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The Week in Sustainable Mobility 3/26/06
Mike Millikin, 26 Mar 06

pr_news_20031231_sammysmartcar.jpg Mike Millikin covers the ongoing evolution of sustainable mobility at Green Car Congress

One of the most powerful cyclones to hit Australia in decades blasted ashore near Cairns, Queensland, with winds of up to 290 km/hr (180 mph). Larry flattened sugarcane fields and banana crops, ripped roofs off houses and uprooted trees in a 300km-wide swath (186 miles). The area is the heart of Australia’s banana industry and also accounts for 25% of Australia’s sugar cane production.

In the US, Accuweather forecast that the northeast US coast could be the target of a major hurricane, perhaps as early as this season. The forecast suggests that in terms of number of storms, the 2006 hurricane season will be more active than normal, but less active than last summer’s historic storm season.

Researchers at Georgia Tech applied a new methodology to the analysis of global hurricane data and concluded that the increasing trend in the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes for the period 1970 to 2004 is directly linked to the trend in rising sea surface temperatures (SST). (GCC)

A set of papers published in the 24 March issue of Science suggests that the ice sheets covering both the Arctic and Antarctic could melt more quickly than expected this century. (GCC)

A study published in the 14 March online early edition of New Phytologist suggests that rising levels of ozone starting at the Earth’s surface (tropospheric ozone) could reduce soybean harvests.(GCC)

A new study released by the European Environment Agency (EEA) highlights that human exposure to increased pollutant concentrations due to traffic in densely populated urban areas remains high. (GCC)

Oil production from Alaska’s North Slope oil fields is declining faster than expected. State officials have admitted they have been too optimistic in their production forecasts, and produced a new, more conservative estimate. (GCC)

Chevron reported that its combined oil and natural gas production for January and February in the US increased 5%, driven by the on-going restoration of storm-related shut-in volumes in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). However, the company stated that combined international liquids and natural gas production—which accounts for about two-third of Chevron’s upstream output—declined 4%. (GCC)

Shell Oil Company has joined the California Climate Action Registry, a non-profit voluntary registry for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that was established by California statute in 2000. As a member, Shell will work with the Registry to annually track, report and certify its greenhouse gas emissions. (GCC)


Saab will introduce a prototype of a flexible-fuel hybrid version of its 9-3 sedan at the Stockholm auto show next week. Saab has been developing the hybrid—which can run on pure ethanol (E100) as well as blends——in conjunction with Lund Technical University in southern Sweden.(GCC)

Toyota released the certified EPA-estimated mileage figures for the GS 450h, the world’s first luxury performance hybrid sedan (earlier post): 26 mpg combined, 25 mpg city/28 mpg highway. (GCC)

A bi-partisan group of Minnesota state senators and representatives have introduced a bill designed to encourage the development, production and purchase of plug-in hybrid vehicles in the state. The legislation defines a plug-in hybrid as including the ability to transfer electricity to a utility (vehicle-to-grid, or V2G—earlier post), and to have the ability to travel at least 20 miles powered substantially by electricity. (GCC)

The Ontario government is proposing doubling the maximum retail sales tax rebate for qualifying hybrid electric vehicles from C$1,000 (US$857) to C$2,000 (US$1,713) for vehicles delivered to purchasers after 23 March 2006. (GCC)

Lotus Engineering, in partnership with Eaton, is working on enabling advanced combustion control based on an electro-hydraulic valve system with full flexible control over valve timing, lift and velocity. The fully variable valve timing system, known as Active Valve Train (AVT), will allow application of advanced engine control strategies, and ultimately air hybridization. (GCC)


The US Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Toledo have announced a three-year cooperative agreement worth about $1 million to improve and to optimize hydraulic hybrid vehicle components to maximize fuel economy benefits and minimize emissions. 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. (GCC)

Eaton Corporation will provide hybrid drive systems for two prototype buses to be built by Beiqi Foton AUV Bus Company. The buses will be field-tested in major Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, this year. (GCC)

Scania is developing a prototype hybrid designed to work with engines burning diesel, ethanol, RME (biodiesel) or natural gas. A motor generator provides traction assistance and supports regenerative braking. Ultracapacitors store the energy. Scania estimates potential fuel savings of 25% or more. (GCC)


The General Motors Janesville Assembly plant has produced more than 500,000 Chevrolet and GMC full-size sport utility vehicles with E85 FlexFuel-capable engines. (GCC)

Police departments in Avon and Somerset in the UK have ordered 15 Ford Focus Flexi Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) to help reduce CO2 emissions. This marks Ford’s fist customer sales of the flex-fuel vehicle in the UK. (GCC)

