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March 2005

March 31, 2005

Ford Will Issue Report on Global Climate Change

Ford Motor Company announced today it will issue a report on climate change by the end of the year.

The report will examine the business implications of greenhouse gas emissions, with reference to government policies and regulations, Ford’s product and manufacturing facilities actions, and advanced technology development.

We have long identified climate change as a serious environmental issue, and shareholders are increasingly asking about the risks as well as the opportunities associated with it. It’s time for a broader, more inclusive public dialogue on the complex and important challenge of climate change; our report will be part of our contribution to that dialogue.

—Bill Ford, Chairman and CEO

Several shareholder groups had been requesting that sort of report from Ford, and had earlier filed a shareholder resolution to that effect. The groups withdrew the resolution this week in light of Ford’s announcement. A similar resolution is pending with GM.

The report will focus primarily on the company’s products and facilities in its core North American market that accounts for roughly two-thirds of its annual sales. The Ford report also will assess the evolving role of new technologies such as hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in light of the climate change issue.

“We congratulate Ford for leading the U.S. auto industry in responding to shareholder concerns by addressing a variety of climate change-related policy and business scenarios,” said Sister Patricia Daly, OP, executive director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment (CRI), a coalition of investors with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which has been encouraging more climate risk disclosure from Ford and other U.S. companies in recent years.

Ford will draft its climate change report in consultation with a wide variety of climate change and policy experts as well as with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and the Boston-based Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups and founder of the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR).

March 31, 2005 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Two Indiana School Corporations Switch to B5 Biodiesel

The Tribune. Two Jackson County, Indiana, school corporations have switched to B5 blends for their school buses.

Seymour Community Schools began powering its 40 buses early in March. Medora Community Schools completed negotiations with the Jackson-Jennings Co-op, the biodiesel provider) to use B5 as well.

March 31, 2005 in Biodiesel | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ford Delivers First Fuel Cell Cars in Canada to Vancouver Fuel Cell Vehicle Program

Ford Motor Company delivered five Ford Focus Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs) (earlier post) to the Vancouver Fuel Cell Vehicle Program (VFCVP) for real-use testing in selected fleets.

The five Ford Focus FCVs are the first “customer-ready” vehicles to be delivered by Ford, which plans to place 25 more vehicles in fleets in the United States and Germany by the end of this year.

The Government of Canada, Ford Motor Company/Ford of Canada, Fuel Cells Canada and the Government of British Columbia are collaborating on the five-year, $9-million fuel cell vehicle program.

BC Hydro, B.C. Transit, Ballard Power Systems, the City of Vancouver, Fuel Cells Canada, the National Research Council (NRC), Natural Resources Canada and the Government of British Columbia will use the  Focus FCVs in real daily driving conditions as part of a three-year hydrogen fuel technology demonstration program.

The Ford Focus FCV is a hybrid-electric vehicle that uses the  Ballard Mark 902 series fuel cell engine and Dynetek 5,000-psi (pounds per square inch) compressed-hydrogen storage tanks. (More specs at the link above.) The performance of each car will be carefully monitored over the next three years, providing important data for the continued development of fuel cell technology.

March 31, 2005 in Fleets, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New On-Board Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Delivers 50% Efficiency

Northwestern University researchers have developed a new small solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) that converts iso-octane (C8H18), a highly-pure hydrocarbon compound that is a component of gasoline, to hydrogen, The hydrogen is then used by the fuel cell to produce electrical energy with an overall fuel efficiency of up to 50%.

Their paper, published online by the journal Science, describes the combination of a special thin-film catalyst layer, through which the iso-octane flows, with a conventional anode. That porous layer, which contains stabilized zirconia and small amounts of the metals ruthenium and cerium, chemically and cleanly converts the fuel to hydrogen.

This approach is potentially the basis of a simple low-cost system that can provide significantly higher fuel efficiency by using excess fuel cell heat for the endothermic reforming reaction.

An Octane-Fueled Solid Oxide Fuel Cell [DOI: 10.1126/science.1109213]

Current internal combustion engines have a “well-to-wheels“ efficiency of only 10%–15%. Current PEM fuel cells using hydrogen from the steam reforming of natural gas offer 29% overall efficiency, while current gas/electric hybrids have achieved up to 32%.

(The different efficiencies are estimated here, in the supporting online material for the paper.)

The advent of hybrid vehicles has shaken up the fuel cell community and made researchers rethink hydrogen as a fuel. We need to look at the solid oxide fuel cell—the one kind of fuel cell that can work with other fuels beside hydrogen—as an option.

—Scott A. Barnett, professor of materials science and engineering, NU

Although conceptually similar (hydrogen in, electricity out) the solid oxide fuel cell is different than the PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) fuel cells most often discussed as power plants for transportation. PEM fuel cells tend to be smaller, run at lower temperatures, produce less power and require an external supply of hydrogen.

