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September 2004

September 30, 2004

Toyota Doubles Prius Allocation for US

Toyota is doubling the number of Priuses allocated for the US in 2005 to 100,000. The announcement coincides with Toyota selling the 100,000th Prius in the US since since the vehicle first went on sale in the U.S. in the summer of 2000. More than one-half of the total worldwide Prius production now is targeted for the US market.

Globally, Toyota has sold more than 250,000 hybrid vehicles since the introduction of the first-generation Prius in December 1997. In addition to the Prius, Toyota has built hybrid vans, box trucks, small buses and luxury sedans for sale in the Japan domestic market. Toyota is bringing two more hybrid models to the U.S. market early next year: the Lexus RX 400h and Toyota Highlander hybrid SUVs.

The increased allocation marks the second production increase for the second-generation Prius since it launched in October 2003 in the U.S. The original Prius production plan for the 2004 model was 36,000 units annually. With 12,000 pre-orders received before the vehicle launched in mid-October 2003 and approximately 10,000 units delivered in its first six weeks on sale, Prius production was increased in December 2003 to 47,000 units annually. With demand continuing to rise, Toyota boosted production once again. (Earlier post.)

September 30, 2004 in Hybrids, Vehicle Manufacturers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Minnesota’s BioFuel Highway

Declaring Minnesota the “renewable fuel capital of America,” Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty announced a series of initiatives focused on increasing the use of biofuels (mainly ethanol, but also biodiesel and biohydrogen) combined with conservation and the use of hybrids. The initiatives include plans and orders:

  • To double the minimum required ethanol content in gasoline from 10% to 20% (E20) by 2010.

  • To reduce the use of gasoline and petroleum-based diesel in state government vehicles by 25% by 2010 and by 50% (each) by 2015. To achieve this goals, state departments must ensure that 75% of new on-road vehicle purchases (excluding emergency and law enforcement vehicles) have fuel efficiency ratings that exceed 30 miles per gallon for city usage or 35 miles per gallon for highway usage, including but not limited to hybrid electric cars and hydrogen-powered vehicles. Departments must also increase their use of renewable transportation fuels, including ethanol, biodiesel and bio-hydrogen. These, combined with increased use of electronic transactions to reduce use of the fleet should yield the gasoline reduction, while increasing the use of E85 ethanol fuel in state vehicles from 68,000 gallons to 1.7 million gallons.

  • To allow single-driver hybrids to use high-occupancy-vehicle lanes.

  • To purchase hybrid buses and to use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel in other buses. Governor Pawlenty is directing the Met Council to add at least 20 hybrid buses to its fleet by 2008. (The Metropolitan Council is the regional planning agency tasked with, among other things, the bus system for the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.) The Met Council currently has three hybrid buses. The Met Council has also committed to using ultra-low sulfur fuel for nearly half of its bus fleet.

  • To support the establishment of the U of Minnesota as a National Center of Excellence for Biofuels Research.

“It’s time that America and Minnesota get much more serious about the commitment to renewable fuels. We have been dragging our feet in this country for too long in terms of our addiction, our reliance on foreign oil,” Pawlenty said. “While progress has been made, it needs to be made more quickly and more dramatically.”

Hard to argue with that. This also clearly works for Minnesota’s farmers and biofuels producers.

Next year, Pawlenty takes over as chairman of the National Governors Association’s renewable fuels caucus, a platform he intends to use to push his plan on a national stage.

For years, Minnesota has been among the more ethanol-friendly states in the country, primarily through a 13-cent per gallon subsidy paid to the fuel’s producers. It is also the fourth-largest largest producer of ethanol, just behind Nebraska. The number of Flexible Fuel Vehicles in the state government fleet that can run on gasoline or E85 fuel is continually increasing. The number of gas stations with E85 recently topped 100 in Minnesota.

While most cars now can easily accept E10, any fuel with a higher ethanol concentration may void engine warranties (unless, of course, the car is a FFV).

