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December 2004

December 30, 2004

ZAP Lands More US Smart Orders...But Car Future in Doubt

ZAP (earlier post) has pulled in a second 100-unit wholesale purchase order worth $2 million for its Americanized version of the Smart Car, bringing its total wholesale fleet orders in-hand to $4.98 million.

ZAP’s consumer auction of Smart cars on eBay was suspended a few weeks ago, pending completion of the Americanization of the vehicles. Bidding hit more than $27,000 for the Smart Car Americanized by ZAP within hours of its listing.

“We wanted to get a car on eBay right away with no reserve pricing, or no minimum bid, to evaluate the demand and price point for the car. At $27,000 for a 2003 model year Smart Car, it shows us that our proposed pricing structure is currently below the market demand,” said [CEO] Schneider. “There is not a better place than eBay to establish the market value for any new product.”

The Washington Post provides background on the bringing of the Smart car to the US, both by DaimlerChrysler and importers such as ZAP.

ZAP’s analysis of the US market demand for Smart cars (and their profitability) may be different than the manufacturer’s.  DaimlerChrysler is re-evaluating its strategy for the cars, which have been money losers.  The company originally was to introduce a Smart version of an SUV—the smart formore—at the upcoming North American International Auto Show. It has pulled the formore from the event, however, and put development on hold for three months.

Only a couple of months back, the chief financial officer of DaimlerChrysler, Manfred Gentz, said that the future of Smart was being considered at all levels, including selling it off or discontinuing it.

At the time, Walker and other DCX executives denied that those actions might take place. But with this recent decision on the model deemed critical to Smart's success in the huge U.S. market, suspicion has been raised again.  —Globe and Mail

Smart cars currently are being sold in Canada. The Smart fortwo coupé uses a 3-cylinder, .8-liter diesel that produces 40.2 hp (30 kW) of power and 73.8 lb-ft (100 Nm) of torque. Combined cycle fuel consumption is a low—but not class-leading—4.21 liters/100 km (56 mpg). CO2 emissions are 90 g/km.

December 30, 2004 in City car | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Feds Stall CA Hybrid HOV Access

Sacramento Bee. California hybrid owners looking forward to being able to use the HOV lane (earlier post) starting January 1 are going to have to wait: the necessary federal waiver is not only missing, it may never appear.

The permitting process was still pending a waiver from the federal government. And getting congressional approval for that waiver had turned out to be a much more convoluted proposition for California than the environmental organizations and a bipartisan group of elected officials behind the legislation, including Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, thought it would be.

It may be months before the waiver comes, and if the debate in Washington goes on long enough, it may not go into effect at all by the time California’s pilot project is set to expire.

The federal government says states need a waiver to tinker with car-pool lanes because the lanes are funded by the federal portion of the gas tax. A waiver was tucked into the omnibus transportation bill before Congress. But with a war on and election year wrangling, the package stalled. In the meantime, Ford and other American carmakers whose hybrid models don't meet the California law’s 45 miles per gallon and near-zero emission standards began pushing to block or weaken the standards.

California isn’t prepared to just roll the dice and let its hybrid program go forward without a waiver, as at least one state, Virginia, is doing. If it did, the federal government could retaliate by withholding billions of dollars in transportation funding. State officials say California has about 40 percent of the nation’s high-occupancy vehicle, or HOV, lanes.

Great idea. Let’s remove incentives for fuel efficiency.

December 30, 2004 in Hybrids, Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 29, 2004

Peak Oil Appears in Scania Presentation


At the Tokyo Motor Show this year, the Swedish Embassy, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) organized a one-day symposium on “Future Environmental Challenges for the Automotive Industry”. (Presentations are available here.)

Hasse Johansson, Group Vice President and Head of R&D for Scania, spoke on Reducing emissions with better engine technology. In running through his deck, I was startled to note the use of the projections on global peak oil production from the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO). (Earlier post.)

While I’ve heard talk from automakers about the general need to reduce dependency on petroleum, this is the first direct use of the ASPO estimates—and hence acknowledgment of the possible imminence of peaking—I’ve seen from within the industry.

