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The Week in Sustainable Mobility (6/18/06)
Mike Millikin, 18 Jun 06

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

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A type of soil contained deep within thawing permafrost—loess—may be releasing significant, and previously unaccounted for, amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, according to authors of a paper published in Science. Loess permafrost—extending more deeply into the permafrost layers and covering more than a million square kilometers in Siberia and Alaska—is a very large carbon reservoir with the potential to be a significant contributor of atmospheric carbon, yet one seldom incorporated into analyses of changes in global carbon reservoirs. (GCC.)

A study by the Meteorology Department at the University of Reading (UK) suggests that a reducing night flights could help minimize the impact of aviation on climate change. The study, published in Nature, shows that even though 25% of flights over the UK occur during the night, these flights are responsible for at least 60% to 80% of the radiative forcing associated with aircraft condensation trails (contrails). (GCC.)

The national science academies of the G8 nations, China, India, Brazil and South Africa have issued a joint statement calling on world leaders—and especially those in the G8—not to let tackling climate change fall by the wayside as their countries grapple with energy security. (GCC.)

Lloyd’s of London has released a new report urging insurers to face up to the growing threat of climate change. The “360 Risk Project” report says that new weather patterns are changing insurers’s exposures, and they need to act now. (GCC.)

According to BP’s just-released Statistical Review of World Energy 2006, consumption of oil in the US dropped 0.16% in 2005 from the year before, declining from an average of 20.732 million barrels per day (mbpd) to 20.655 mbpd. Global consumption of oil, however, increased 1.3% from 2004 to 2005, climbing from 81.444 mbpd to 82.459 mbpd. US share of global consumption thus dropped from 25.46% to 25.05%. (GCC.)

The government of the Canadian province of Québec has launched a 24-point, six-year action plan to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in key sectors such as energy, transportation, industry and agriculture, and to adapt to the effects of climate change in others. Among the actions are restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from cars (modeled on the California regulations) and a carbon tax. (GCC.)

An international survey by Michelin, in partnership with the LH2 survey institute, conducted an international survey on the public perception of sustainable mobility. Carried out in five countries—China, France, Germany, Japan and the United States—the study found that while fewer than 20% of the people surveyed had heard of the term, 55%, when asked to choose a definition, said it meant mobility that is more respectful of the environment. The people surveyed generally were not willing to make radical changes in their behavior to protect the environment. (GCC.)

LIGHT-DUTY HYBRIDS and PLUG-IN HYBRIDS

Toyota announced the nationwide sales launch in Japan of the completely redesigned Estima Hybrid minivan. The new Estima Hybrid offers fuel consumption of 5.0 l/100km (47 mpg US) on the Japanese 10-15 cycle and CO2 emissions of 116 g/km. (GCC.)

Suzuki Motor plans to develop hybrid vehicles with General Motors and market them in North America around 2009. The two automakers reportedly are considering developing sport utility vehicles with engine displacements of approximately 3 liters. (GCC.)

IFP (Institut Français du Pétrole) presented a CNG-electric hybrid prototype vehicle based on the Toyota Prius at the Challenge Bibendum, running in Paris 8-12 June 2006. IFP co-developed the CNG Prius with Gaz de France (GDF). (GCC.)

Formula 1 racing is heading toward a use of hybrid technology in coming years. "This will be a technology that everyone can understand, the public can understand and it will be directly relevant to road cars and a technology for the future of road cars," said Max Moseley, head of the FIA. (GCC.)

Toyota will double the number of hybrid models it offers by the early years of the 2010s. The company is advancing its research and development of plug-in hybrid vehicles. (GCC.)

BATTERIES and ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Segway is participating in a new alternative transportation program called EasyConnect II, a field test to save fuel, reduce emissions, traffic and parking congestion in the San Francisco Bay Area. The EasyConnect II program offers commuters who ride the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) or ride-share to the Pleasant Hill Bay BART station the opportunity to utilize a range of shared-use, low-speed vehicles, including one of ten Segway Human Transporters (HT) free-of-charge for the last few miles of their commute to the office. (GCC.)

BIOFUELS

Bucking opposition from a number of quarters, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco signed HB 685, Louisiana’s Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) into law. The bill will mandate a 2% target by sales volume for both ethanol and biodiesel once pre-conditions are met. (GCC.)

The Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) has released a test specification for biodiesel fuel to facilitate testing and evaluation of the performance of B20 biodiesel blends in new diesel engines. The EMA specifications establish technical requirements for blends of petroleum fuel and biodiesel fuel that can be used to assess the effects of such biodiesel fuels on engine performance, durability and emissions. (GCC.)