September 30, 2004 in Ethanol, Fleets, Hybrids, Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

S. Korea Spurs Green Car Development

The Korea Times. The South Korean National Assembly passed a bill authorizing the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE) to establish ongoing plans every five years to support the development and commercialization of future cars like electric, solar heat and fuel cell powered vehicles.

The ministry will also establish fuel efficiency standards for gasoline-electric hybrid cars by the end of next year. The government has already established a policy that public agencies adopt hybrids from this year on.

Hyundai has committed 50 hybrids to the government in October as a start. Separately, the company is outlining its vision for green cars in Seoul today.

September 30, 2004 in Hybrids, Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Panel: Viable H2 Fuel Cell Cars 15 Years Away

Autoweek reports that a panel of experts at the recent Electric Drive Transportation Association conference said the hydrogen fuel cell won’t be commercially ready for at least 15 years.

The panel highlighted hurdles in the following areas:

  • Fuel. The nation has no energy policy that calls for the creation of a system to produce and distribute hydrogen.

  • H2 storage and safety. Stronger, safer tanks are necessary to carry enough hydrogen to provide the required driving range.

  • Standards. There are no standards to address the technical aspects of the electric powertrain, which would allow engineers and suppliers to cut the development time of components.

  • Technology and materials cost.

“The science is not there yet,” said Bill Reinert, a senior systems engineer for Toyota Motor Corp., who works on hybrid and fuel cell vehicles.

September 30, 2004 in Fuel Cells | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 29, 2004

Ford H2ICE Shuttle Bus

Fordh2shuttlebus

Ford added to its prototypes that burn hydrogen in an internal combustion engine (H2ICE) today with the unveiling of a new H2ICE Shuttle Bus. The Ford H2ICE E-450 combines a Ford E-450 chassis cab with a shuttle bus body and a modified 6.8-liter Triton V-10 engine fueled with hydrogen. Ford will put two of the H2ICE E-450s into service as shuttle buses at the 2005 North American International Auto Show to demonstrate their capability.

The hydrogen-burning E-450 seats up to 12 passengers and their luggage, including the driver. The vehicle is equipped 5,000 psi (350 bar) hydrogen fuel tank. Ford expects the H2 shuttle bus to have a driving range of to 150 miles depending on conditions and vehicle load.

Earlier this year, Ford also rolled out a prototype of an H2ICE version of the Focus, and began testing an H2ICE version of its F-350 truck (earlier post), also based on the Triton V-10.

With these rollouts, Ford appears to be siding more closely with automakers such as BMW who are looking to hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engines as a transitional platform to hydrogen fuel-cell-powered cars.

Their positioning around the rollout of this new shuttle bus is perhaps more interesting than the specifics of the bus itself. Here is Ford’s view:

Ford is active in the development of alternatives to traditional gasoline-powered internal combustion engines. For years, Ford and the industry focused on battery-electric vehicles as the answer. But as years passed, battery technology never progressed or showed hope of progressing to reach a level near the efficiency of gasoline power. The industry has shifted its eyes and efforts toward gasoline-powered hybrid-electric, “clean diesel,” direct injection gasoline and diesel, and eventually, hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Hydrogen fuel cells are now almost universally recognized as the eventual heir to the internal combustion engine. Yet, even with tremendous progress in recent years, additional work is required to satisfy customer expectations in terms of durability and affordability.

As the development of the fuel cell continues to mature, the industry, governments, energy companies, and interested non-governmental organizations ponder how customers will fuel hydrogen vehicles of the future. Today's highway is lined with gasoline stations not equipped for hydrogen needs.

While the development of fuel cells continues, Ford believes H2ICE is a technology that will make hydrogen-power more practical. Ford also is utilizing H2ICEs to developing stationary backup or supplemental power systems and off-street applications such as airport ground support vehicles. Making H2ICE accessible sooner will help spur growth in the development of a hydrogen infrastructure paving the way for fuel cells in the future.

The focus on hydrogen is fine from a developmental point of view, but the danger is that other promising—and necessary—shorter-term avenues for dramatically improving fuel economy and lowering emissions can be overlooked in the focus on the more distant goal.

