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April 2005

April 30, 2005

Toyota To Make Hybrid Camrys in US in 2H 2006

Nikkei News reports that Toyota has decided to start building the long-expected gasoline-electric hybrid version of the Camry in the US sometime in the second half of 2006.

The Camry is the top-selling passenger car in the US, selling 426,990 units in 2004. The car is undergoing a full model change next year.

According to the report, the new hybrid model will initially be made at the Kentucky plant (which manufactures the gasoline versions).

Toyota will begin assembling  the Prius in China beginning this autumn, and may also consider manufacturing the Prius in the US in 2007.

April 30, 2005 in Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Malaysia Expands Natural Gas Fueling Infrastructure

Bernama.  Petronas Malaysia NGV Sdn Bhd will increase the number of fueling stations selling natural gas  to widen its usage and as an alternative to diesel, according to its executive director, Ismail Ahmad.

The company plans to build at least 100 special service stations selling natural gas throughout the country and work with gasoline stations to have at least one natural gas pump on their premises. Currently there are 39 natural gas stations on the Malaysian peninsula.

The initial target is vehicles in public transportation:  taxis, buses and trucks.

The new stations will offer:

  • New natural gas pumps that will fill vehicles within two minutes rather than the current 30 minutes
  • Workshops to repair natural gas equipment
  • Showrooms displaying converted natural gas cars

Currently, natural gas is selling for RM 0.58 per liter ($0.58/gallon) compared with gasoline at RM 1.42  per liter ($1.42/gallon) and diesel at RM 0.88 per liter ($0.87/gallon).

April 30, 2005 in Natural Gas | Permalink | Comments (54) | TrackBack

April 29, 2005

A Physicist’s View of the World’s Energy Situation

Well, not just any physicist. Dr Steven Koonin, who was appointed BP’s Chief Scientist last year, appeared at a recent public Colloquium at Fermilab to discuss some of the technical, economic, and social considerations surrounding the challenge of ensuring adequate energy supplies in an environmentally acceptable manner.

Koonin is currently on a leave of absence from his faculty position as professor of theoretical physics at Caltech to serve as Chief Scientist for BP. He held the position of Provost of Caltech from 1995 to 2004, and was Chairman of the Faculty from 1989-1991.

Koonin is a member of the Council for Foreign Relations and has served on a number of advisory committees for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense and its various national laboratories. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His research interests include theoretical nuclear, many-body, and computational physics, nuclear astrophysics, and global environmental science.


The talk moves rapidly, and coalesces around two primary concerns:

  • The availability of hydrocarbons as future energy supplies

  • The threat of anthropogenic contributions to climate change

On the supply question, he strikes a balance between what he characterizes as the geologist’s argument (Hubbertian peak oil) and the economist’s (rising prices stimulate greater development and eventually a transition to a new fuel source).

From Koonin’s point of view, there are plenty of hydrocarbon stocks available—the question is the technical ability to produce them in a sufficient and environmentally acceptable manner. The chart to the right represents a conceptual plot of the different sources of energy and their relative materiality by 2030 on a quadrant defined on one axis by concern over hydrocarbons and on the other by concern over climate change.

(Note the position and size of hydrogen in its transportation role. There is an interesting exchange on that in the Q&A session.)

In this context, he sees a potential sustained cap on oil prices at around $40 per barrel—the approximate market price at which the BP teams tell him Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthetic fuels become competitive.

(Upward variance in that price would, I assume, come from a supply/demand mismatch of the synthetics, which, absent a monumental push, wouldn’t pick up the slack in supply soon enough.)

On the whole, Dr. Koonin seems more concerned about the affects of climate change than about the ability to deliver energy supplies.

And ultimately, resolving what is certainly a tightening situation—either from the supply side or the climate change side—requires active participation and support from the public and the government.

The biggest forces in society are public opinion and the government...

Demand side intervention, to use the jargon, has got to be a piece of the picture. So who wants to cut the size of their house in half?...Can I buy the other half? [joke]

It really is, in the end, about people’s expectations about lifestyle and so on. That’s what’s got to change. It’ll be tough.

