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January 2005

January 31, 2005

Biodiesel Use Soars in Central North Carolina

AP.  According to the Triangle J Council of Governments,  the use of B20 biodiesel in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (see comment below) area has jumped from 31,500 gallons in 2001 to at least 1.7 million gallons in 2004.

“It’s really impressive, and the number of organizations that have started using it has also grown quite impressively,” [Tobin] Freid [project coordinator at Triangle J] said, from just a few major users in 2001 to more than 15 in 2004. Among the largest local biodiesel users are Duke University, Durham Public Schools and the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Meanwhile, use of B100 biodiesel—which is made solely from soy or used cooking oil—is beginning to grow in the Triangle, as well.

About 5,000 gallons of B100 were used in the Triangle in 2004, replacing as much petroleum-based diesel oil as 25,000 gallons of B20. “They’re small users but it adds up pretty quickly,” Freid said.

Triangle J is one of 18 regional organizations of municipal and county governments in North Carolina. It is the home for the Triangle Clean Cities Coalition which is dedicated to increasing the use of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) as a means to improve air quality and reduce dependence on foreign oil.


January 31, 2005 in Biodiesel | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Toyota to Use its Fuel Cell Hybrid Bus at 2005 World Expo


Toyota is providing fuel cell hybrid-electric buses to shuttle visitors between the two expo sites of the 2005 Aichi World Exposition, which opens March 25.

The bus, developed with Hino (a Toyota subsidiary—earlier post) will travel 4.4 kilometers between the Nagatuke and Seto areas.

The FCHV-BUS2 fuel cell hybrids use twin fuel cell stacks combined with a version of Toyota’s THS-II hybrid drive and management systems (used in the Prius).

Toyota has had this type of bus in very limited service since 2002 on select routes in Tokyo.

Toyota-Hino FCHV-BUS2
Fuel Cell Name Toyota FC Stack
Type PEM
Output (kW) 90 x 2
Motor Type Permanent magnet
Maximum Output (kW / HP) 80 / 107 x 2
Maximum torque (Nm / lb-ft) 260 / 192  x 2
Fuel Storage High-pressure tank
Maximum pressure (psi) 5,000
Battery Type NiMH
Performance Max range (km / miles) 250 / 155
Maximum Speed (km/h / mph) 80 / 50

January 31, 2005 in Fleets, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Nissan to Introduce New Fuel-Efficient 1.5-Liter Compact in North America


Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn may not think hybrids make much sense, but he is keen on compact cars to meet customer demand for fuel efficiency, as pointed out in this earlier post.

Yesterday, he announced that Nissan will produce and sell a new compact car with a 1.5-liter engine in North America, possibly in 2006. The new car will use the chassis from the popular March model sold in Japan. (Kyodo News) (Picture of the March to the right).

Nissan’s entry into the U.S. compact car market is likely to intensify competition among Japanese automakers there. Toyota Motor Corp. released its Scion passenger car targeting younger drivers last year, while Honda Motor Co.’s U.S. unit plans to import from Japan compact cars similar to the Fit subcompact car in 2006.

Ghosn pointed out that Nissan’s compact car sector has been profitable, and said the company is not considering importing cars from Japan as it aims to keep the ratio of local production to its overall sales in the United States almost unchanged.

This is speculation, but I’d guess that Nissan would use its new 1.5-liter HR15DE engine, developed with Renault, in the new compact. The HR15DE  has already appeared in Nissan’s just-released Note and Tiida models (Japanese market).

The new HR15DE is 30% lighter than a comparable engine (from Nissan) and, combined with a new CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) promises a 28% improvement in fuel economy while increasing torque.

Nissan managed such an improvement through the reduction in weight plus:

  • Shortening the combustion period has been shortened improving thermal efficiency  by strengthening the gas flow in the combustion chamber.

  • Reducing friction by using a new machining method for the cylinder bores and applying a mirror-like finish to the crankshaft and cam bearing surfaces.

  • Reducing the load imposed on the engine to drive the air conditioner and other auxiliary units  by enhancing their efficiency and improving the control program.

Let’s see what they actually come up with for the NA market.

January 31, 2005 in Fuel Efficiency | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 30, 2005

Thai Auto Production to Break One Million Mark in 2005

Business Day. Thailand’s car production in 2005 will top one million units for the first time. The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) forecast that total production in 2005 will rise by 18.39% to 1,098,751 units. It estimated that the domestic market would absorb almost 700,000 vehicles—696,797 units or 63.42% of production.

Thailand's total vehicle output in 2004 climbed 23.7% to 928,081 from 2003 levels.

The motor industry is continuing to boom in Thailand, both for the domestic market and for export. Recently, FTI said total car sales in Thailand last year rose by 17.4 percent from 2003. With continuing expansion of the economy, overall car sales are expected to grow by 10 percent this year.