Solid oxide fuel cells use a hard, ceramic compound of metal (like calcium or zirconium) oxides as an electrolyte, rather than the thin, permeable polymer electrolyte sheet in a PEM. SOFCs tend to be more efficient, and run at a higher temperature. It is that higher temperature that the Northwestern team is using for the chemical reforming of the iso-octane.

Sofc_and_pem_1

A major drawback of using solid oxide fuel cells is that carbon from the fuel is deposited all over the anode because of the high temperatures. But our thin film catalyst, plus the addition of a small amount of oxygen, eliminates those deposits, making it a viable technology to pursue with further research. We have shown that the fuel cell is much more stable with the catalyst and air than without.

—Scott Barnett

With its higher efficiency, such an SOFC approach would reduce our distillate usage compared to straight ICE vehicles or current hybrids, and would reduce the need for the supporting hydrogen infrastructure required by PEM cells. Of course, you still need a ready supply of iso-octane.

March 31, 2005 in Fuel Cells, Hydrogen, Research | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Santa Monica Switches to B20

Santa Monica Mirror. The City of Santa Monica, California, has switched 80 of its heavy-duty vehicles and machines to a B20 biodiesel blend (20% biodiesel).

Rick Sikes, superintendent of fleet operations, said, “If everything goes well with B20, we’ll introduce B100, or 100% biofuel. Then, people may actually enjoy the smell of diesel engine exhaust.”

March 31, 2005 in Biodiesel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Montebello, Calif, Buys Five Gasoline-Electric Hybrid Buses

Ise_gas_hybrid

SGVT. Montebello, California, is adding five gasoline-electric hybrid buses to its fleet. The hybrids are built by NewFlyer, and use the ISE Thundervolt gasoline-electric series hybrid system. (Earlier post).

State and federal transportation grants are picking up the $2.55 million cost.

Three of the buses (the GE40LF) will replace three older models of the same size; the other two buses are to support the transit line’s expansion plans.

The city anticipates receiving the buses in June and putting them into service by July.

The NewFlyer gasoline-electric hybrids are part of a larger 76-bus joint order with Long Beach, Orange County, Norwalk, Gardena and Fresno.

With the new buses, the Montebello Bus Line fleet expands to 68. The city plans to replace another 40 diesel buses with hybrids in 10- and 15-bus increments from 2006 to 2009.

March 31, 2005 in Fleets, Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2005

UAE Emirate Shifts All Buses to CNG

Kahleej Times. Sharjah Transport plans to have all buses within the emirate operating using compressed natural gas (CNG) by the end of the year.

The Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) has also announced its intention to convert its 300-vehicle fleet to CNG. (Earlier post.)

March 30, 2005 in Fleets, Natural Gas | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Millenium Ecosystem Assessment

WorldChanging offers good links to and an assessment of the UN report released today: the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment.

The vast majority of news reports about the Assessment emphasize its dark, “sobering” presentation. This isn’t surprising—the planet’s environmental systems are under a lot of stress, and if things don’t change, we’re in for disaster. But that's an important caveat—if things don’t change. [...]

The doom and gloom of the majority of news reports and blog posts about the MEA feeds the all-too-common perception that things are so bad that there’s nothing that we can do about it. The people whose political oxen would be gored by aggressive shifts towards foresight, sustainability and bright green industries have everything to gain from the rest of us giving up. The scenarios give us ways to imagine solutions—multiple solutions, with different choices and benefits—to the very real problems we face; in short, they give us reasons not to give up.

The Millennium Environmental Assessment doesn’t give a detailed, step-by-step set of instructions as to how to achieve the more positive futures they lay out. That wasn’t the point of the exercise, or even of the scenarios. They just needed to remind us that the future remains in our hands.

Roger that.

March 30, 2005 in Market Background | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Brookhaven Workshop on Biodiesel

Brookhaven National Laboratory, in partnership with the Greater Long Island Clean Cities Coalition, the Town of Brookhaven and the Northeast Regional Biomass Program, is hosting a one-day seminar for public- and private-sector individuals and organizations who are interested in the production, supply, uses and benefits of renewable biodiesel fuel.

The seminar is this Friday, 1 April (no April Fool jokes, please), starting at 9am ET,  and will be webcast here.

March 30, 2005 in Biodiesel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Boots on the Ground: DC Metro’s Flexcar

Car Buyer’s Notebook puts 2 and 2 together on DC Metro’s Flexcar program.

I took the photo you see here at the King Street station the other night when I came back from the NY Auto Show. The link on Metro's website helped me put two and two together. [...]

I've covered Zipcar before, and I think the cool thing for me as a journalist is how I came across the service twice in the last couple days. For me, that is the best proof the car sharing idea is moving from press release bravado to real world implementation.

March 30, 2005 in Market Background | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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