(ASPO has accelerated its projected date for global peak production to 2007, as of its December newsletter.)

Johansson had been sketching out the importance of the diesel in heavy transport and describing the advances in emissions control over the preceding number of years. And then he touched on the oil issue and his view of the importance of GTL fuel.

The key question, in Mr Johansson’s view, concerned the source of fuel for these engines. “The world is now consuming the second half of all accessible oil and at a higher pace than ever before,” he warned. One alternative fuel seemed to have great potential, not least because it would allow the inherent benefits of diesel engines to continue to be exploited. This was synthetic fuel produced from various raw materials such as biomass, waste and natural gas.

A summary of the symposium is here.

December 29, 2004 in Fuel Efficiency | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Even Without the Tsunami, 2004 Set Record Losses from Natural Disasters

Losses caused by natural disasters, most of them climate-related and headed by hurricanes in America and typhoons in Japan, crossed the $100 billion threshold for the first time this year, leaping to some $105 billion, according to preliminary estimates from the Zurich-based reinsurance giant Swiss Re.

This estimate pre-dated the catastrophic Boxing Day tsunami, which early estimates are pegging at $14 billion in economic loss.

Adding in the effects of the tsunami, the year will see almost $120 billion in loss from natural catastrophes and possibly more than 120,000 dead—with 100,000 of those deaths possibly coming just from the tsunami.

At the time of Swiss Re’s pre-tsunami announcement, some 300 natural and man-made catastrophes around the world had been registered in 2004, claiming the lives of more than 21,000 people.

Swiss Re is cautious about assigning direct causality for the increasing rate and intensity of natural weather-based catastrophes to climate change. Climate change is certainly not the cause of the massive undersea earthquake that triggered the tsunami. But the results of this last year (and decade—losses from natural catastrophes started accelerating in the 1990s) highlight the increasing economic and human toll being taken by natural disasters, regardless of the underlying mechanism.

December 29, 2004 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Subaru R1: ICE Version of a Battery-Electric Concept Car


Subaru is introducing the R1, an all-new mini car, into the Japanese market. Subaru showed versions of the R1 earlier this year at the Tokyo Motor Show. This R1 is an ICE (internal combustion engine) production version of the R1e battery-electric vehicle concept car that appeared last year (minus the plug-in electric drive system).

The production All Wheel Drive R1 uses a 0.66-liter, 4-cylinder engine featuring an active valve control system and an intelligent continuously variable transmission. Fuel consumption is low: 4.17 liters/100 km, or 56.4 mpg. This exceeds the Japanese 2010 target for fuel consumption for this weight class: 21.1 km/liter, or 4.72 liters/100 km.

The R1 meets Japan’s Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (J-ULEV) standards, which specify HC and NOx emissions of 0.02 g/km—an additional 50% below the HC and NOx levels of the 2005 exhaust emission regulations.

December 29, 2004 in Fuel Efficiency | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 28, 2004

Working Out Biodiesel Kinks in Cold Weather

Earlier this year, the town of Breckenridge, Co. discontinued using its B20 blend in its fleet vehicles after the biodiesel fuel began gelling at cold temperatures, bringing vehicles to a halt. The Breckenridge-based Aspen Ski Company also curtailed its use of B20 in its backup generators for chairlifts for the same reason.

The Park Record reports, however, on the success of B20 at a local Park City resort.

Two weeks ago, Neuhauser began running one of his cats on what's known as B-20 Blend: 20 percent bio-diesel, and 80 percent petroleum diesel... Someday soon, if all goes well with this year's guinea pig, Neuhauser hopes to run an entire fleet of bio-cats at The Canyons.

In an interview with The Park Record, Auden Schendler, director of environmental affairs at Aspen Ski Company, said the [gelling] issue had to do with the blending, not the use of bio-diesel fuel.

