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The Week in Sustainable Mobility (5/21/06)
Mike Millikin, 21 May 06

pr06_036.jpg Mike Millikin covers the ongoing evolution of sustainable mobility at Green Car Congress.

A group of investors collectively managing more than $465 billion in assets called on the world’s largest automakers to address their role in global climate change and the effects it could have on their profits. (GCC.)

Honda has become the first automaker in the world to announce global CO2 reduction goals for its products and production activities. (GCC.)

American International Group (AIG) has become the first major US insurer to publish a climate change policy and program. (GCC.)

Tackling climate change will improve Europe’s air quality, cut premature deaths and could save €10 billion (US$12.9 billion) annually in air pollution control costs by 2030, according to a new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA). Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by burning smaller amounts of fossil fuels will result in less air pollution, thereby significantly cutting the cost of tackling air pollution. (GCC.)

DriveNeutral, a on-profit organization created in 2005 as a student project to educate the public around the imminent problems of global climate change, has launched an online campaign to promote carbon offsets for individual drivers. Like TerraPass, DriveNeutral allows consumers to buy a certification decal, the funds from which are used to purchase and retire carbon emissions credits. (GCC.)

Scientists at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) recently announced that this year saw the lowest Arctic winter sea ice extent since the beginning of the satellite record in 1979. Sea ice extent, or the area of ocean that is covered by at least 15% ice, was 14.5 million square kilometers (5.60 million square miles) in March, as compared to 14.8 million square kilometers (5.72 million square miles) for March 2005, the previous record low.

The drop in sea ice coverage—300,000 square kilometers—is roughly equivalent to the size of Italy (301,230 km2). (GCC.)

The 2006 Tour de Sol—the 18th of the annual green car event organized by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA)—featured three separate competitions with entrants using energy-efficiency techniques and less carbon-intensive fuels to demonstrate an average of 66 mpg, 140% above the current CAFE standard. (GCC.)

LIGHT-DUTY HYBRIDS and PLUG-IN HYBRIDS

Honda executives announced they still cease production of the ultra fuel-efficient Insight in September. The company plans to introduce a new dedicated hybrid that is smaller and significantly less expensive than the Civic. (GCC.)


Japan’s Nidec Corporation, the world’s leading manufacturer of motors for hard-disk drives, plans to start mass-producing electric motors for hybrid vehicles in 2008 or 2009. (GCC.)

Witnesses at a House Science Subcommittee on Energy hearing—including a representative from Honda—expressed unanimous support for proposed legislation that would advance the commercialization of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV)...although some witnesses were more enthusiastic about the prospect of PHEVs than others. (GCC.)

HEAVY-DUTY HYBRIDS

The US Postal Service (USPS) launched its first diesel-electric parallel-hybrid mail-delivery van. Converted by Azure Dynamics, the parallel-hybrid van is projected to deliver improvements in fuel economy ranging between 30-50%, depending on duty cycle. The van maintains its original 6.5-liter diesel engine, and uses a 35kW Azure custom inline inductor motor with ultracapacitors for energy storage. (GCC.)

Optima Bus Corporation has been awarded the first contract for its Opus ISE Series Hybrid Low-floor Bus. The contract, from Town of Avon (CO) Transit, is valued at approximately $7.5 million. (GCC.)

BATTERIES and ELECTRIC VEHICLES

ExxonMobil Chemical and its Japanese affiliate, Tonen Chemical Corporation, are developing a prototype microporous film for lithium-ion battery (LIB) separators that it expects will dramatically improve lithium-ion battery power and safety performance in hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) applications. (GCC.)

Maxwell Technologies has introduced Power-type versions of it its BOOSTCAP D-Cell ultracapacitor cells, packs and modules to provide high-performance, life-of-the system alternatives to batteries for automotive electrical power network stabilization and industrial applications. (GCC.)

London-based Sakura Battery Company and Italian commercial vehicle manufacturer EFFIDI are introducing a new all-electric city car in the UK: the Maranello4. (GCC.)


BIOFUELS

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome issued an executive directive ordering the use of B20 biodiesel in all city-owned vehicles in San Francisco, including fire engines, buses and even a mobile zoo. The order calls on city departments that currently use diesel fuel in vehicles and equipment to switch to biodiesel fuel in 100 percent of their fleets by the end of 2007.

Canadian energy company Suncor will supply the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) with a biodiesel blend to fuel the TTC’s fleet of 1,491 buses. Over the next 20 months, Suncor will supply the TTC with more than 120 million liters of the blend, currently B20, but shifting to B5 in June at TTC’s request. (GCC.)

