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The Week in Sustainable Mobility (4/23/06)
Mike Millikin, 23 Apr 06

bus.gif Mike Millikin covers the ongoing evolution of sustainable mobility at Green Car Congress.

The arrival of Earth Day on 22 April saw oil prices topping $75 per barrel and sporadic gasoline shortages in the US due to the switchover from MTBE to ethanol as the predominant oxygenate in gasoline. (GCC.)

Since recovering from its sharp drop in the wake of hurricane Katrina last fall, US demand for gasoline has consistently remained slightly above the level for the same period in the prior year, despite an increasing national average price that is currently 24.4% higher than the national average price at the same time last year. (GCC.)

GM’s global automotive operations posted a $929-million loss for the first quarter of 2006, a $1.053-billion improvement from the first quarter of 2005. Although sales volumes in the US were down year to year, international sales and the sales mix contributed to an increase in sales revenue to $43.490 billion for the quarter. GM, said CEO and Chairman Rick Wagoner, is "especially encouraged by the early sales of the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade [full-size SUVs]." (GCC.)

Gasoline sales in Japan in fiscal year 2005 dropped for the first time in 21 years on factors such as surging prices and more fuel-efficient cars. Gasoline sales had previously fallen just twice since 1950: in 1974, during the first global oil crisis, and then in 1984, when record heat curtailed leisure travel. (GCC.)

The South Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy has announced a three-level energy saving program that will restrict car use and air conditioning in buildings amid concerns the escalating crisis over Iran’s nuclear program will push oil prices up further. At Level 3, cars will be allowed to be used only every other day. (Earlier post.)

A research team led by Duke University scientists has found that while instrumental readings made during the past century offer ample evidence that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are warming Earth’s climate, the magnitude of future global warming will likely fall short of the most extreme predictions. Their conclusions still place the warming, given only a doubling of CO2 concentrations from per-industrial levels, within the range of dangerous climate change, however. (GCC.)

Spain’s emissions of greenhouse gases have risen 48% from 1990 to 2004, climbing from 289.4 million metric tons CO2 equivalent to 428 million metric tons, according to a report produced by the Environment Ministry that will be sent to the European Commission. Greenhouse gas emissions rose 4.8% from 2003 to 2004. (GCC.)

New cars sold in Europe in 2005 produced on average 160 grams of CO2 per kilometer, a reduction of only 1% from 2004. Improvements in fuel economy lead to decreases in carbon dioxide emissions. That rate of improvement is only one-third of the rate required to achieve the voluntary target the industry committed to the EU in 1998 of 140 g/km by 2008. The EU’s goal is to reach an average CO2 emission figure of 120 g/km for all new passenger cars marketed in the Union by 2010 at the latest.

The AES Corporation—one of the world’s largest global power companies, with 2005 revenues of US$11.1 billion—announced plans to invest approximately $1 billion over the next three years to expand the company’s alternative energy business and bring to market new projects and technologies to reduce or offset greenhouse gas emissions. (GCC.)

Royal Dutch Shell has begun pumping natural gas from its wind- and solar-powered Cutter micro-platform, sited on a marginal-production gas field underneath the southern North Sea. The unmanned platform is supported by a monopost, which is based on offshore wind-turbine designs. (GCC.)


Nissan has released very preliminary details about the 2007 Altima Hybrid, due to go on sale in the US in early in 2007. The Altima Hybrid powertrain combines the Altima’s entry-level 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) with an electric motor and generator that delivers the acceleration of a V6, increases fuel economy and maintains low tailpipe emissions. The hybrid will be available in only eight states. (GCC.)

April is turning into a banner month for sales of the Ford Escape and Mariner Hybrids. With seven selling days left in April (and many dealers slow to report numbers), the company has already exceeded the prior highest monthly Mariner sales results (150 in December 2005) and is closing in on its prior highest monthly Escape hybrid numbers (1,800 in September 2005). (GCC.)