It’s not just China and India that are booming. Steady and healthy economic growth in a number of smaller economies will also intensify the scramble for oil.

January 30, 2005 in Oil, Vehicle Manufacturers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cooling Down the High End

The climate science team at RealClimate cools down the heated reporting of the preliminary results  of the climateprediction.net experiments published in Nature (Stainforth et al, 2005) last week.

On the Nature paper, BBC online reported that “temperatures around the world could rise by as much as  11ºC“; on the latter report it headlined: “Climate crisis near ‘in 10 years’”. Does this mean there is new evidence that climate change is more serious than previously thought? We think not. [...]

Is there a “point of no return” or “critical threshold” that will be crossed when the forcings exceed this level, as reported in some media? We don’t believe there is scientific evidence for this. However, as was pointed out at an international symposium on this topic last year in Beijing by Carlo Jaeger: setting a limit is a sensible way to collectively deal with a risk. A speed limit is a prime example. When we set a speed limit at 60 mph, there is no “critical threshold” there – nothing terrible happens if you go to 65 or 70 mph, say. But perhaps at 90 mph the fatalities would exceed acceptable levels. Setting a limit to global warming at 2ºC above pre-industrial temperature is the official policy target of the European Union, and is probably a sensible limit in this sense. But, just like speed limits, it may be difficult to adhere to.

Uncertainty in climate sensitivity is not going to disappear any time soon, and should therefore be built into assessments of future climate. However, it is not a completely free variable, and the extremely high end values that have been discussed in media reports over the last couple of weeks are not scientifically credible.

I left out the juicy bits from the selection above—the background and  discussion on climate sensitivity and validation of models. It’s very much worth a read. The science surrounding global warming is complex and continually developing. Navigating through the claims and counterclaims requires some basic education—a mission that RealClimate is tackling very well.

To be clear: the team at RealClimate is not disparaging the project or the effort. As noted in a reponse to just that comment, they respond:

As a project, this is very useful because it’s the kind of thing that could not have been done before and that is always worthy in modelling. There will be further work done on these results, and there will be more interesting experiments performed. Eventually, we will get a better idea of how wide the spread of climate model parameterisations can be while still passing the stringent valdiation tests that state-of-the-art models must pass. My crticism [sic] mainly concerns how these preliminary results have been presented in the media.

January 30, 2005 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nissan a Skeptical Maker of Hybrids

Reuters. In an address to the National Automobile Dealers Association, which opened its annual convention on Saturday, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said that making hybrids makes little business sense because of the high costs involved.

Nissan will begin manufacturing a hybrid version of the Altima in 2006 using technology licensed from Toyota. (Earlier post.)

“They make a nice story, but they’re not a a good business story yet because the value is lower than their costs,” said Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn.

Ghosn said the [hybrid Altima] was only intended to help Japan’s second-largest automaker comply with strict fuel economy and emissions standards in states like California, not because he expects it to be a money-maker.

In his speech, he noted that only about 88,000 of the 16.9 million light vehicles sold in the United States last year were hybrids, adding that they are still considered niche products and something way outside the automotive mainstream.

He also poured cold water on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which many automakers see as the industry’s next big technological breakthrough.

Ghosn, who led Nissan’s dramatic turnaround, is poised to take over as CEO at Renault as well, which would make him the first executive to simultaneously run two automakers. Renault owns 44% of Nissan.

Ghosn may be a reluctant manufacturer of hybrids, but that does not mean that he is down on fuel efficiency. In remarks in 2004, he noted that Nissan may offer its fuel-efficient March and Cube small cars in the US, if higher gasoline prices change consumer behavior. (Earlier post.)

“We’re going to measure feedback coming from the media and from the analysts, and as a function of this we’re going to make our decision,” [Nissan CEO Carlos] Ghosn said in an interview from Sausalito, California. “There is no doubt about it, if the American consumers want more fuel-efficient cars we’re ready for it.“

The March and the Cube are the company’s top-sellers in Japan, with 1.4-liter gasoline engines.

It’s a traditional stance that has some elements of accuracy underpinning it. Small cars are more fuel efficient than large cars. If a buyer sets a priority on fuel efficiency, then the buyer can buy a small car. All true...but that attitude represents a reprise of the auto strategies of the late 70s and early 80s, the time of the last major oil crisis during which small, fuel-efficient Japanese small cars made their first major salient into the US market.

That approach is insufficient for these times—a more fundamental shift is necessary. And ultimately, yes, the consumers make the choices that define the nature of the fleet.

Ghosn may be surprised by the uptake in hybrids, but he is a good businessperson—he has left open the possibility of manufacturing up to 50,000 units, based on demand. (Earlier post.)

January 30, 2005 in Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 29, 2005

What a Surprise

Reuters. OPEC oil producers are considering possible advance measures to head off a price drop after the northern winter, the cartel’s president said on Saturday.

