February 28, 2005
US Signs Multilateral Agreement for Nuclear Energy Development
Reinforcing its focus on developing new nuclear power technologies, the US has signed a multilateral cooperative research and development agreement aimed at next-generation nuclear energy systems. The other signatory countries are Canada, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
All are part of the 11-country Generation IV International Forum (GIF). Other members are Argentina, Brazil, the European Union, South Africa, South Korea, and Switzerland.
The GIF partners have identified six next generation technologies for development including:
the Gas Cooled Fast Reactor
the Sodium Fast Reactor
the Lead-Cooled Fast Reactor
the Molten Salt Reactor
the Supercritical Water Reactor
the Very High Temperature Reactor
The last concept—the Very High Temperature Reactor—is the current basis of the U.S. research program to develop a cost-effective nuclear system that will directly produce hydrogen as well as electricity. (Earlier post)
Nissan Plans 4X Increase in CVTs over Next 3 Years
Nissan Motor says it plans a fourfold increase in its vehicles fitted with continuously variable transmissions (CVT) over the next three years. This would bump the number of CVT-fitted units sold by 2007 to some 1 million (24% of global sales), up from an estimated 250,000 (7% of global sales) this fiscal year.
A CVT acts as a transmission with an infinite number of gears, using either a belt or chain on a system of two variable-diameter pulleys. By improving the engine’s ability to operate at precisely the optimal speed for the required load, CVTs help reduce fuel consumption and lower emissions.
Nissan estimates its CVTs offer a 10%–12% improvement in fuel efficiency compared to a conventional 4-speed automatic.
(As an aside, when the California Air Resources Board technical staff reviewed short- and medium-term technology options for CO2 reductions, it noted that automakers at the time seemed to be obtaining most of the CO2 emission reductions of a CVT by using a 6-speed automatic transmission at significantly less cost. In other words, the improvement compared to a 4-speed automatic may be accurate, but not as relevant as other transmission variants evolve.)
Although CVTs have been around for a number of years, their application tended to be in lower-horsepower vehicles. Nissan currently is the only manufacturer in the world to offer a full CVT lineup for small, medium and large class passenger vehicles.
JATCO, a consolidated subsidiary of Nissan Motor, builds the automaker’s CVT units.
Azure Dynamics to Provide Hybrid Powertrains to SEV
Azure Dynamics has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Smiths Electric Vehicles (SEV) to integrate Azure Dynamics powertrain technology in current and next-generation electric vehicles built by SEV.
The first vehicle will be available in May 2005 with production units becoming available later in the year. The next generation vehicle, with significantly higher performance parameters, should be available in 2006.
Several weeks ago, Azure Dynamics was awarded a contract to develop a parallel hybrid Humvee (earlier post). The company also recently shipped the first of a number of series hybrid delivery vans to Purolator (earlier post).
SEV Group Limited is a UK-based manufacturing company that provides a range of electric vehicles, aerial access platforms, and materials handling equipment.
NYC on Track for World’s Largest Hybrid Bus Fleet
Orion Bus Industries, a division of DaimlerChrysler, has completed deliveries of its first 125 diesel-electric series hybrid buses for MTA New York City Transit and has begun delivering the next set of 200. By the end of 2005, MTA’s fleet of 4,215 vehicles will have 325 hybrid buses, or 7%.
This will be the world’s largest hybrid bus fleet, at least for the moment.
MTA also runs 481 CNG buses—11% of its fleet.
New York Transit began testing a pilot fleet of 10 Orion VI hybrids in 1998, and put the first production order of 125 Orion VII hybrids in service last year. The agency has built up close to two million miles of hybrid service, and is extremely pleased with the results.
Some of the highlights of the operating experiences to date include:
Brake life approximately doubled
NOx less than half that for a clean diesel or CNG bus
CO less than one fourth that for a clean diesel and roughly one tenth that for a CNG bus
Reduction in fuel consumption of approximately 40% compared to the standard diesel buses the hybrids replace. This equates to nearly 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel saved per year for each bus. (Baseline fuel economy for the standard MTA diesel is 2.3 mpg; on their different routes, the hybrids have delivered between 3.4 and 3.7 mpg.)
The Orion series hybrids use a propulsion system from BAE Systems.
The Orion VII buses with BAE HybriDrive combine a 5.9-liter, 260 hp (194 kW) Cummins ULSD (Ultra Low-Sulfur Diesel) engine with a 120 kW traction generator. The traction motor delivers 250 hp (186 kW) and 2,700 lb-ft (3,657 Nm) of low-end torque. (Earlier post.)
Separately, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. of the State of New York has ordered four Orion VII hybrid buses for use in its transit-bus fleet. The buses, with a similar configuration to those operated by New York City Transit, are scheduled for delivery in 2006.
Dynetek Providing 700-bar H2 Storage to Nissan
Dynetek is providing the new 700-bar (10,000 psi) high-pressure hydrogen storage system to Nissan for use in its X-TRAIL fuel cell vehicle.
Nissan announced the transition to the higher-pressure storage system when it unveiled its in-house developed fuel cell stack. (Earlier post.)
The 700-bar storage cylinder increases hydrogen storage capacity by approximately 70% compared to the previous 350-bar (5, 000 psi) storage cylinder, thereby extending the driving range for the vehicle.
Denver School Buses Using Biodiesel
The Denver Public School (DPS) district is using a B20 biodiesel blend (20% biodiesel) in 50 school buses.
The district serves 140 schools with more than 450 buses traveling some five million miles per year. The biodiesel—provided by Blue Sun Biodiesel—is being used mainly to fuel elementary and middle school route buses.