Mitsubishi Fuso is showing to US buyers a parallel-hybrid diesel-electric commercial truck that delivers up to 30% better fuel economy in urban delivery applications (up to 10% on-highway) and up to 60% less emissions than the standard diesel-only model. (GCC.)

The Montgomery County (Maryland) Division of Transit, is adding five buses powered by General Motors’ diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system to its mass transit fleet, thereby becoming the 36th community to invest in hybrid buses using the GM-Allison powertrain. (GCC.)


Maxwell Technologies struck two deals with Chinese companies this week for the licensing and manufacture of its ultracapacitors. First, it formed a manufacturing alliance with Belton Technology Group, a major Chinese manufacturer of precision components, flex circuits, circuit boards and other products, to meet the forecast growth to multi-million-unit annual volumes for its BOOSTCAP ultracapacitors and multi-cell modules. (GCC.)

The company also signed a contract with Shanghai Urban Electric Power Investment Development Corporation (SUEP), granting SUEP a license to manufacture and market ultracapacitor products based on Maxwell’s proprietary large cell and multi-cell module technology under its own brand in mainland China. (GCC.)


Significant, commercial-scale biodiesel production continues to expand to new countries, with recent announcements highlighting developments in Indonesia, Sweden and China. (GCC.)

DuPont has formed a new business unit, DuPont Biofuels, to accelerate commercialization of DuPont’s biofuels technologies and pipeline candidates. (GCC.)

Syngenta AG, the world’s biggest maker of agrichemicals and plant seed, will introduce corn seed genetically modified to express high levels of a novel alpha-amylase enzyme—a thermal-tolerant digestive enzyme that turns the corn’s starch into sugar for ethanol&mash;into the US market in 2007. The company anticipates the high-amylase corn could reduce corn ethanol production costs by 10%. (GCC.)

Metro Transit buses serving the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, will begin using a 5% biodiesel blend (B5) in July for its fuel and will begin a comprehensive test of an 8% biodiesel blend (B8) for potential future use shortly thereafter. Minnesota state law requires a 2% biodiesel blend in all diesel sold in the state. (GCC.)

Toyota reportedly will introduce flex-fuel vehicles in the US by 2008 to address the surge of interest in ethanol as a renewable fuel. In 2005, Toyota indicated that it was developing flex-fuel vehicles targeted toward the Latin American market. (GCC.)

General Motors continued to focus on its national ethanol campaign with plans for the addition of approximately 20 new E85 ethanol fueling sites in the southeast Michigan area through a collaborative partnership with Meijer and CleanFUEL USA. (GCC.)

Russia, the world’s second-largest oil producer and exporter, will start building its first major ethanol plant in 2007. The US$200-250 million plant will produce 300,000 tonnes of fuel ethanol a year (about 380 million liters, or 100 million gallons US) for export to the European Union. (GCC.)


Fiat Powertrain Technologies (FPT), a company of the Fiat Group, will provide 1,000 N60 ENT G natural gas engines to Beijing Public Transport Company. The N60 ENT G is a turbocharged 5.9-liter engine that complies with the European Enhanced Environment-friendly Vehicle (EEV) specifications that will come into force much after 2010 for standard production diesel vehicles. (GCC.)

The City of Barstow, California has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Hythane Company for exploring the use of Hythane (a fuel blend consisting of 20% hydrogen and 80% natural gas by volume, or about 7% hydrogen by energy) as a vehicle fuel for the city’s fleet. Using Hythane further reduces the emissions produced by using natural gas engines. (GCC.)

Mazda has leased two more of its bi-fuel hydrogen-gasoline RX-8 Hydrogen RE vehicles, one each going to the government authorities of the City of Hiroshima and Hiroshima Prefecture. (Mazda is based in Hiroshima.) This brings the total of leased bi-fuel hydrogen-gasoline vehicles to four. (GCC.)