BP plans to spend $500 million over the next ten years to establish a dedicated biosciences energy research laboratory attached to a major academic center in the US or UK, the first facility of its kind in the world. The company also joined BIO (the Biotechnology Industry Organization)—the first fully-integrated energy company to do so. (GCC.)

Chevron Corporation and the Georgia Institute of Technology’s have formed a strategic research alliance to pursue advanced technology aimed at making cellulosic biofuels and hydrogen viable transportation fuels. Chevron Technology Ventures, a subsidiary of Chevron, will work with Georgia Tech’s Strategic Energy Institute and will contribute up to $12 million over five years for research into and development of these technologies. (GCC.)

"Ethanol producer VeraSun Energy Corporation and its shareholders raised $419.75 million in the company’s IPO. VeraSun is the second-largest producer of ethanol in the US, behind Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and the largest pure-play ethanol company. (GCC.)

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is preparing to double the size of its capital spending on a range of projects, including ethanol and biodiesel expansion, coal co-generation and bio-degradable plastic. (GCC.)

Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) and Millennium Ethanol have formed an ethanol marketing agreement through which ADM will market all ethanol produced by Millennium Ethanol at its forthcoming 100 million gallon Marion, South Dakota facility. (GCC.)

HYDROGEN

Air Products, City of Santa Monica, Calif. and the California South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) opened a new hydrogen fueling station located at the Santa Monica City Yards. This is the fifth such station opened in support of a five-city AQMD hydrogen-fueling alternative energy demonstration program that features 30 Prius hybrids converted by Quantum to burn hydrogen in the engine. (GCC.)

Virent Energy Systems, the developers of an Aqueous Phase Reforming (APR) process that converts sugars and glycerin directly into hydrogen and other fuels, has raised a $7.5 million round of private venture financing led by Cargill Ventures. (GCC.)

At the 16th World Hydrogen Energy Conference, Renault provided an update on its fuel-cell vehicle powered by hydrogen from an on-board reformer that can use gasoline, diesel or ethanol as feedstocks. (GCC.)

Nanomix, a nanotechnology company specializing in nanoelectronic sensors for industrial and biomedical applications, has added a sixth patent in its portfolio of cryosorptive hydrogen storage technologies. (GCC.)

A Wyoming company has received a National Science Foundation Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to determine the technical feasibility and economic viability of the electrolytic production of hydrogen from coal-bed methane (CBM) water using power generated from wind turbines. (GCC.)

Air Products Canada Ltd. opened its first hydrogen production facility to serve the Canadian refining industry. The new 71-million standard-cubic-feet-per-day (MMSCFD) hydrogen production plant serves the oil sands area. This is the first of three hydrogen plants Air Products will have operating in Canada by 2008. (GCC.)

NATURAL GAS

A report prepared for the International Gas Union (IGU) concludes that natural gas has a tremendous opportunity to become a much more widespread global transportation solution, given the constant rise of oil prices, downward trends in oil reserves, upward trends in gas reserves and supply (partly through the exploitation of hydrates and renewable bio-methane) and increasing concern over criteria pollutants and carbon dioxide emissions from petroleum-fueled vehicles. (GCC.)

The California South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) recently approved nearly $3 million to replace 15 of the region’s oldest diesel school buses with new, natural gas-powered buses. (GCC.)

Westport Innovations picked up a C$22.1 million (US$20.1 million) investment from Perseus LLC, a US.-based private equity fund management company. The proceeds will fund the commercial launch of High-Pressure Direct-Injection (HPDI) LNG truck engines in North America and Australia, development of Westport’s international business ventures, and general working capital requirements. (GCC.)

SYNTHETICS

Shenhua Group, China’s biggest coal producer (and the third-largest in the world) is planning eight Coal-to-Liquids projects that will produce some 30 million tons per year (about 600,000 barrels per day) of synthetic oil and products by 2020. (GCC.)

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will provide coal-liquefaction technologies to China as part of a broader Japanese effort to promote coal use in Asia outside Japan to alleviate the tightness in global oil supplies. (GCC.)

DIESEL

GM is adding two turbocharged diesel five-door hatchbacks to its Astra lineup in Australia. The Astra is Australia’s best-selling European-import car, and these are the first diesel models of that line offered in the country. (GCC.)

Peugeot will enter the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours race with a new car—the Peugeot 908—powered by a 5.5-liter V-12 HDi diesel engine equipped with a diesel particulate filter system. The new car will be called the Peugeot 908. (GCC.)

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