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UPS to purchase 10 million gallon equivalents a year of renewable natural gas from Big Ox Energy; largest RNG commitment to date

20 November 2017

UPS announced an agreement with Big Ox Energy (a wholly owned subsidiary of Environmental Energy Capital LLC) to purchase 10 million gallon equivalents of renewable natural gas (RNG) per year. This is the largest investment in RNG to date for the company, and the agreement runs through 2024. Use of RNG yields up to a 90% reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions when compared to conventional diesel.

In addition to the agreement with Big Ox, UPS signed a five-year agreement earlier this year with AMP energy for 1.5 million gallon equivalents of RNG per year from the Fair Oaks dairy farm in Indiana. The RNG agreements will help UPS reach a key sustainability goal: 40% of all ground transportation fleet fuel from sources other than conventional gasoline and diesel by 2025.

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Mercedes-Benz will offer electric drive on all commercial van lines; electric eVito now available to order, eSprinter in 2019

20 November 2017

Mercedes-Benz Vans will offer electric drive options on all its commercial van model lines. This will start with the mid-size eVito, with deliveries commencing in the second half of 2018. Further model ranges will follow, starting in 2019.

The eVito, the second all-electric production model from Mercedes-Benz Vans after the 2010 Vito E-Cell, starts at €39,990 (US$47,000) (in Germany excl. VAT). The exclusive pre-ordering phase for the mid-size van begins today in Germany, with market launch scheduled for the second half of 2018. The first 1,000 orders on the microsite will also be rewarded with a service package including Wallbox. The eVito will be followed in 2019 by the eSprinter. The line-up will then be rounded off by the Citan. The commercial model ranges with electric drive will thus cover all requirements from people moving to goods transport.

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Ford unveils its first plug-in hybrid vehicle for police and government customers

20 November 2017

Earlier this year, Ford revealed the world’s first-ever pursuit-rated hybrid police vehicle. (Earlier post.) Now, the company is introducing a plug-in hybrid vehicle with an all-electric range of 21 miles for police and government customers.

The Special Service Plug-In Hybrid Sedan, the first PHEV police vehicle from Ford, is designed for police and fire chiefs, detectives, and other government personnel whose jobs don’t require a pursuit-rated vehicle.

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New ceramic membrane generates compressed H2 from methane and electricity with near-zero energy loss

20 November 2017

A team of scientists from CoorsTek Membrane Sciences, the University of Oslo (Norway) and the Instituto de Tecnología Química (Spain) have successfully completed laboratory testing of a ceramic membrane that generates compressed hydrogen from natural gas and electricity in a one-step process with near-zero energy loss.

The research, reported in the journal Nature Energy, builds on 20 years of experience in the development and manufacturing of ceramic membranes at CoorsTek. The membrane—a “protonic membrane reformer” (PMR)—is made from oxides of abundant materials (including barium, zirconia, and yttrium), forming a solid ceramic electrolyte that can transport hydrogen in the form of protons at temperatures from 400 to 900 °C. By applying an electric potential over the ceramic cell, hydrogen is not only separated from other gases but also electrochemically compressed.

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Volkswagen to invest ~$1.2B in Zwickau plant to convert to pure e-mobility facility; MEB-based EVs

19 November 2017

As part of a projected €22.8 billion (US$26.9 billion) investment in its plants worldwide, the Volkswagen Group will invest about €1 billion (US$1.2 billion) into its Zwickau, Germany plant to convert it into a pure-play e-mobility facility.

As the Group announced earlier (earlier post), the Zwickau site is being remodeled for the launch in 2020 of the first series production of electric vehicles on the MEB platform (the I.D. series). This will lay a key foundation for the electrification and hybridization of the Group’s product portfolio.

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IH2 technology licensed to Biozin Holding AS for production of liquid transportation fuels from woody biomass

19 November 2017

CRI/Criterion Catalyst Company LTD (CRIUK), a global catalyst technology company wholly owned by Royal Dutch Shell, has awarded an FEL-2 license agreement for the IH2 technology which converts biomass to liquid transportation fuels (earlier post), to Norway-based Biozin Holding AS (BZH).