“Any diesel blend—and that’s what cats have always used, a blend—can gel in cold weather,” explains Schendler. “You have to make sure the blend is correct which is usually a blend of No. 1 and No. 2 diesel and you have to use additives. When we make Biodiesel part of the mix, those concerns [of gelling] don’t get any worse, but they remain. Diesel always has a gelling problem in the cold. It’s just that bio-diesel sort of adds a boogie-man factor people don’t understand.“

Gasolines have freezing points well below even the most severe winter conditions. Petroleum diesel fuels, however,  have both pour points and cloud points (the temperature at which a cloud or haze of wax crystals first appears and separates from the fuel) well within the range of cold temperatures at which they might be used.

Biodiesel has the same issues, but at even higher temperatures. The cloud point for biodiesel will vary based on the type of feedstock used.

To guard against diesel clouding and gelling, refiners change blending formulas between summer and winter, working from an ASTM specification for fuel composition based on seasons and latitudes, and use additives. The same can be done with biodiesel, as noted above. You just need to get it right.

Some manufacturers are beginning to offer cold-weather additives specifically targeted at biodiesel. Amalgamated, Inc., a custom blender of additives, for example,  is offering what it calls USA B-20 Winterizer Ultra Soy Additive. The company asserts that the additive improves  the cold temperature fuel flow ability down to -30° F in all biodiesel blends without the use of #1 diesel.

December 28, 2004 in Biodiesel | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

British Steam Car Challenge


The BBC profiles Glynne Bowsher, chief designer, and the British Steam Car Challenge team in their quest to break the steam-car speed record with their vehicle, Inspiration. The extant record was set in 1906 by a Stanley Steamer that reached 127.659 mph.

He knows engine and vehicle design like old friends, having worked on Richard Noble’s record-breaking Thrust 2 jet car and having designed ThrustSSC, the first vehicle to break the sound barrier on land.

His team, the British Steam Car Challenge (BSCC), is hoping that its Inspiration vehicle will live up to its name and not only break a long-standing steam-car speed record, but also inspire thinking about alternative fuels for the future.

Motive power comes from a two-stage steam turbine fed by four independent boilers fired by LPG. The 13-inch diameter turbine produces 225 kW of power at 12,000 rpm, and drives an epicyclical gear train with a 4:1 ratio for a wheel speed of 3,000 rpm at 200 mph.

Each boiler section is being designed to produce steam at 500 psi and 725° F with a mass flow rate of 625 lb/hr. The LPG is fed into the boilers at a relatively low pressure—a little over 2 bar (29 psi).

Resources: British Steam Car Challenge

December 28, 2004 in Engines | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 27, 2004

Grass Growing...in Antarctica

The Australian. Grass has become established in Antarctica, showing the continent is warming to temperatures unseen for 10,000 years.

Scientists have reported that broad areas of grass are now forming turf where there were once ice-sheets and glaciers.

Tufts have previously grown on patches of Antarctica in summer, but the scientists have now observed larger areas surviving winter and spreading in the summer months.

“Grass has taken a grip. There are very rapid changes going on in the Antarctic’s climate, allowing grass to colonise areas that would once have been far too cold,” said Pete Convey, an ecologist conducting research with the British Antarctic Survey.

December 27, 2004 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New Mercedes-Benz Euro-4 Diesel Engine: More Power, Same Fuel Consumption


Mercedes-Benz is replacing its current in-line five and six-cylinder diesel engines with a new, more powerful 3-liter V-6 beginning in March 2005. The engine, with an output of 165 kW/224 hp and a maximum torque of 510 Nm (376 lb-ft), meets Euro-4 emissions limits.

This successor to the five and six-cylinder in-line engines increases output and torque up to more than 30% while maintaining fuel consumption at the level of its predecessors, according to Mercedes-Benz.

The engine features a number of developments—such as the mechanical design and engineering of the engine block and cylinders, enhancements in the fuel system, and enhancements in the engine control software—that highlight what can be done to make internal combustion engines more efficient. In this case, Mercedes is using its engineering prowess to enhance performance while maintaining current comparable levels of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. While this engine could fill a downsizing role—i.e., replacing a larger, less fuel-efficient engine—that is apparently not the application path Mercedes is taking with this design, at least not initially.

