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The Week in Sustainable Transportation (3/19/06)
Mike Millikin, 18 Mar 06

crusher.jpg Mike Millikin covers the ongoing evolution of personal transportation at Green Car Congress

Globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) in the planet’s atmosphere reached their highest ever-recorded levels in 2004 according to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) first annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. (GCC.)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s just-released Spring Outlook highlights the dangerous potential for a “significant” wildfire season in the Southwest and central and southern Plains. As of 13 March, nearly unprecedented dry weather, unseasonably high temperatures, and gusty winds have already contributed to more than 13,000 wildfires, scorching in excess of 930,000 acres nationally since January 1, mainly in Texas and Oklahoma. This is well above the five-year average of 6,363 wildfires and 98,476 acres burned. (GCC.)

The National Hydrogen Association hosted its annual Hydrogen Conference and Expo this week in Long Beach, CA. The event highlighted progress in hydrogen fuel cell and internal combustion vehicles, but also examined the many challenges that remain such as non-CO2-generating production, building a widespread refueling network and increasing on-board hydrogen storage for greater driving range—the latter the key obstacle from the point of view of automakers. (GCC.)


As part of a collaborative agreement that includes partnering in developing new hybrids, Toyota and Fuji Heavy Industries announced today that the Subaru Indiana Automotive (SIA) plant will begin producing the Toyota Camry beginning in 2007. FHI is the parent of Subaru, and Toyota has an 8.7% position in FHI which it purchased from GM in 2005. (GCC.)

Ford Motor is offering interest-free financing on its Escape hybrid sport utility vehicle in California and Washington, DC, to boost sales in markets that see strong hybrid sales. California and Washington are Ford’s two hottest hybrid markets. (GCC.)

Hyundai Motor will introduce gasoline-electric hybrids into the Chinese market before the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, and fuel-cell vehicles by 2010, according to the chairman of Beijing Hyundai, Hyundai’s joint venture with Beijing Automotive Industry Corp. (GCC.)


The US Army has begun field testing and evaluation of two six-wheeled diesel series hybrid-electric Crusher unmanned ground combat vehicles (UGCV) powered by UQM high-torque propulsion systems and generators. (GCC.)

UTC Power, part of United Technologies, will work with major Belgian bus manufacturer Van Hool to deliver a hydrogen fuel-cell hybrid bus to DeLijn, the largest bus fleet operator in Belgium. The bus will operate in Belgium for six months before being leased to other transit agencies in Europe. (GCC.)

East Japan Railway Co (JR East) is developing a new diesel-electric series hybrid railcar that it will introduce into operations next summer. The diesel hybrid, complete with lithium-ion battery and regenerative braking, is a precursor to a planned fuel-cell hybrid traction system. (GCC.)

Railpower Technologies hopes to deliver 90 to 100 of its diesel-electric hybrid locomotives—Green Goat yard switchers and the new road switchers—in 2006 after struggling with production, system and financial issues in 2005. (GCC.)


Morrisons supermarket opened the UK’s first E85 (85% ethanol blend) retail filling pump, tying in with the first deliveries of the Saab 9-5 BioPower flex-fuel car. The fuel will be branded as Harvest BioEthanol E85. (GCC.)

Biopetrol Industries, a Swiss biodiesel producer and distributor, and Dutch-based Vopak, the world’s largest independent tank terminal operator specialized in the storage and handling of liquid and gaseous chemical and oil products, have agreed to build Netherlands’ biggest biodiesel plant at the Rotterdam port. (GCC.)

Repsol YPF SA and Acciona Energía have reached an agreement to invest more than €300 million (US$365 million) in the construction of up to six biodiesel plants in Spain, with a combined potential production capacity of more than 1 million metric tons per year (302 million gallons per year, or about 20,000 barrels per day). The companies expect the plants to come onstream during the first half of 2007 through the second half 2009. (GCC.)

BIO, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, organized a panel in Washington this week to describe the industrial biotechnology processes that enable large-scale production of cellulosic ethanol from biomass such as crop waste and switch grass. (GCC.)

Future Fuels, Inc. (FFI) and Startech Environmental Corporation have entered into a mutually exclusive global strategic alliance agreement through which FFI will use Startech’s Plasma Converter System to transform feedstock materials such as used tires, municipal solid waste and biomass into ethanol. (GCC.)


