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ICCT study finds state EV incentives playing a significant role in driving sales

31 October 2014

A study by a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) shows that state electric vehicle incentives are playing a significant early role in reducing the effective cost of ownership and driving electric vehicle sales.

As described in their white paper, “Evaluation of state-level US electric vehicle incentives”, the researchers found that some of the states with the largest electric vehicle incentives—i.e., California, Georgia, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington—have electric vehicle sales shares that are approximately 2–4 times the national average. A statistical regression revealed that the total monetary benefit to consumers from state incentives significantly positively correlates with BEV sales when all 50 states and the District of Columbia are included.

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La Poste Group and Renault enter new eco-mobility partnership; coincides with delivery of the 5,000th Kangoo Z.E.

31 October 2014

Philippe Wahl, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of La Poste group, and Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Renault group, signed a new partnership agreement today to pursue and strengthen their cooperation on the search for eco-mobility solutions. Since the launch of France’s low-carbon vehicle project in January 2009, La Poste group, which has the country’s largest industrial fleet with some 69,000 vehicles, has equipped itself with a complete range of electric vehicles, including small light commercial vehicles, quads, three-wheelers and electrically assisted bicycles. Today, La Poste mailmen and mailwomen use nearly 25,000 means of electric transport daily.

The Renault group and La Poste group are working together in a wide range of fields on forward-looking issues independently of their business relations. By signing the new partnership agreement, the two French companies are pursuing their collaborative efforts on the search for eco-mobility solutions. Through research work and studies, the two groups will develop pilot projects on new mobility solutions and continue to foster the sustainable mobility of the present and future, focusing on four main areas:

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BMW researchers and colleagues in project ABILE develop optimized ionic-liquid-based electrolyte for efficient Li-air batteries

31 October 2014

A multinational team including researchers from the BMW Group have optimized an ionic liquid electrolyte for Li-air batteries, which resulted in a stable electrode-electrolyte interface and a highly reversible charge-discharge cycling behavior in a test Li-air coin cell. The charge process (oxygen oxidation reaction) is characterized by a very low overvoltage, enhancing the energy efficiency to 82% (i.e, delivering 82% of the energy used to charge it compared with 60 to 70% for most existing Li-air batteries)—thus addressing one of the most critical issues preventing the practical application of lithium-oxygen batteries, the team noted in their paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters. In addition, the cell showed a charge capacity of 4,000 mAh/g and lasted at least 30 cycles without any deterioration in performance.

The study was financially supported by BMW within the project ABILE (Air Batteries with Ionic Liquid Electrolytes). BMW, together with the scientific teams of La Sapienza - University of Rome, University of Münster and Hanyang University in Seoul, initiated ABILE, which focuses on investigating the use of ionic liquids and alternative anodes as potential components for Li-air and Li-O2 batteries.

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Opinion: The End Of An Era: Is The US Petrodollar Under Threat?

31 October 2014

by Andrew Topf of

Recent trade deals and high-level cooperation between Russia and China have set off alarm bells in the West as policymakers and oil and gas executives watch the balance of power in global energy markets shift to the East.

The reasons for the cozier relationship between the two giant powers are, of course, rooted in the Ukraine crisis and subsequent Western sanctions against Russia, combined with China’s need to secure long-term energy supplies. However, a consequence of closer economic ties between Russia and China could also mean the beginning of the end of dominance for the US dollar, and that could have a profound impact on energy markets.

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Study casting doubt on GHG benefits of corn stover ethanol draws sharp criticism by other researchers; Liska responds

30 October 2014

A study published earlier this year in the journal Nature Climate Change that cast doubt on whether biofuels produced from corn residue could meet federal mandates for cellulosic biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% compared to gasoline (earlier post) has drawn critical response published as correspondence in the same journal.

The study led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln assistant professor Adam Liska, funded through a three-year, $500,000-grant from the US Department of Energy, used carbon dioxide measurements taken from 2001 to 2010 to validate a soil carbon model that was built using data from 36 field studies across North America. Among their findings were that using corn crop residue to make ethanol and other biofuels reduces soil carbon and under some conditions can generate more greenhouse gases than gasoline.

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BASF and Toda Kogyo forming a joint venture for Li-ion cathode active materials in Japan

30 October 2014

BASF and Toda Kogyo have agreed to form a joint venture for Li-ion cathode active materials (CAM) in Japan. Under the terms of the agreement, BASF will acquire a 66% ownership stake in the new venture, with Toda Kogyo Corp. holding a 34% ownership stake. BASF and Toda Kogyo Corp. will combine their respective CAM businesses, intellectual property and production assets in Japan in the joint venture, which will operate under the trade name BASF TODA Battery Materials, LLC. (Earlier post.)

BASF Toda Battery Materials will focus on R&D, production, marketing and sales of a broad range of cathode materials including Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide (NCA), Lithium Manganese Oxide (LMO) and Nickel Cobalt Manganese (NCM) in Japan. These materials are used in lithium-ion batteries for the automotive, consumer electronics and stationary storage markets.

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Mercedes-AMG HPP awarded Dewar Trophy for PU106A Hybrid F1 Power Unit

30 October 2014

The Dewar Trophy was presented to Andy Cowell, Managing Director of HPP, along with members of his project team from Brixworth. Click to enlarge.