Concerns among OPEC nations about the detrimental impact of prices near $50 a barrel on world economic growth and fuel demand appear to have evaporated.

Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Saturday that he believed the modern global economy was too large and strong to be blown off course by the price of oil.

Asked whether he thought $50 could be a barrier to growth, Naimi said: "Really it’s not, the world economy has grown so big that little fluctuations in oil are not doing so much.

“Little fluctuations” that dropped $106 billion into Saudi coffers last year. Really, what’s a couple of hundred billion among friends?

Sarcasm aside, what else would one expect? As al-Naimi correctly notes, the economy has yet to be seriously derailed by $50/barrel oil and demand is continuing its strong growth (China, US and elsewhere). With non-OPEC production stagnant or dropping, the world is becoming again increasingly reliant on the extra supply that OPEC promises it can provide.

January 29, 2005 in Oil | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

EPA’s Clean Diesel Combustion Engine

EPA designed its Clean Diesel Combustion technology (earlier post) to prove the potential for a diesel engine design, using innovative air, fuel, and combustion management and conventional particulate matter aftertreatment, to achieve lower NOx levels without the need for NOx aftertreatment.

Clean Diesel Combustion technology began to take form and be appreciated as we were looking for alternative paths to supports EPA’s HD [Heavy Duty] 2007 rules. More specifically, we were looking for combustion approaches that enabled the engine to exhaust the combustion products with engine-out NOx emissions at or below a 0.2 g/bhp/hr level at every point where the engine was required to operate.

This NOxemissions target is the ultimate level of the HD 2007 standard, and will be required for HD engines sold after 2010. From a light duty perspective, this is approximately equivalent to a diesel SUV or light pick-up truck emitting at the Tier2-bin5 level.

—David Haugen, EPA Advanced Technology Division, at DEER 2004

“Engine-out” refers to the exhaust gases emerging from the combustion cylinders. The EPA, in other words, wanted to handle NOx in-cylinder to the greatest extent possible, rather than relying on aftertreatments.

The conceptual basis of EPA’s approach is to prevent NOx formation in the first place. Since NOx is formed at high temperatures as a byproduct of hydrocarbon combustion, EPA sought to keep the local temperature below critical NOx formation threshold—around 2,100°K (1,827°C or 3,320°F—yeah, it gets hot in engines).

The EPA team discovered that it could achieve this by reducing oxygen concentration to manage the oxidation (combustion) of the fuel in the diffusion flame region of the cylinder.


There are four key features to the CDC technology:

  • A hydraulically-intensified fuel system to lower PM and smoke emissions, and improve engine efficiency.

  • A boost system to increase engine power and the efficiency of the combustion process, thus reducing emissions and increasing fuel economy.

  • Low Pressure Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) to lower the peak combustion temperature to reduce the formation of NOx.

  • PM Aftertreatment to reduce the remaining smoke, unburned hydrocarbons (HC) and carbon monoxide in the exhaust to levels required for future emissions standards.

Our work has found that by operating in a region of 11% to 14% intake oxygen, we are able to achieve engine-out NOx levels low enough to meet the level of the diesel emissions standards. Of course, in order to reduce the intake oxygen from 20.9% down to this target range of intake oxygen, substantial levels of EGR [Exhaust Gas Recirculation] are required. And as we all know, moving more charge mass—the fresh air plus higher EGR rates—puts burdens on the boosting system and can make smoke reduction more challenging.

—Haugen, DEER 2004

No free lunch. By managing the combustion to minimize NOx, PM, hydrocarbon and CO reduction become more of an issue. On the PM front, after almost two years of work the engineering team managed to cut this type of emission by approximately 70%. At this point, the CDC technology will still require the use of some PM aftertreatment, and the use of oxidation catalysts to handle the CO and HC.

From the NOx point of view, the initial test results as presented at the DEER conference were good. The test vehicle was a minivan, using the same displacement engine as the stock unit.

The Tier 2 Bin 5 specs are highlighted in the middle for comparison, and the different tests represent different types of standardized driving cycles. You’ll not that the CDC technology reduced NOx emissions by an order of magnitude, with a minor penalty in fuel consumption.

Initial CDC Vehicle Test Results (emissions in g/mi)
Engine Test mpg HC CO NOx PM
Stock FTP city 32 0.05 0.10 0.8 0.028
FTP hwy 49 0.01 0.02 0.7 0.027
US06 32 0.01 0.03 1.8 0.069
Tier 2 Bin 5 0.018 4.20 0.07 0.010
CDC FTP city 30 0.23 1.12 0.06 0.001
FTP hwy 47 0.10 0.18 0.05 0.0004
US06 26 0.20 0.07 0.14 0.008

The partnership with Ford now will help determine whether or not this technology foundation can be further refined, balancing performance, cost and effectiveness, to the point where it makes sense to deploy in commercial passenger car applications.