The chart below compares the new V-6 to some older in-line 5- and 6- cylinder cousins used in current C270 and E320 models. Note the increase in engine output and performance for the V-6. (Note also the difference in fuel consumption between the two models of the E320—the difference between them being that one meets the more restrictive Euro-4 emissions limits.)

Select Mercedes-Benz Diesels
 New V-6C270E320E320
Design V-6 In-line 5 In-line 6 In-line 6
Displacement: cc 2987 2685 3222 3222
Power: kW
Torque: Nm
BMEP: psi 311.2 271.6 283.1 283.1
Fuel Consumption: l/100km
Emissions Euro-4 Euro-3 Euro-3 Euro-4
CO2: g/km 181 183 194

At 208 kg, the new V-6 is only slightly heavier than the previous 5-cylinder engine, mostly due to its aluminium crankcase with cast-in grey iron cylinder liners. The power-to-weight ratio has increased by more than 20% to 0.79 kW/kg.

Because the engine block, components and ancillary units form a very compact entity (the “one-box concept”), the new V-6 can be installed in Mercedes model series—such as the C-class—where no six-cylinder diesel engine was previously offered.

Newly developed piezo injectors in the common rail fuel system operate much more rapidly and precisely than the previous solenoid valves, and ensure a finely metered fuel supply to the cylinders. This allows the fuel injection to be even more precisely adjusted to the current load and engine speed, and now makes five injections per power stroke possible at a peak pressure of up to 1600 bar.

Electrically controlled intake port shut-off modifies the turbulence of the intake air as it enters the cylinders, optimizing the combustion process with the aim of further reducing the fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.

With the precise engine management system, the NOx and PM emissions of the V-6 engine conform to the limits of the Euro-4 standard. Two oxidizing catalytic converters are responsible for conversion of the carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons: a light-off converter located near the engine and a main converter in an underfloor location.

A maintenance-free particulate filter system is standard equipment for the V-6 engine in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The filter is purged without the use of additives by selective adjustment of different engine functions. Depending on the operating parameters and filter condition, the variable third-generation common-rail technology allows up to two precisely coordinated post-injections with the aim of specifically increasing the exhaust temperature, burning off the particulates trapped in the filter in a controlled manner.

Even without the particulate filter, PM emissions are less than the Euro-4 limit of 0.025 g/km.

More detail on the V-6 diesel is available in the Press pack, here.

December 27, 2004 in Diesel, Engines | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 26, 2004

Rhode Island Adopts CA Emissions Standards

Rhode Island is adopting the California Low Emission Vehicle II (LEV-2) emission standards for new vehicles sold in Rhode Island beginning with model year 2008.

The California LEV-2 program requires reductions in tailpipe and evaporative emissions from new passenger cars, light-duty trucks and sport utility vehicles sold in the state.

The standards require that 10% of the autos and light trucks be Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEV).  The ZEV percentage will increase incrementally until reaching 16% in 2018.  Auto manufacturers are encouraged to meet this requirement by using advanced automotive technologies such as hybrid-electric vehicles or even gasoline-powered vehicles that have no or nearly no emissions. The proposed amendments would offer a voluntary compliance option, giving manufacturers an incentive to place zero emission vehicles in Rhode Island before that sales requirement takes effect in model year 2008.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, individual states must adopt either the federal Environmental Protection Agency's national auto emissions standards or the California Low Emissions Vehicle emissions standards. Rhode Island currently adheres to the national emissions standard. However, California's standards provide additional emissions reduction benefits over and above what the federal program is expected to achieve. Rhode Island joins Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and New York in adopting the California program. New Jersey is in the process of adopting the California standards.

By implementing the California LEV-2 program, Rhode Island hopes to reduce hydrocarbon emissions by 16%, air toxics emissions by 25%, and greenhouse gas emissions by 2% by the year 2020.

California Light Duty Vehicle Emissions Standards
EmissionDurab. (miles)LEV-2ULEV-2SULEV-2ZEV-2
NMOG 50k

CO 50k

NOx 50k

PM 50k



HCHO 50k


December 26, 2004 in Emissions, Policy | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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