The Port of Vancouver, USA (Washington) is shifting to a B20 biodiesel blend for use in its own vehicles and heavy equipment. (GCC.)

In a speech on 15 May, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced, among other energy initiatives, a push to increase the blending of biofuels in petroleum-based fuels in France to 10% by 2015. The European Union has set an overall goal of increasing the use of biofuels in energy consumption to 5.75% by 2010. (GCC.)

Archer Daniels Midland Company is expanding its Hamburg, Germany, facility with the addition of a palm-oil refinery that will have an annual capacity of 350,000 metric tons per year. With the addition of the palm-oil refinery, the facility will have a capacity of over one million metric tons per year of rapeseed, soy and palm oils making it Europe’s largest vegetable oil refinery capable of simultaneously refining these oils, intended for both food and industrial use. (GCC.)

A Singaporean entrepreneur is building the first plant in the island city-state to produce biodiesel out of used cooking oil. (GCC.)

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla argued for the rapid transition of the US transportation infrastructure to an ethanol-based one in a keynote address to the MIT Energy Conference. (GCC.)

Petrobras, the Brazilian state-owned oil and gas company, has tested and approved a new approach to producing diesel fuel using vegetable oil as an input in a refining process. Dubbed H-Bio diesel, it will be developed as an option for diesel fuel supplies over the next few years. (GCC.)

SYNTHETICS

Production of crude oil in Canada is set to nearly double by 2020, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ (CAPP) just-released annual Crude Oil Forecast. This marks a significant increase from the projections last year, driven by increasing oil sands production. (GCC.)


HYDROGEN

Hydrogen Engine Center (HEC) has received a C$179,000 (US$161,211) order through its wholly-owned Canadian subsidiary, Hydrogen Engine Center Canada, from Natural Resources Canada for a 250kW hydrogen-fueled genset. (GCC.)

General Hydrogen Corporation, a provider of hydrogen fuel-cell power packs as battery replacement technology for electric forklifts and other industrial vehicles, announced its first OEM sale of a Hydricity Pack to Cat Lift Trucks of Houston, Texas, to be delivered in July, 2006. (GCC.)

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has created a public Hydrogen Incidents Database that focuses on characterizing hydrogen-related incidents and near-misses, and the ensuing lessons learned from those events. (GCC.)

NATURAL GAS

According to statistics from the Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan (HDIP), the country now has more than one million natural gas vehicles on the road. That makes it one of three countries (the others being Argentina and Brazil) to cross that mark. (GCC.)

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) has approved FirmGreen Energy’s (FGE) construction of its landfill gas processing center, called a Green Energy Center, adjacent to the Franklin County landfill in Grove City, Ohio. The plant will produce gas for use in electrical generation, and the production of CNG and methanol. (GCC.)

DIESEL

Honda will introduce a cleaner next-generation 4-cylinder diesel engine currently under development into the North American market within the next three years. This engine will meet the Tier2 Bin 5 emission standard. Honda will also work on developing a clean V6 diesel engine. (GCC.)

OTHER

Aisin Seiki, perhaps better known as a transmission manufacturer, has worked with Toyota Central R&D Labs Inc. to develop dye-sensitized solar cells (DSC)—photoelectrochemical cells also known as Graetzel cells—for application in homes and cars. (GCC.)

GM will introduce its redesigned Opel/Vauxhall Corsa at the British International Motor Show (18 – 30 July) in London—the fourth generation of this popular small car. The current Corsa models (gasoline and diesel) offer fuel economies ranging from 44 mpg US to 52 mpg US combined. GM will announce prices and specifications for the new Corsa closer to launch. (GCC.)

GM Powertrain introduced three new versions of existing engine models: a 3.6-liter V-6 gasoline engine with direct injection and variable valve timing (VVT); its first V-6 application of Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation) on the 3.9-liter V-6 for 2007 Chevy Impala; and E85 ethanol fuel capability on the 3.9-liter V-6 offered in 2007 Chevy Uplander fleet models.

The 3.6L VVT DI engine reduces fuel consumption by up to 3% while increasing power by 15%. The 3.9-liter AFM application improves fuel economy by an estimated 5.5%. (GCC.)

MIT researchers are working to improve an old concept—the thermophotovoltaic (TPV) conversion of heat into electricity using photovoltaic (PV) diodes—to power vehicle electric subsystems. (GCC.)

LiquidPiston was recently named one of four finalists in the ECOnomics Environmental Business Plan Challenge presented by GE & Dow Jones. The company has developed an engine architecture they claim will achieve 50% fuel efficiency (compared to the ~30% of existing engines) and drastically reduce pollutant emissions. (GCC.)

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