubber to convert exhaust carbon dioxide from the fermentation stage of ethanol production facilities into biomass for subsequent use in ethanol or biodiesel production. (GCC.)

Chemical engineering researchers at Oregon State University have developed a microreactor for biodiesel production that promises to be efficient, fast and portable, and are looking for commercialization partners. (GCC.)

Domestic Energy Partners (DEP) claims to have developed a simplified process for the production of biodiesel from virgin or waste oil that will support systems that produce as much as 2.25 million gallons per year or as little as needed for a single home. The DEP process, according to the company, uses a proprietary solid catalyst that eliminates the need to wash the fuel to remove the acid or base catalyst used in typical production processes. Elimination of the washing step would lower costs, and remove the need for wastewater treatment. (GCC.)

Denmark is building the world's largest biogas plant that will also serve as a research and testing platform. Biogas refers to the mix of CO2 and methane (CH4) produced by bacterial conversion of organic matter under anaerobic (oxygen-free) conditions. The output from the plant, which totals four biogas reactors, is sufficient to cover power consumption for 800 single-family houses and to heat 200 houses. Biogas can also be used as a vehicle fuel. (GCC.)

Demand for ethanol is capturing an increasing proportion of the US corn crop, and could become the number one factor driving farm prices higher over the next few years, according to Keith Collins, Chief Economist of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Corn is currently the predominant feedstock for ethanol production in the US. The USDA expects ethanol production this marketing year to account for 14% of US corn production. The agency projects that ethanol will account for 22% of corn use by 2010. (GCC.)

Renault is exhibiting a Hi-Flex Clio 1.6 16v at the 2006 Paris International Agricultural Show. Designed for the Brazilian market and introduced there in 2004, the vehicle features Renault-developed Flex-Fuel technology, with an engine that can run on fuel containing gasoline and ethanol in any proportion up to 100% of either. (GCC.)


Honda is considering expanding its public trials of fuel-cell vehicles to include a private family in the UK. In June 2005, Honda Motor announced the lease of its FCX fuel cell car to the world's first individual customers, a family in California. (GCC.)

Toyota and GM reportedly plan to end their joint research on fuel-cell vehicle development at the end of March because of a lack of progress. The two companies are expected to agree to extend their alliance on advanced technologies in other areas such as safety and information until March 2008, according to the report, which suggests that the agreement will emerge in early march at the earliest. (GCC.)

ETEC (electric transportation engineering corporation) is developing a set of hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine (HICE) Chevy Silverado 1500HD crew cab pickup trucks. ETEC is primarily an infrastructure company for electric vehicles, providing design, engineering, construction, operation, maintenance, technical support and field services. It tackled HICE partly as an infrastructure opportunity. (GCC.)

Researchers at Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL, a division of Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC)) have successfully demonstrated hydrogen storage through chemisorption in single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCN) of 5.1±1.2 wt. -- very close to the DOE FreedomCAR target of 6 wt. storage capacity. (GCC.)

In another approach to developing a viable on-board storage system for hydrogen in vehicles, researchers in the UK have developed a purely organic polymer with microporous structures that can adsorb hydrogen via physisorption. Depending on the selection of building blocks the researchers can produce insoluble networks or polymers that are soluble in solvents and can thus be processed into useful shapes. <(GCC.)


Frost & Sullivan forecasts that the share of gasoline engines in European new passenger car sales will drop to 37.1% by 2015 from more than 53% in 2004. But as European emissions regulations grow increasingly stringent, advanced engine technology combined with hybridization may keep gasoline engines competitive with diesels, according to the analysis. (GCC.)

Mercedes-Benz has introduced the world's first gasoline engine with piezoelectric direct injection and spray-guided combustion -- the Stratified-Charged Gasoline Injection (CGI) engine. In the European combined driving cycle, the gasoline direct injection system improves fuel consumption by 10% over the counterpart V6 gasoline engine with port injection and fully variable valve timing. The spray-guided direct injection system first appeared in a mild-hybrid concept car Mercedes-Benz showed at the Frankfurt show in 2005. (GCC.)

Honda Motor has introduced the new ZEST minicar in Japan. The 3-cylinder, 658cc ZEST offers fuel consumption ranging from 5.26 l/100km (44.7 mpg US) for a naturally-aspirated version to 5.68 l/100km (41.4 mpg US) for a turbo version. (GCC.)

In a move authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the EPA is revoking the two percent oxygenation requirement for reformulated gasoline (RFG) nationwide. Currently, about 30% of gasoline is RFG. The actual impact of the lifting of the regulations appears likely to be low. The Energy Policy Act also imposed a new Renewable Fuel Standard that will keep ratcheting up the amount of ethanol to be used in fuel blends, albeit with much more flexibility than the oxygenation rules allowed. (GCC.)


Clean Diesel Technologies (CDT), developer of technology solutions to reduce diesel engine emissions, has entered into an agreement with Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co. / Mitsui Kinzoku to introduce of Mitsui's urea quality sensor technology for NOx reduction via Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) into the European marketplace. (GCC.)


Europe and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on clean-coal technology. The MoU will encourage the development of technology allowing the capture and underground storage of carbon dioxide emitted from coal-fired power stations. China is also keen to exploit coal to produce liquid fuels and hydrogen. (GCC.)


Volvo Trucks plans to rely on wind power and biofuels to supply electricity and heating for its Ghent, Belgium, assembly plant, thereby resulting in no net contribution of carbon dioxide resulting from vehicle production to the atmosphere. This is the Volvo Truck's second assembly to become "carbon-dioxide-free." The Volvo Trucks Tuve plant in Sweden became the first such plant last year. (GCC.)

Regulators from the European Commission, the US EPA Mobile Air Conditioning Climate Protection Partnership, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced their intention to harmonize Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) testing and engineering standards to minimize leakages of fluorinated gases used in automobile air conditioning systems. Fluorinated gases are extremely powerful and long-lived greenhouse gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning, fire-fighting, electrical transmission systems and various industry processes. Reducing their emissions is a requirement under the Kyoto Protocol. (GCC.)

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We really might wonder why anyone would build such a complicated machine when most people are perfectly happy with their gasoline-powered cars. There could be two reasons. To reduce tailpipe emissions and to improve mileage. More power can be less efficient. The fascination of every driver for quick acceleration can cause the car to be much less efficient than they could be. Because a car with less powerful engine gets the better mileage than an identical car with a more powerful engine.

Posted by: Terry Brown on 1 Mar 06

T Brown is right. Reports from Hybrid owners who drive fast suggest fuel gains are minimal.
Electric motors in present hybrids offer high torque, high acceleration. This must be paid for with high fuel consumption.
The only solution is LOW power, low acceleration. the 30/30 solution: 30kw, 30kph. With low torque. low acceleration. Something like electric golf buggies. nb. 30kph sounds slow, but its about average speed in a traffic-jammed city. Crash guards would be lighter, pedestrians & cyclists would be much safer,
trips would be almost as fast as with our current 100+/100+ vehicles.

Posted by: gbruno on 2 Mar 06



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