Norwegian saw mill company Bergene Holm AS and the Swedish oil company Preem AB have entered into a cooperation, with the intention to realize full scale biofuel production sites in Norway through Biozin Holding AS. The production facility is intended to be located adjacent to the Bergene Holm AS saw mill in Åmli in southern Norway.

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Jülich, ORNL researchers advance high energy density iron-air batteries

18 November 2017

In a new study published in the journal Nano Energy, researchers from Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) provide in-depth insight into the electrochemically induced surface reaction processes on iron anodes in concentrated alkaline electrolyte in iron-air batteries.

Using in-situ electrochemical atomic force microscopy (in-situ EC-AFM) at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at ORNL, they were able to observe how deposits of iron hydroxide particles (Fe(OH)2) form at the iron electrode under conditions similar to those prevalent during charging and discharging. A deeper understanding of the charging and discharging reactions is viewed as the key for the further development of this type of rechargeable battery to market maturity.

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API: US petroleum demand last month highest for October since 2007; 19.9 mbpd

18 November 2017

Total petroleum deliveries in October moved up by 1.1% from October 2016 to average 19.9 million barrels per day, according to data from the American Petroleum Institute (API). These were the highest October deliveries since 2007. Compared with September, total domestic petroleum deliveries, a measure of US petroleum demand, decreased 1.8%. For year-to-date, total domestic petroleum deliveries moved up 1.2% compared to the same period last year.

Gasoline production was up from the prior month, but was down from the prior year and the prior year-to-date. In October, gasoline production reached the second highest output for the month of October, up 3.5% from the prior month, but down 0.2% from the prior year to average 10.0 million barrels per day in October.

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UC Santa Barbara team develops catalytic molten metals for direct conversion of methane to hydrogen without forming CO2

17 November 2017

Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara have developed catalytic molten metals to pyrolize methane to release hydrogen and to form solid carbon. The insoluble carbon floats to the surface of the melt, where it can be removed and stored or incorporated into composite materials. This method also avoids carbon formation on steam-reforming catalysts, which usually deactivates the catalysts.

In a paper in the journal Science, the team reported that a 27% Ni–73% Bi alloy (Ni0.27Bi0.73) achieved 95% methane conversion at 1065°C in a 1.1-meter bubble column and produced pure hydrogen without CO2 or other by-products. Under these conditions, the equilibrium conversion is 98%. When the temperature was reduced to 1040 °C, the CH4 conversion decreased to 86%.

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Volkswagen Group to spend >$40B over next 5 years to develop electric mobility, autonomous driving, new mobility services and digitalization

17 November 2017

The Volkswagen Group will spend more than €34 billion (US$40 billion) by the end of 2022 on the development of electric mobility, autonomous driving, new mobility services and digitalization.

Most of this investment will go into the electrification and hybridization of all Group models. This marks another move to advance the Roadmap E electrification offensive which was announced in September; the goal is to electrify the entire model portfolio by 2030. (Earlier post.)

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Univ of Washington team working to make poplar coppice viable cheap, high-volume biofuel feedstock

17 November 2017

A University of Washington team is trying to make poplar an economically viable biofuel feedstock by testing the production of younger poplar trees that could be harvested more frequently—after only two or three years—instead of the usual 10- to 20-year cycle. These juvenile trees are planted closer together and cut in such a way that more branches sprout up from the stump after each harvest, using the same root systems for up to 20 years. This method is called “coppicing,” and the trees are known as poplar coppice.

The UW team is the first to try converting the entire young tree—leaves, bark and stems—into bio oil and ethanol using two separate processes. Their results, published recently in two papers—one in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering and the other in Biotechnology for Biofuels (open access)—point to a promising future for using poplar coppice for biofuel.

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Sumitomo Electric, Univ of Toyama develop magnesium alloy for die casting with superior heat resistance

17 November 2017

Sumitomo Electric Industries and the University of Toyama have developed a high heat-resistant magnesium alloy for die casting applications. In die casting, a molten metal is injected into a die under high pressure and quickly cooled and solidified into the final part. Owing to its high productivity, die casting is widely used for manufacturing aluminum automotive parts.

One important way the automotive industry is seeking to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles is by reducing their weight. Due to their low castability and heat resistance, high component production cost, and low recyclability, conventional magnesium alloys cannot be used as substitutes for aluminum alloys.

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