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The Week in Sustainable Mobility (10/1/06)
Mike Millikin, 1 Oct 06

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California’s Air Resources Board held a 2œ day ZEV Technology Symposium in Sacramento last week as part of an ongoing review of its Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Regulation.

The symposium provided a good snapshot of the current state of development of coming technologies in three principal categories: hydrogen combustion engines, hydrogen fuel cells, and batteries for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

One of the largest uncertainties faced by the transportation sector has been what comes after petroleum. For the last five years, the accelerated focus has been primarily on the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as the transportation platform of the future.

Hydrogen engineers have made tremendous and undeniable progress during that time (even though research work on hydrogen stretches back decades prior to that). However, tough obstacles remain, one of the chief ones being the hydrogen storage problem.

During those same five years, however, battery technology, augmented by developments in nanomaterials engineering, has made remarkable strides. So much so, that some auto and truck makers are now openly talking about a race between the two technologies.

The discussion at the ZEV symposium underscored that. And even though a plug-in hybrid is not a ZEV electric vehicle, it is increasingly being seen as a very strong, and potentially near-term solution to reduce fossil fuel consumption and emissions.

The plug-in duty cycle is a tough one for a battery. A battery in a conventional hybrid basically experiences a number of shallow discharges and recharges. A battery in an full electric vehicle lives a life of deep discharge. But a PHEV battery has to support both. In all-electric mode, it sees deep discharge cycles. It also runs cycles of shallow discharges and recharges after the battery is depleted to its minimum state of charge for all-electric operation and switches over to a conventional hybrid mode (with the engine shouldering more of the power burden).

But the issues for PHEVs are less those of invention (the lithium-ion chemistries have the flexibility in energy and power delivery to serve the purpose) and more those of engineering optimized batteries for a plug-in hybrid duty cycle, and getting the costs down.

Doing that engineering requires a much better understanding of the requirements of the application: whether or not the car will run as all electric before switching over to a blended engine and battery mode, or whether or not it will run blended from the start. (Some simulations have found that the amount of petroleum displaced is about the same in either scenario.) (More...)

To gain that understanding, PHEV developers need to emulate their hydrogen colleagues, and get large-scale trials in place the better to gain the data. Unlike the hydrogen side, however, PHEV developers have another resource: the conversions of existing hybrids that are sprouting up.

While these are not built with optimized battery packs, they could prove to be a valuable source of information about driver patterns and behavior, if the data could be systematically collected and shared. (As hydrogen trials are planning to do in Europe. (More...)

HYBRIDS and PLUG-IN HYBRIDS

At the Paris Auto Show, Lexus provided more details on the powertrain and performance of its luxury hybrid flagship, the LS 600h L, introduced earlier this year at the New York International Auto Show. The Lexus Hybrid Drive in the LS 600h L 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 330 kW (442 hp) of total system power. Fuel consumption is rated at less than 9.5 liters/100km (more than 25 mpg US), and CO2 emissions are less than 220 g/km. (More...)

Writing in GM’s FastLane Blog, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said that the company, long a hydrogen advocate, is “not putting all of our eggs in the hydrogen basket...We are also studying plug-in hybrids, and will have more to say about those soon.” (More...)

A series of speakers at the California Air Resources Board Zero Emissions Vehicle Symposium explored a potential accelerated adoption scenario for plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery electric vehicles (BEV) that exploits the capabilities of vehicle-to-grid charging. (More...)

Plug-in hybrid vehicles could contribute greatly to reducing automobile oil consumption and emissions, but reaching those goals requires major progress in key areas such as improving battery technology and cleaner power generation, according to a new report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). (More...)

Polish bus manufacturer Solaris Bus & Coach Company confirmed that the first purchasers of the hybrid version of their 18-meter (60 foot) articulated Urbino bus, which uses GM’s Allison two-mode EDrive system, are the German municipalities of Dresden and Leipzig. (More...)

BATTERIES and ELECTRIC VEHICLES

NanoeXa and Decktron have entered into a definitive agreement with Argonne National Laboratory to develop and transfer into commercial use next-generation rechargeable lithium battery technologies from Argonne’s Battery Technology Department. NanoeXa is a South San Francisco, California-based nanotechnology clean energy company founded in 2005. Decktron is a Korean lithium battery and display company, fully acquired by NanoeXa. (More...)

Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide has signed a letter of understanding with Miljo Innovasjon AS of Norway that establishes the basis for discussions to structure a joint venture for the development and production of electric vehicles intended for markets in Norway, Europe, and China. (More...)

Volkswagen of America Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL), located in Palo Alto, California, has taken a 1964 Deluxe Microbus and retrofitted it with a collection of new technologies, including an all-electric drive powered by lithium polymer batteries. (More...)

HYDROGEN

In a press event at its R&D facility north of Tokyo, Honda showcased its FCX Concept fuel-cell vehicle, putting it through its paces on the test track at about 100 mph. The company says it plans limited marketing in Japan and the US for the vehicle starting in 2008. (More...)

Speaking at the California Air Resources Board Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Symposium, representatives from Sandia National Laboratories and BMW laid out the rationale and technical strategies for a focus on hydrogen-fueled combustion engines (H2ICE). (More...)