The UK’s Royal Automobile Club (RAC) has awarded the prestigious Dewar Trophy, presented for outstanding technical achievement in the automotive industry, to Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) for the design of the PU106A Hybrid Formula One Power Unit. (Earlier post.)

The team at HPP was recognized for its development of the most advantageous powertrain within the new Formula One regulations. The aim for 2014 was to raise the engine efficiency from around 29% for the previous normally aspirated 2.4-liter V8 to better than 40% with the new 1.6-liter V6 Hybrid turbo. The successful design, research and teamwork resulted in the Mercedes-Benz PU106A Hybrid Power Unit, which has not only been the dominant powertrain in this first season under the new Formula One rules, but is also arguably among the most thermally efficient gasoline powertrains ever produced, with a claimed thermal efficiency of greater than 40%.

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Ford projects utility vehicles to account for 29% of its global sales by end of decade

30 October 2014

Ford projects utility vehicles will account for 29% of its global sales by the end of the decade. Ford utility vehicles—ranging from the compact EcoSport to the eight-seat Expedition—accounted for 23% of brand sales globally in 2013, up from 17% a year earlier.

Utility vehicle sales are expanding rapidly in many of the world’s fastest-growing markets according to a Ford analysis of data from IHS Automotive, which forecasts market information and competitive data on the automotive industry. Worldwide demand for utility vehicles is up 88% since 2008, making SUVs the fastest-growing segment. Utilities now account for 19% of the global automotive market, with the segment expanding at more than three times the rate of the vehicle industry overall.

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DOE seeking feedback on findings of hydrogen production and delivery workshops

29 October 2014

The US Department of Energy's Fuel Cell Technologies Office has issued two requests for information (RFIs) seeking feedback from the research community and relevant stakeholders about electrolytic hydrogen production (DE-FOA-0001188) and hydrogen delivery research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) activities (DE-FOA-0001187) aimed at developing technologies that can ultimately produce and deliver low-cost hydrogen.

The purpose of these RFIs is to solicit feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to electrolytic hydrogen production pathways and hydrogen transmission and distribution, specifically with respect to reports developed at workshops on the topics convened by the DOE in February.

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DOE launches $1M H2 Refuel H-Prize for small-scale hydrogen refueling

29 October 2014

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) and the Hydrogen Education Foundation (HEF) launched the $1-million H2 Refuel H-Prize. The two-year competition challenges America’s engineers and entrepreneurs to develop affordable systems for small-scale hydrogen fueling. This H-Prize competition is intended to assist in expanding the hydrogen infrastructure across the country to support more transportation energy options for US consumers, including fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

The H2 Refuel H-Prize will award a $1-million prize to the top refueler system entry that can produce hydrogen using electricity and/or natural gas (energy sources commonly available to residential locations) and dispense the hydrogen to a vehicle. Systems considered would be at the home-scale and able to generate and dispense 1-5 kg H2/day for use at residences, or the medium-scale, generating and dispensing 5-50 kg H2/day. Medium-scale systems would serve a larger community with multiple users daily, such as a large apartment complex or retail centers to fuel small fleets of vehicles (e.g., light duty automobiles, forklifts or tractors).

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Study shows biodiesel blends in buses reduce PM, other harmful exhaust elements, EC and CO

29 October 2014

A new study on the combustion properties of biodiesel for use in urban transit buses found that using biodiesel can effectively reduce the mass of particulate matter released in both hot and cold idle modes. The study, published by the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium (MNTRC), observed a reduction in amount of particulate matter, number of elements, and elemental carbon; the reduction is considered beneficial to promoting the clean air and human health.

The researchers found that biodiesel has many advantages over regular diesel even in a very low blend percentage, including low emissions of particulate matter, combustion elements (mainly sulfur), elemental carbon, and carbon monoxide. In sum, they recommended that governments consider using blends of biodiesel in urban and commercial vehicles to enhance air quality.

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First look at all-new Voltec propulsion system for 2G Volt; “the only thing in common is a shipping cap”

29 October 2014

Cutaway of the new power electronics unit, which is much smaller than in gen 1, and which is now integrated into the drive unit housing. The power electronics and the motors use separate cooling: water for the PE and ol for the motor unit. Click to enlarge.

The second-generation Volt, which makes its world debut in about 10 weeks at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, features a clean-sheet, all-new Voltec propulsion system—new battery, new electric drive unit, new power electronics and new range-extending engine. At an introductory media briefing on the new powertrain held at the Warren Transmission Plant in Michigan, where the new drive unit will be built, Larry Nitz, GM Executive Director, Transmission and Electrification, noted that the only common part between the gen 1 and gen 2 drive units was a little yellow plastic intra-plant shipping cap for the manual selector.

The battery cells, with a tweaked NMC/LMO chemistry from LG, increase storage capacity by 20% volumetrically when compared to the original cell. The drive unit features a large number of changes: new roles for the two motors, two clutches instead of three, and a smaller power electronics unit integrated into the housing among them. (No more big orange high-voltage cables underneath the hood.) The new direct-injected 1.5 liter engine with cooled EGR features a high compression ratio and is optimized to function in its range extender role.

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