Scania is promoting the use of ethanol as a fuel for urban transport using modified diesel engines. The company has about 600 of such buses in service, mostly in Stockholm. (GCC)

The UK’s Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish), a cross-industry non-departmental public body (NDPB), has launched a project to develop biofuels for the commercial fishing industry. (GCC)


Mazda Motor Corporation has delivered one RX-8 Hydrogen RE vehicle each to its first two corporate customers for this model: Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd. in Tokyo, and Iwatani International Corporation in Osaka, Japan. This marks the first commercial leasing of a hydrogen-gasoline dual fuel vehicle. (GCC)

The Upper Midwest Hydrogen Initiative (UMHI)—an industry-led, US-Canadian, public-private venture of the non-profit Great Plains Institute—is seeking partners and funding for the construction of a multi-fuel Clean Fuels Network to support the development of a renewable hydrogen infrastructure across the Northern Plains of the US and Canada. (GCC)

An interim report from the European HyWays project suggests that the initial 5% target for hydrogen vehicle penetration by 2020 in European markets is too optimistic, with 3.3% of the passenger car market by 2020 being the likely outcome of a “high penetration” scenario, and only 0.7% the likely outcome in a “low-penetration” scenario. (GCC)


Chrysler has sold almost 10,000 of the Jeep Liberty CRD since it appeared in showrooms in early 2005—double the expected number. The Liberty CRD is the first diesel-powered mid-sized sport-utility vehicle sold in the US. (GCC)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making minor amendments to the Tier 2 emissions standards to be applied to light-duty diesel vehicles. The changes relax a very limited set of standards for nitrogen oxides (NOx) for only high-altitude and high-speed/high-acceleration conditions. (GCC)

Audi made racing history on Saturday as its diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, becoming the first diesel car in the world to win a major sports car race. Audi used Sebring as a test for the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, set for June 17-18. (GCC)

Volvo Trucks North America displayed two trucks equipped with mobile idle reduction technology (MIRT) at the Mid-America Trucking Show. Truck idling consumes about 2 billion gallons of diesel fuel annually. (GCC)


A unit of Royal Dutch Shell, Shell Exploration & Production in the Americas (Shell EP Americas), has formed a wholly-owned venture to acquire, evaluate and develop oil sands resources. The new company, SURE Northern Energy (SURE Northern), a Canadian corporation, acquired 10 parcels of oil sands land in the February Oil Sands Public Offering for a price of C$465 million (about US$400 million)—the highest price paid yet for oil sands. SURE acquired the property anonymously through a land agent. (GCC)


US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy testing of the Smart Car Americanized for ZAP yielded results of combined fuel economy of 40 mpg. That’s well below the ZAP’s initial claim of 60 mpg, but above the EPA’s original estimate of 37 mpg. (GCC)

China’s Ministry of Finance has increased the tax on cars with engines with displacements larger than 2.0-liters from 8% up to a maximum of 20%, according to the Ministry of Finance. The new tax rates begin 1 April. At the same time, the tax on cars with engine displacement between 1.0 and 1.5 liters will be cut from 5% to 3%. The changes are designed to discourage the purchase of gas guzzlers such as sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and large sedans, and to conserve oil in the energy-strapped nation. (GCC)

Lyondell Chemical, the top manufacturer of methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) in the US, has issued a statement sharply critical of the EPA’s ruling earlier this year to revoke the two percent oxygenation requirement for reformulated gasoline (RFG) nationwide. The company argues that the ruling will result in rapid cessation of the use of MTBE as an additive (due to liability issues), that ethanol cannot bridge the volume difference, and that the subsequent disruption in gasoline supply will push prices up throughout the summer of 2006.

MTBE is considered a potential human carcinogen. In comparison to petroleum products, MTBE poses additional problems when it escapes into the environment through leaks or spills. MTBE is now prohibited in 25 states (with seven more considering the same action) due to concerns over the contamination of groundwater caused by fuel spills and leaking from underground storage tanks. (GCC)

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Your first line in this column every week could be: "Bikes are still the way to go, but . . ." and go from there.

Posted by: Ben Wendt on 26 Mar 06

I have to agree. Although I find living outside the city of London, its not always possible to use peddle power. I try and cycle where possible and feel better for it.

Posted by: Alfie Wood on 27 Mar 06

I wish it were possible to ride a bike everywhere here in Manila. Too bad the climate, the road conditions, and the traffic situation will make the experience unbearable and quite dangerous for anyone keen on biking. Although it's possible to do so if you're going somewhere close by or for exercise.

Posted by: Lynn on 27 Mar 06



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