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The Week in Sustainable Mobility
Mike Millikin, 16 Apr 06

BurtynskyontheShanghaiFreeway.jpgMike Millikin covers the ongoing evolution of sustainable mobility at Green Car Congress.

In an interview on the BBC4 Today’s Program, Professor Sir David King, the UK’s chief scientist, said that given current trends, a 550 parts per million concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is optimistically the likely level at which the world can settle. Such a concentration—roughly double the pre-industrial level—would likely result in an average global temperature rise in excess of 3º C (5.4º F). An increase of that amount pushes the world into what the Exeter Conference categorized as dangerous climate change. An increase of 2º C, for example, is thought sufficient to melt the Greenland ice sheet. (GCC.)

China has been building expressways at a frenetic pace. From 2001 to 2005 it added 24,000 new kilometers—4,800 kilometers/year. That total length of new expressways in China roughly equals the combined length of all expressways in Canada and Germany—the number three and four countries for expressway length—combined. China’s expressways stretched 41,000 kilometers at the end of 2005, the world’s second largest system only after the United States. By 2010, China expects to have around 65,000 kilometers of expressway, and plans to increase that to at least 85,000 kilometers by 2020. The United States had some 90,000 kilometers in 2005. (GCC.)

The International Energy Agency has increased its forecasted global demand for oil. Based on receiving detailed 2004 data, the agency lifted the baseline from which it calculates increases in demand by 310,000 barrels per day. The increase came not from China but from the Middle East and other Asian Pacific countries. For the rest of 2006, the agency revised global demand growth down slightly from 1.49 million barrels per day (mb/d) to 1.47 mb/d. This is a rebound from a hurricane-depressed 1.05 mb/d in 2005, with the recovery weighted towards the second half of 2006. This raises the total demand estimate to 85.1 million barrels per day in 2006. (GCC.)

In its just-released Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the US Energy Information Administration predicts summer gasoline prices in the US will average $2.62 per gallon—$0.25 per gallon higher than last year’s average of $2.37 per gallon. The agency expects summer diesel prices of $2.62 per gallon as well. The agency also forecasts continued high crude oil prices through the rest of 2006, with a razor-thin buffer between consumption and production.(GCC.)

The rising costs of fuel and fertilizer are leading US farmers to switch from corn to less input-intensive crops such as soybeans in 2006, according to the Prospective Plantings report recently released by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Dry conditions also contributed to lower corn planting intentions in the southern Great Plains. Farmers plan to plant 78 million acres of corn in 2006, down 5% from 2005. They intend to plant a record-high 76.9 million acres of soybeans, up 7%. (GCC.)

Germany is calling for Euro-6 standards defining limits of oxides of nitrogen to be set now, rather than in the future. Germany’s representative told a meeting of EU competition ministers in March of a growing consensus that the just-published Euro-5 standards could be tightened, and that the auto industry would benefit from being given the next round of emissions targets soon. (GCC.)


Toyota’s Lexus division introduced its new flagship at the New York International Auto Show: the 2008 Lexus LS 600h L. This hybrid version of the recently-introduced LS 460 combines a new 5.0-liter gasoline direct-injection V8 with large, high-output electric motors and a newly-designed battery pack to deliver more than 430 horsepower (321 kW). Lexus expects the vehicle to earn a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) rating. By comparison, the LS 460, the 600h’s conventional counterpart, uses a 4.6-liter V8 that delivers 380 hp and earns a ULEV II rating. Lexus is positioning the 600h as delivering the power and performance of a 12-cylinder with best-in-class V8 fuel efficiency. Lexus expects the V8-powered LS 460 to earn a combined city/highway mileage rating in the low 20s. (GCC.)

GM announced a new hybrid passenger car—the Saturn Aura Green Line—that the company plans to have on sale by the end of this year. This will become the company’s first production hybrid passenger car. The Aura uses the same hybrid powertrain as the Saturn VUE Greenline hybrid: a 2.4-liter Ecotec engine with a Belt-Alternator-Starter (BAS) system augmented with a 36-Volt NiMH battery pack. Functionally, the Greenline hybrid system offers start-stop and regenerative braking—features expected in a simple Belt Alternator Starter system. GM, however, developed a dual tensioner assembly for the hybrid accessory drive (the motor/generator package) that will transfer a small amount of torque to the drive system for very brief periods of time. (GCC.)