Quantum Technologies outlined a development path for its compressed hydrogen (CH2) storage systems that shows the company meeting the US Department of Energy’s 2010 hydrogen storage gravimetric density target. (More...)

The Department of Energy announced funding for six cost-shared research and development projects investigating different aspects of coal-to-hydrogen production and the utilization of hydrogen or hydrogen/natural-gas mixtures in combustion engines. (More...)

BIOFUELS

French Finance Minister Thierry Breton has outlined steps in an action plan to accelerate the adoption of E85 flex-fuel vehicles and infrastructure in France. (More...)

Dutch researchers concluded that large-scale Biomass-to-Liquids processing could be economically viable for Europe even if using imported feedstock. (More...)

Neste Oil’s Board of Directors has approved a strategy aimed at making the company the world’s leading producer of second-generation renewable diesel fuel. The Finnish company has developed a refinery-based proprietary technology it calls NExBTL for the high-pressure hydrogenation of fatty acids. The process can use a flexible input of any vegetable oil or animal fat and produce a product with characteristics similar to Fischer-Tropsch output. (More...)

Researchers from Iowa State University are working with Frontline BioEnergy to optimize a gasification process for the production of producer gas from biomass to replace the use of natural gas in ethanol plants. (More...)

SYNTHETICS

Chinese Petroleum Corp. (CPC) of Taiwan will kick in $1.5 million to co-fund a preliminary feasibility study for an 80,000-barrel-per-day coal-to-liquids fuels plant near the Beluga coal fields on the west side of Cook Inlet, in Southcentral Alaska. (More...)

Chevron Corporation and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have created a joint research project to improve the recovery of hydrocarbons trapped in oil shales and slow-flowing oil formations. (More...)

DIESEL

Mercedes-Benz intends to offer BLUETEC diesel-powered versions of its M-, R- and GL-Class sport-utility vehicles that will meet EPA Tier 2 Bin 5 and CA LEV II emissions standards in the US beginning in CY 2008. Such compliance will allow the sale of the diesels in all 50 states. When the Mercedes E320 BLUETEC hits salesrooms shortly, it will be as a 45-state compliant vehicle, not a 50-state vehicle. (More...)

Honda previewed its new Tier 2 Bin 5 diesel, targeted for introduction in the US by 2009. Instead of the urea-based SCR system (as used in BLUETEC), Honda uses a combination of an advanced combustion management (PCCI) and a new NOx catalytic converter to meet NOx emissions requirements. (More...)

Honeywell has introduced a parallel sequential dual-stage turbo system for diesel engines. The system makes its debut on the 4-cylinder engines of PSA group’s Peugeot 407 and 607, and the Citroen C5 and C6—the first such application on a four-cylinder diesel. (More...)

Chrysler took the wraps off its Dodge Avenger concept car at the Paris Auto Show this week. The Avenger uses a 2.0-liter turbo diesel engine and offers a lower rear diffuser to reduce vehicle drag and improve fuel efficiency. (More...)

OTHER

ZAP has signed an agreement to form a joint venture with China auto manufacturer Shandong Jindalu Vehicle Company Ltd.—the manufacturer of the XEBRA electric micro-car which ZAP imports. The joint venture involves the design and manufacture of a new generation of low-cost advanced transportation vehicles that run efficiently on gas, electricity, ethanol and other unspecified advanced technologies and fuels. (More...)

Beginning in October, Toyota Motor (TMC) will equip its new Japanese-market vehicle models using automatic transmissions with an Eco Drive Indicator, a feature intended to encourage environmentally considerate driving. (More...)

Volvo has unveiled its new C30, the smallest car in Volvo’s model range, at the Paris Auto Show. For the European market, Volvo will offer the C30 with a range of gasoline, flex-fuel and diesel engines that can deliver fuel consumption as low as 4.9 liters/100km (48 mpg US). Volvo has announced that it will bring the car to the US market as well, although no earlier than the 2008 model year. (More...)

At the Paris Auto Show, BMW introduced a system it calls Intelligent Alternator Control (IAC) to generate electric power for a car’s on-board network exclusively in overrun and during braking—IAC thus also incorporates a system for regenerating brake energy. (More...)

The Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard Branson, today called on the global aviation industry to develop a shared solution to the growing issue of climate change. The move follows Virgin Group’s plans to invest $3 billion in renewable energy initiatives over the next ten years. (More...)

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Comments

Zero Emission Vehicles?

How many emissions are created during their manufacture?

How about the bicyle as a "zero emission vehicle"?
It really is zero emission, and doesn't generate as many emissions in manufacturing as automobiles.

When the crunch of peak oil hits, lots of people are going to find driving an automobile to be a prohibitively expensive proposition. So let's wean ourselves off of cars, and get onto bicycles. If the Dutch can do it, so can we.


Posted by: Stephen Bach on 3 Oct 06

Honda will also develop a smaller fuel-cell vehicle, a Civic-size hatchback that it also calls the FCX. The first FCX made its debut in the US market back in 2004. Honda has delivered more than a dozen of the second-generation fuel-cell vehicles to families and local governments in several states since then.


Posted by: Joe on 11 Oct 06



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