January 29, 2005 in Diesel, Emissions | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 28, 2005

USDA: BTL Diesel Could Replace 13% of Germany’s Diesel Use

The USDA estimates that Fischer-Tropsch diesel using biomass as the feedstock (Biomass-to-Liquid, or BTL) may replace up to 13% of Germany’s current diesel use.

Biodiesel is the most popular biofuel in Germany, with an estimated annual production capacity of 1.1 million tons in 2004 and actual sales in 2004 of 323,000 tons.  The German government has been very supportive in promoting biodiesel as a fuel alternative, but recent changes to German tax law, combined with various other factors, are now opening the door to other biofuels in Germany.

A new plant under construction by Choren Industries at Freiberg will use a version of the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert wood and other biomass to synthetic diesel fuel. Still in its experimental stage,  the project is due to put its first industrial-scale plant with an annual capacity of 13,000 metric tons online this year. Plans call for a subsequent commercial plant with a 200,000 tons/year capacity in 2008.

Both DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen have been collaborating with Choren on the production of what the company calls SunDiesel since 2002...and for a very sound short-term reason as well as long-term benefits.

The results of initial studies show that the many Euro-3 diesel vehicles can already fulfil the Euro 4 emissions standard with no technical modifications when run on SunDiesel. This shows the enormous potential of this synthetic fuel to reduce hydrocarbon (HC), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particle emissions and its major contribution to protecting the environment and the climate. (Volkswagen)


The key to Choren’s system is its patented Carbo-V gasification process—the means by which it converts biomass into a synthetic gas. (Diagram at right.)

The raw gas produced in this process can be used as a combustion gas to produce electricity and heat or as a synthesis gas for producing synthetic renewable automotive fuels, methanol and paraffins through a Fischer-Tropsch reaction.

Unlike biodiesel production, BTL uses the entire plant, thus theoretically requiring less land use per unit of energy.

The combined process of energy conversion and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, however, is energy intensive—and more so when using biomass as a feedstock than natural gas. On a Well-to-Wheels basis, BTL diesel is far better from a greenhouse gas emissions perspective than any other variant of synthetic or conventional petroleum fuel (except for DME from biomass) or conventional biofuel, but the worst in terms of energy requirement.

The charts below come from a joint evaluation performed by EUCAR, CONCAWE and JRC (the Joint Research Centre of the EU Commission, IES Ispra) of the Well-to-Wheels energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for a wide range of potential future fuel and powertrain options i a European context. In the chart to the left, you’ll see the relative position of BTL against GTL and conventional fuels, plotted against energy requirements and GHG emissions. The chart to the right similarly plots biofuels. (Click to enlarge.)

Btl1_1 Btl2

DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen are both very bullish about the prospects for BTL from the emissions side. DaimlerChrysler has estimated that BTL fuels could achieve a 10% market share in Europe by 2015, for example.

Sounds like the USDA agrees.


January 28, 2005 in Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL), Diesel, Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ford and EPA to Test New Clean Diesel Combustion in Passenger Vehicles

The US EPA and Ford Motor are refining and testing the potential for commercial application of a new diesel combustion technology that meets stringent EPA tailpipe emission standards. This is the second phase of a research agreement between Ford and EPA to examine a new emissions control technology called Clean Diesel Combustion (CDC), which was developed and patented by EPA.

The EPA first discussed the concept of CDC in 2000, and then went on to develop it with FEV. In 2004, the EPA announced a partnership with International to test the new technology in heavy-duty truck applications. At the time, EPA suggested that an unnamed automaker would be working on implementing a version of CDC for passenger vehicles—and that would be Ford.

At their announcement, Ford and EPA showcased a Ford Galaxy minivan using the new clean diesel technology. The diesel minivan gets 30–40% better mileage than a gasoline minivan, while meeting EPA’s emission standards for nitrogen oxide (NOx) of .07 grams per mile (Tier 2 bin 5).

Clean Diesel Combustion technology combines several innovative improvements in diesel fuel injection system performance, re-optimization and refinement of air management and turbo-charging systems, and an improved combustion system. The result is a combustion process that does not produce NOx during fuel combustion, thus avoiding the need for NOx controls in the exhaust system, and that maintains the fuel efficiency of the diesel platform. 

Diesel engines are an extremely attractive technology to help achieve EPA’s future emissions standards. The challenge has been to maintain diesel’s efficiency, while making the diesel ultra-clean in a cost effective manner. Moving these types of innovative technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace is essential, if we are to continue to improve air quality for all Americans.

Jeff Holmstead, EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation

I’ll provide more detail on the CDC process subsequently [Update: here.] This is another proof point that Ford is getting more aggressive with diesel technology in the US—a very good move.

January 28, 2005 in Diesel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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