The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a solicitation worth up to $1.6 million this year for industry studies on the best ways to utilize energy from existing commercial nuclear reactors for the production of hydrogen. (GCC.)

Unitel Technologies has designed and built a fully automated computer-controlled pilot plant for making fuel-cell hydrogen from JP8 military fuel. Unitel’s pilot unit uses little more than 4 grams per minute of JP8 to produce 20 standard liters of hydrogen per minute (0.24 kg H2/hour), enough to generate approximately .975 kW of fuel-cell power for an auxiliary power unit. (GCC.)


The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and BorgWarner have entered into a partnership, formed via a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), to develop newly advanced turbochargers, air management, and electronic sensors for use with clean diesel and high-efficiency gasoline engines. (GCC.)

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the availability of $1,039,320 in grant monies for projects that reduce diesel emissions from older engines in the Midwest (EPA Region 5) as part of its support for the Midwest Clean Diesel Initiativ (MCDI). Of the total funding, $464,320 is allocated to school bus emission reduction. (GCC.)

Union Pacific is testing technologies to reduce diesel engine emissions in older railroad locomotives. Through collaboration with staff at the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Union Pacific is providing a 3,800-horsepower SD60M locomotive built in January 1992 to serve as the first freight locomotive in North America to be equipped with a set of flow-through oxidation catalyst devices manufactured by the MIRATECH Corporation. (GCC.)

Honda Motor plans to begin manufacturing diesel engines in the UK to meet the rising demand in Europe. Until now, Honda has exported diesel engines from Japan to its British factory for assembly in cars. (GCC.)


A Shanghai, China, chemical company has started producing dimethyl ether (DME) as an alternative fuel for transit buses in the city. Shanghai Coking & Chemical Corp, a unit of Shanghai Huayi Group, put its 5,000-tonne-per-year dimethyl ether plant into operation earlier this week. (GCC.)

Sasol Chevron, the joint venture between Chevron Corporation and South African petrochemical company Sasol Limited, has launched a promotional stunt to showcase its GTL (gas-to-liquid) diesel fuel technology. A driving team, with one vehicle fueled by GTL, has been challenged to complete the 11,000-km (6,837-mile) journey from Sasolburg, South Africa to Doha, Qatar by 5 June for the official opening on 6 June of the US$950 million Oryx GTL production facility—the first commercial-scale GTL plant outside South Africa. (GCC.)

Lack of an agreement for crude from Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the Mexican state oil company, is thwarting the building of the first new US refinery in 30 years—the Arizona Clean Fuels refinery near Yuma (earlier post). As a result, Arizona Clean Fuels is turning to Canada for syncrude supplies from the oil sands. (GCC.)

Mobil Pipe Line Company (MPLCO), an affiliate of ExxonMobil Pipeline Company, has started delivering Canadian crude to US Gulf Coast refineries through an 858-mile crude oil pipeline that runs from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland, Texas. The successful completion of the 20-inch Pipeline Reversal Project marks a first for the US Gulf Coast region and Canadian crude producers, and gives shippers of western Canadian crude oil, i.e., oil sands crude, direct pipeline access to US Gulf Coast refining markets. (GCC.)


Researchers have uncovered new details for the step-by-step creation of zeolites that could lead to targeted methods to produce zeolites with precisely the crystal sizes and shapes demanded by specific applications such as hydrogen purification and petroleum refining separations as well as other industrial applications. (GCC.)

GE’s Technology Lending is providing capital to Ocean Power Delivery, Ltd. (OPD), developer of the world’s first commercial facility that will generate electricity from offshore ocean waves. The transaction, made in conjunction with GE Energy Financial Services, extends a loan facility of $2.6 million (£1.5 million) to UK-based OPD. (GCC.)

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GMs "live green, go yellow" campaign is the some of the sickest greenwashing, er I mean, yellowashing, I've ever seen... pretty disgusting:

Posted by: matt on 23 Apr 06



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