The DPS biodiesel program is part of the EPA’s Clean School Bus initiative to reduce diesel pollution and improve air quality.
February 27, 2005
When More is Less: Toyota’s new 3.5-liter V-6 for the Avalon
When Toyota redesigned its 2005 Avalon (shown last month at NAIAS), it used a new gasoline engine with 15% larger displacement that delivers 33% more horsepower—and decreases fuel consumption by 5%, while dropping emissions from LEV to ULEV status.
The new all-aluminum V-6 is the most powerful V-6 Toyota has yet to put in one of its cars. Toyota developed a number of technological improvements specifically for this engine, including the introduction of a unique new roller rocker concave cam profile that provides faster opening and later closing of the valves which is a key contributor to the power increase. In addition, the dual VVT-i system optimizes intake and exhaust valve timing to increase high-speed torque and ultimately improving fuel economy.
The conceptual schematic for the control and implementation of VVT-i in the new engine (named the 2GR-FE) provides some insight into the growing complexity of intelligent engine control. The diagram below and to the left shows the number and location of the required sensors and their input into the engine control module (ECM). The diagram below and to the right provides a rough idea of the data and control flow.
By using the engine speed, intake air volume, throttle position and engine coolant temperature, the ECM calculates optimal valve timing for each driving condition and controls the camshaft timing oil control valve. In addition, the ECM uses signals from the camshaft position sensor and the crankshaft position sensor to detect the actual valve timing, thus providing feedback control to achieve the target valve timing.
This is a good example of the potential ongoing incremental improvements in engine efficiency enabled by new materials, manufacturing processes and increasingly sophisticated computer control of the combustion system.
From a sustainability point of view, however, it would be better to use the engineering enhancements to apply a smaller engine yielding even greater savings in fuel consumption and emissions, rather than using the larger engine with the even greater output.
But with a relatively slow-selling sedan (Toyota sold some 36,000 Avalons in 2004), Toyota is currently opting to deliver much greater performance while delivering small improvements in efficiency and emissions.
|Model Year 2004||Model Year 2005|
|Combined EPA Mileage (mpg US)||24||25.3|
|Combined fuel consumption (l/100km)||9.81||9.29|
February 25, 2005
Shell, Qatar to Sign $8B LNG Deal, Targeting US
Reuters reports that Qatar and Royal Dutch Shell will soon sign an $8 billion deal to supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the United States.
Qatar holds the world’s third largest reserves of natural gas (509 trillion cubic feet) behind Russia and Iran, most of it in the offshore North Field. The project, Qatargas-4, will push state-run Qatar Petroleum towards its goal of becoming the world’s top LNG producer by 2011.
Industry sources reckon the project—involving a single 7.5 million tonne per year LNG train—will require funding of close to $6 billion.
The project is expected to send 7.5 million tonnes per year of LNG, gas super-cooled to liquid for transport on tankers, to the United States where declining domestic natural gas production has heightened demand for imports.
Start up is expected around 2010.
Last year Shell committed to a $6 billion on Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) in Qatar, currently planned to be the world’s largest. (Earlier post.)
Qatar’s original markets for its LNG exports were Japan and South Korea, the world’s two largest LNG importers. India subsequently joined them as a significant market for Qatari LNG.
Both LNG and GTL are means for natural gas producers to turn their natural resources into cash from remote markets. In the case of the US, the largest stores of natural gas in the world are far away...too far for pipeline delivery, as is done from Mexico.
The mention of the US as a target market in the report highlights an issue that will become increasingly pressing: where will the LNG terminals (the facilities that receive the super-cooled, liquefied gas and regassify it) be located? The US currently only has four such terminals—insufficient to meet the projected need. There are numerous proposals—and much local opposition.
Florida Adds 21 Escape Hybrids to State Fleet
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has received the first two of 21 Ford Escape Hybrid SUVs. The addition of the 21 Escape hybrids will bring DEP’s hybrid fleet to 71.
The DEP fleet also contains more than 200 alternative fuel vehicles. Combined, the alt fuel and hybrids constitute some 20% of the entire DEP fleet.
Selecting hybrid vehicles for the State vehicle fleet reinforces Florida’s commitment to clean air and environmental protection. Using low-emission hybrid vehicles protects Florida’s air, reduces our reliance on gasoline and saves taxpayer dollars.
Through a commitment to purchasing hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles, we are demonstrating that these vehicles are the future of transportation.—DEP Secretary Colleen M. Castille
Florida is also one of four states working with FedEx Express, Environmental Defense and Eaton Corporation to test the heavy-duty hybrid-electric diesel delivery vehicles.
Canada and the Automakers
Although the government of Canada has yet to strike an accord with automakers over CO2 and fuel consumption reductions (earlier post), it reaffirmed its intention to do so in its just-released 2005 Budget Plan.
Vehicles produce significant amounts of greenhouse gases—about one-quarter of Canada’s annual emissions—and other harmful substances. Two-thirds of vehicular emissions are generated within urban areas and are also major contributors to smog.
To help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to cleaner air in urban areas, the Government is negotiating with the auto manufacturing sector to achieve an agreement that would improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles sold in Canada by 25 per cent, or its equivalent in greenhouse gas reductions, by 2010.—Budget Plan, p. 191
Canada is also considering a vehicle “feebate” program for consumers to improve fuel efficiency and decrease emissions. Such a program would provide consumer rebates for fuel-efficient vehicles and impose a fee on fuel-inefficient vehicles.
The government has asked the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) to develop options for a feebate, to consult and to make recommendations on this program for the 2006 federal budget.