Piaggio, the Italian manufacturer of the iconic Vespa scooter, has introduced two plug-in hybrid prototypes based on the standard Vespa LX 50 and X8 125 models. (GCC.)

Raser Technologies, an R&D company developing and licensing advanced electric motors based on its proprietary Symetron technology, announced performance results for its Symetron AC Induction Motor-based P-50 Hybrid Propulsion Integrated Starter Alternator (ISA) Drive System. At 107mm (4.2 inches) in length and weighing only 30kg, the P-50 motor demonstrates 48kW of peak power, 230Nm of peak torque, and a peak efficiency of 94%. As a generator the P-50 produces 20kW of power. (GCC.)


Feel Good Cars Corporation (FGC) is tuning up for the production of its ZENN low-speed electric vehicle. Although the ZENN currently uses lead-acid batteries, FGC entered into an agreement with the EEStor to acquire worldwide exclusive rights to purchase EEStor’s new Energy Storage Unit—a high-power-density ceramic ultracapacitor—for the small vehicle market and golf carts (up to 100 HP and 1,200 kgs curb weight). EEStor reports that work on its ESU—projected to offer up to 10x the energy density (volumetric and gravimetric) of lead-acid batteries at the same cost—in on track, with 3rd party testing to begin this summer. (GCC.)

Axion Power International, the developer of what it calls a lead-acid battery-supercapacitor hybrid energy storage cell, has received a US Patent (No. 7,006,346) for its Positive Electrode of an Electric Double Layer Capacity Technology. Where conventional lead-acid batteries use lead-based electrodes for both the positive and negative electrodes, Axion e3 Supercells use lead-based positive electrodes and a five-layer assembly consisting of a microporous activated carbon electrode, a corrosion barrier, a current collector, a second corrosion barrier and a second carbon electrode. Axion claims that e3 Supercell batteries, compared to typical lead acid batteries, use up to 65% less lead; offer longer cycle life in deep discharge applications, significantly higher power rates, significantly faster recharge rates; and can weigh considerably less and require no maintenance. (GCC.)


The Iowa House on Wednesday passed by a vote of 97–1 a Renewable Fuels measure that will require that 25% of motor fuel sold in Iowa by 2020 come from renewable sources. The bill—which creates the most aggressive Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in the country—now goes to Governor Tom Vilsack for signature. (GCC.)

The Missouri House of Representatives has passed the Missouri Renewable Fuel Standard (MoRFS—HB 1270), a bill requiring all gasoline sold in Missouri beginning 1 January 2008 to contain at least 10% agriculturally-derived ethanol (E10), unless specifically exempted. (GCC.)

GM has rapidly become the most outspoken of the major automakers in its promotion of flexible-fuel vehicles that can burn ethanol blends of up to 85% as well as gasoline. Accordingly, GM used its presence at the New York International Auto Show to drive home its messaging on flex fuel vehicles that can burn E85. (GCC.)

A two-day World Economic Forum roundtable in São Paolo, Brazil, on the role of Latin America in the global economy focused in part on the role of biofuels and energy security in Latin America—and more specifically, on the role of Brazilian ethanol. (GCC.)

Petrobras—Brazil’s state-controlled oil company—and Mitsui—Japan’s second-largest trading company—signed an agreement to promote and to sell Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol in world markets. (GCC.)

Farmacule BioIndustries, a Australian biotechnology company focused on developing a sustainable molecular farming industry, and its research partner Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have developed new sugarcane plants that can be used for more cost-effective ethanol production without compromising the commercial sugar potential of these plants. The approach modifies sugarcane plants using the Farmacule’s INPACT technology (and cellulases in the plant) to enable highly efficient conversion of cellulose into fermentable sugars after crushing. In other words, it is the sugars derived from cellulose that are used to produce ethanol (cellulosic ethanol), while the sucrose from sugarcane remains untouched and available for the consumer sugar market. (GCC.)


Honda announced that it will extend retail sales of its all-new compressed natural gas (CNG) 2006 Civic GX to New York this fall. Honda already markets the Civic GX to fleet operators with their own fueling stations, and has begun offering the Civic GX and the Phill home natural-gas refueling appliance to its customers at select dealers in California. The Civic GX is the only dedicated natural-gas-powered passenger vehicle available to retail customers in the United States. (GCC.)

Tokyo Gas Co. plans to promote the use of subcompact cars capable of running on both standard gasoline and natural gas in an effort to expand the use of natural gas as an automotive fuel. By modifying subcompacts so they are capable of running on gasoline after using up their supply of natural gas, Tokyo Gas hopes to help bring the use of natural gas into the mainstream in Japan. (GCC.)