BMW is planning on serial production for its new 7 Series bi-fuel hydrogen-gasoline vehicle within two years and may have a limited number of a the bi-fuel car in the hands of a small number of customers in Europe and perhaps the US this year. (GCC.)

Pivotal Engineering has redesigned the two-stroke combustion engine with the intention not only of overcoming the shortcomings of the conventional sliding-piston two-stroke engines, but also to produce a combustion engine that can better exploit hydrogen as a fuel. (GCC.)

Federal, state and local representatives gathered to dedicate formally AC Transit’s HyRoad fuel-cell demonstration program during a ceremony at AC Transit’s Oakland, California operating division. The HyRoad program includes three fuel-cell hybrid electric buses, powered by UTC Power PureMotion 120 fuel cell systems and ISE hybrid-electric drive systems; a fleet of up to ten zero-emission Hyundai and Kia fuel cell cars, also powered by UTC Power fuel cells; and an on-site Chevron hydrogen production and fueling station. (GCC.)

The Clean Energy Partnership (CEP) has opened Berlin’s second hydrogen filling station. The new station, integrated into a newly-built TOTAL service station, provides both liquid (LH2) and gaseous (CGH2) hydrogen for vehicles. The service station will support the European hydrogen project HyFLEET:CUTE, which will also be started in Berlin with a fleet of 14 hydrogen buses to be used by the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG). (GCC.)

InnovaTek and Seattle BioFuels have announced the successful production of hydrogen from 100% biodiesel in a microchannel steam reformer. In addition to biodiesel, InnovaTek has also used its technology to produce hydrogen from glycerol (a by-product of biodiesel production), and the raw soybean oil that is used to manufacture the biodiesel fuel. (GCC.)

EWI, an organization dedicated to welding and materials joining, has signed a contract with Millennium Cell for a 15-month project to improve the manufacturing process for Millennium Cell’s Hydrogen on Demand fuel cartridges. (GCC.)

Plug Power and Honda have signed two agreements to continue expanding the companies’ collaborative efforts on home co-generation of heating, power and hydrogen. (GCC.)


Buses running on compressed natural gas have been a leading cleaner alternative to diesel-powered transit, and as such CNG buses and infrastructure were adopted by a number of transit agencies. The improving baseline emissions of comparable diesel buses with advanced emission control technologies has led to some questioning over whether or not CNG still retains its clean advantage. According to a recent study by NREL, it generally does. (GCC.)


A team from General Atomics is proposing the use of hydrogen provided from non-fossil sources (solar, wind or nuclear) and CO2 captured from coal-fired power plants or from the air to produce enough Fischer-Tropsch synthetics to meet the fuel needs of the transportation sector. With such an approach, proposed in a poster session at the NHA hydrogen conference, the total net US release of CO2 could be halved, even factoring in the release of CO2 from the ongoing combustion of hydrocarbon—although not fossil—fuels, according to the researchers’ analysis. (GCC.)

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I'm a novice when it comes to emerging eco-friendly transportation technology but it seems the focus has shifted away from solar powered technology over the last 5-10 years.

Hybrids seem to be the best bet, with a few already on the market and the focus being a shift away from nonrenewable petrol/gas.

But, where is the electricity coming from???...batteries charge by solar panels would seem to be the sensible direction.

Perhaps an expert can comment.


ps I'm posing a more general question on "minimal impact transportation" over at ... expert and non-expert opinions welcome.

Posted by: Vincenze on 19 Mar 06

I believe, and someone correct me if I'm wrong, that commercially available solar still isn't up to 'speed' as far as energy produced for weight/cost/area required.

I know someone added some solar panels to a civic or prius, but just as a booster.

Hopefully we'll see more advancements in solar tech shake out into the market, as I think all that surface area on the car should be put to good use too.

Posted by: Ken on 20 Mar 06

Yeah I think you're right.

I listen to a science friday podcast this morning that pretty much aligns with what you said. The experts said solar technology is just not scaleable for cars and smaller devices yet.

Thanks for the

Thanks Ken,


ps out of interest the podcast was on Pres. Bush's state of the Union address, worth a listen.

Posted by: Vincenze on 20 Mar 06



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