September 29, 2004 in Hydrogen, Vehicle Manufacturers | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

More on the Chevy Hybrid S3X: a Diesel Micro-Hybrid

Chevrolet’s prototype hybrid S3X SUV—shown at the Paris Motor Show (earlier post)—is a diesel micro-hybrid. The prototype combines the new GM-Daewoo diesel engine with GM’s Belt Alternator Starter (BAS) system to provide stop-start functionality and regenerative braking.

The BAS system enables early fuel cutoff to the engine during deceleration and shuts off the engine at “idle”. Regenerative braking and optimized charging combined with a 36V battery further enhance fuel economy while maintaining all vehicle accessories and passenger comfort systems during the periods when the engine is temporarily shut off.

GM’s BAS system will become a common component across many of GM’s platforms. (Although this is not the system used in the micro-hybrid Sierra/Silverado pickups; those use a Flywheel Alternator Starter mechanism.) GM-Daewoo engineers adapted the BAS system for the S3X. The combination of engine management with the electric motor/generator yields up to 12% improvement in fuel economy compared to the conventional power trains—which is right in the specified design range for these BAS systems.

[A note on naming. GM calls these “mild” hybrids. Under the system we’re using (A Short Field Guide to Hybrids)—which is also the one to which Ford adheres—the vehicles featuring only the BAS hybrid systems are micro-hybrids, as they provide no additional power for propulsion.]

As mentioned in the first post, the S3X will be the first diesel-powered Chevrolet in Europe. The 2.0 liter diesel, to be manufactured at the new GM-Daewoo engine plant in Korea, will be one of the first engines resulting from the licensing agreement between GM and VM Motori earlier this year.

VM Motori, 51% owned by Penske Corp. and 49% by DaimlerChrysler, specializes in the development and manufacture of automotive diesels for vehicles such as SUVs. In 1999, VM Motori also struck a licensing deal with Hyundai for then state-of-the-art 1.5 and 2.0L diesels. Under the licensing terms, as explained in Automotive Intelligence, Hyundai can manufacture the engines only to power its vehicles, while VM is free to grant other license agreements also in Korea—as with GM Daewoo.

The GM Daewoo agreement [...] concerns basically the same engine family licensed to Hyundai but with appropriate upgrades and adaptations to suit the specific vehicle needs.

The 1.5 and 2.0L engines for GM Daewoo incorporate the latest technology features developed over the last five years; since the Hyundai license was granted. One of the most interesting upgrades is the introduction of a variable geometry turbocharger (VGT) which allows a significant increase in power output (the 2.0L engine is rated at 150 hp) whilst at the same time, in conjunction with the latest 1,600 bar common rail components, lowering engine emissions thus enabling the more stringent EU.4 exhaust emission levels to be met. Furthermore, the engines will be tuned to optimize the characteristics and requirements of each vehicle application.

VM diesels were selected after evaluation of similar engines available on the marketplace. GM Powertrain will contribute to the new project with the supply of other key driveline components.

In short, the diesel in the S3X should be a powerful but fuel-efficient performer. The addition of the BAS system, although providing a small, incremental improvement in fuel consumption, will at least be working with a more fuel-efficient platform as a base.

September 29, 2004 in Diesel, Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Color Commentary from the CaFCP

Lou Ann Hammond provides some perceptions and analysis from the recent California Fuel Cell Partnership rally. She’ll be in Shanghai in a few weeks for the Challenge Bibeundum—I’m looking forward to reading about that as well.

September 29, 2004 in Fuel Cells | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 28, 2004

Propane Series-Hybrid Buses for Knoxville and Gatlinburg

Ebus is providing four propane-fueled series hybrid trolley buses for Knoxville, TN, and another two to Gatlinburg on a six-month trial.

Ebustrolley3405083

With the series hybrid-electric system, the bus is propelled only by an electric motor, which in turn receives its electricity from a NiCd battery pack. TheNiCd batteries provide 60 – 90 miles of range between charges while offering up to 2000 charge/discharge cycles (approximately seven years of typical revenue service).