House Science Research Subcommittee Chairman Bob Inglis (R-SC) introduced legislation called the H-Prize Act of 2006 (H.R. 5143) that would establish a $100-million grand prize for commercial transformational technologies that accelerate the adoption of hydrogen technology. Inglis modeled the H-Prize after the Ansari X Prize for private spaceflight. (GCC.)

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has issued an RFP for a diverse fleet of 14 hydrogen-powered vehicles including light-duty passenger vehicles, cargo vehicles and vans or buses to demonstrate the viability of hydrogen fuel and hydrogen vehicles for transportation. (GCC.)

Interros, a major Russian investment firm, and Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium, have agreed to make a $217 million cash investment in Plug Power, a provider of stationary PEM fuel-cell systems and systems for on-site hydrogen generation. Plug Power partners with Honda to create the Honda Home Energy Station. (GCC.)


Researchers at Rutgers and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have developed a tandem catalytic system that creates a more efficient Fischer-Tropsch process for the conversion of coal and other carbon feedstocks to synthetic fuels. The two-step chemical process, developed by chemists at Rutgers University in New Jersey and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, converts some of the less-useful byproducts from the traditional Fischer-Tropsch process into usable fuels, increasing the overall yield. (GCC.)


Mercedes-Benz unveiled the previously-announced E 320 BLUETEC—its “50-state ready” clean diesel car—at the New York International Auto Show. (GCC.)

Speaking at the New York auto show, BMW USA Chairman and CEO Tom Purves, said that the company will focus on diesels in the short-term, hybrids in the medium-term, and hydrogen combustion engines in the longer-term to keep the combustion engine relevant and to deliver increasing levels of efficiency and reduced emissions. Purves also said that BMW would not bring a diesel to the US (even though its European diesel business is very strong) until it can offer an appropriate 50-state solution. (GCC.)

Renault is combining its Quickshift five-speed robotized gearbox with the 1.5 dCi 85hp diesel engine in a version of the Modus—the first application of this transmission in a Renault diesel passenger car. (Renault uses a version of the Quickshift in diesel-powered light commercial vehicles: the Trafic and Master.) The flick-shift, robotized transmission combines the performance and fuel economy of a manual gearbox with the user-friendliness of an automatic transmission. The combined-cycle fuel consumption for the Quickshift 1.5 dCi Modus is 4.5 l/100km (52.3 mpg US). (GCC.)

J.D. Power Automotive Forecasting projects that global demand for diesel light-duty vehicles will nearly double over the next 10 years, increasing from 15 million sales in 2005 to 29 million in 2015. (GCC.)


Frost & Sullivan has awarded its Automotive Powertrain Entrepreneurial Company of the Year Award for 2006 to Drivetrain Innovations (DTI), a Dutch start-up with five patented flywheel-based drivetrain technologies that can be applied in hybrid vehicles. (GCC.)

Subaru has introduced a new drive system—the SI-Drive—that allows the driver to maximize engine performance, control and efficiency by choosing from among three selectable modes—“Intelligent”, “Sport” and “Sport Sharp”—using a rotary dial on the center console.

The SI-Drive controls the electronic throttle system’s response and fuel and ignition curves to modify engine torque characteristics, changing the performance character of the car in each mode. With “Intelligent” mode selected, the system reduces engine torque and maximum power and switches to a more relaxed throttle response curve. Intelligent mode is an ideal choice for smoother response while commuting in traffic, for example, where it can also help boost fuel efficiency by up to 10%, according to Subaru. (GCC.)

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Don't all the elevated Chinese expressways have positive impacts also? Much less urban street level congestion. Easier accessibility for walking and bicycling. Less stop-and-go driving.

Yes, the increased relative wealth in China means more autos, but the elevted expressways seem to benefit the condition.

Posted by: JC on 16 Apr 06

Expressways separated from street-level traffic obviously have many benefits. One drawback, as Brooklyn's Sunset Park area has found, is that elevating auto and especially diesel truck traffic is a frighteningly good way to spread the particulate pollution increasingly linked to asthma, which is epidemic in many parts of New York City with elevated highways, notably the South Bronx and Sunset Park. In the US we can afford to (and should when helpful) bury highways underground; I imagine China can't so much, though.

Posted by: Dave Cutler on 17 Apr 06



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