The batteries can be recharged by the on-board propane-fueled 30 kW Capstone MicroTurbine generator, or via a plug-in option. With the turbine generator as a range extender, the buses have a range of approximately 250 miles. The picture to the right shows the power compartment of the Ebus —the turbine is on the left. (Click to enlarge.)

Currently, Ebus only manufactures 22-foot buses, shuttles and tolleys, although it will be releasing a 30-foot model in the future. It offers propane, diesel or natural gas versions of the turbine APU.

Capstone, known primarily for its turbines for distributed power generation and Combined Heating and Power (CHP) applications, has been carving out a growing niche in transportation. In addition to its partnership with eBus:

  • Capstone turbines integrate with ISE Research/ThunderVolt electric drive systems. These two are partnering on four buses for the LA Department of Transportation (LADOT) in Los Angeles.

  • Designline, a New Zealand company, uses Capstone turbines in its hybrid electric city buses in service in New Zealand and now Japan.

  • AVS has used the Capstone Microturbine in hundreds of hybrid buses. It uses one turbine in its 22-foot model, and two in the 38-foot version.

Capstone_emissions

The emissions profile of these vehicles is extremely low. To the right is a comparison of the Capstone emissions vs. other bus engines (from the AVS site). (Click to enlarge.)

Here’s a quick description of how the turbine works. (Cutaway diagram below right. Click to enlarge. For an interactive version, see this.)

The turbine system includes a compressor, recuperator, combustor, turbine and permanent magnet generator. The rotating components are mounted on a single shaft supported by air bearings (eliminating the need for lubrication) that rotate at up to 96,000 RPM. The generator is cooled by the air flow into the gas turbine, thus eliminating the need for liquid cooling.

Capstone_large

Air is compressed and injected into the recuperator where its temperature is elevated by the exhaust gases expelled from the turbine. This process increases the system efficiency. The heated compressed air is mixed with fuel and burned in the combustion chamber. The combusted hot gases expand through the turbine, providing the rotational power. Patented techniques in the combustion process result in the extremely low emission exhaust stream.

The output of the generator is variable voltage, variable frequency AC power. Power electronics convert this to programmable DC power for hybrid electric vehicle applications.

September 28, 2004 in Fleets | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Roche Adds Hybrids to Fleet

Hoffmann-La Roche (Roche), the U.S. prescription drug unit of the Roche Group, is buying Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrid vehicles for its pharmaceutical sales fleet as part of a plan to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent over the next five years. The company is starting with a pilot program of 20.

“Roche is committed to seeking innovative solutions to the challenge of improving the environment from all aspects of our operations, and we look for ways to preserve the planet and reduce emissions,” said Jack Kace, Vice President, Corporate Environmental & Safety Affairs. “We plan to continue to add hybrids and other fuel efficient vehicles into the 1,400 car sales force and eventually replace our entire fleet.”

I think that’s the first U.S. declaration I’ve seen about intending to swap out an entire fleet with green vehicles. (If anyone has any others, please let me know.) Timing and vehicle mix are still important questions to be answered, but it’s a good step.

More fleet purchases of hybrids will occur fairly rapidly, I think. (Earlier post.)

September 28, 2004 in Fleets, Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Personal Rapid or Automated Transit

Jerry Schneider from the Innovative Transportation Technologies (ITT) group at U of Washington, Seattle, proposes the inclusion emerging non-automotive transport technologies into the overall “Green Car” mix.

Makes sense to me. Ultimately, the goal is sustainable mobility, and whether the solutions look like a car, a personal pod, or something out of the Jetsons doesn’t really matter.

It’s also very clear that one way to reduce fuel consumption and emissions in urban situations is to look for innovative means of personal or mass transportation.

I’ll keep an eye peeled for developments along those lines. Here’s a link to the general ITT website, and this is the section on Personal Automated or Rapid Transportation, both great resources for information.

September 28, 2004 in Personal Transit | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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