The streaming archive of the talk and the presentation are available here.

April 29, 2005 in Market Background | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hatch Reintroduces CLEAR ACT to Promote Alt-Fuel, Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), supported by a coalition of environmental groups, automakers, and alternative fuel associations, re-introduced to Congress for the third time the CLEAR ACT—Clean Efficient Automobiles Resulting from Advanced Car Technologies.

Is it any wonder [absent the “pathetic” lack of an energy policy] that we have dramatically increased our reliance on foreign oil, and that prices have risen to reflect this trend? What is truly disturbing to me is that the global energy supply is also being outpaced by global demand for oil.

In other words, our energy future looks bleak. If our nation is forced to rely on oil imports to meet our future energy needs, we are headed for stormy weather. Currently our transportation sector in the U.S. accounts for nearly two-thirds of all oil consumption nationwide.

The CLEAR ACT is designed to lower the cost barriers to implementing alternative fuels and advanced technologies through the use of tax incentives, most of which go directly to the consumer.

  • A base credit of up to $1,000 on hybrid-electric vehicles for the amount of electric drive power along with an additional credit of up to $3,000 depending upon fuel economy performance. These credits are available for 6 years.

  • A base credit of $4,000 and an incremental credit of $2,000 for battery-electric vehicles with extended range or payload capabilities.

  • A base credit of up to $2,500 for dedicated alternative-fuel vehicles (CNG, LPG, LNG) with an additional $1,500 credit for vehicles certified to Super Ultra Low Emission (SULEV) standards. Flex-fuel vehicles are not eligible since they can operate on either gasoline or E85 (ethanol) and are available in the market without any incremental cost.

  • A $4,000 base credit for fuel cell vehicles along with an additional credit of up to $4,000 depending on fuel economy performance. These credits are available for ten years.

  • Credits for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles based on individual weight categories and amounts varying with the largest vehicles over 26,000 pounds receiving up to $40,000 for fuel cell or battery electric, $32,000 for alternative fuel, or $24,000 for hybrid applications.

  • A credit of $0.50 cents for every gallon of gas equivalent of alternative fuel (such as natural gas, LNG, LPG, hydrogen, B100 and methanol) is provided to the retail distributor. This credit is available for 6 years. (Presumably it is up to the distributor to decide whether or not to reflect the credit in its end-user pricing.)

  • An extension of an existing $100,000 tax deduction for 10 years and a credit for actual costs of up to $30,000 for the installation of alternative fuel sites available to the public.

All of the technologies promoted in the CLEAR ACT—whether they be battery and electric motor technologies or advances in fuel storage and alternative fuel infrastructure—lead us closer to the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. I believe fuel cells are in our future. However, even if the widespread use of fuel cell vehicles never becomes a reality, advances in these other technologies provide a dramatic social benefit on their own.

I have heard one or two people question the need for incentives for hybrid vehicles when people are lining up to buy them. It may be true that demand for these vehicles is high in a few areas. However, these high-demand areas tend to have local or state incentives in place for the purchase of these vehicles. Where incentives are not in place, hybrid sales are minimal. This demonstrates that incentives can indeed provide a market breakthrough to consumer acceptance of alternative vehicles.

With the CLEAR ACT, we are trying to provide that breakthrough on a national scale. And the numbers show that a breakthrough is desperately needed. It may be true that hybrid sales have doubled in the last couple of years, but they still represent a minuscule 0.48 percent of cars that were sold in 2004. If we are serious about promoting hybrid vehicles in this country, we will have to aim much, much higher than that.

Initial Coalition of Supporters for the CLEAR ACT 2005
Union of Concerned Scientists
Environmental Defense
Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition
Propane Vehicle Council
American Methanol Institute
Electric Drive Transportation Assn

April 29, 2005 in Electric (Battery), Fuel Cells, Hybrids, Natural Gas, Policy | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

China Sets Timetable for Euro-III and -IV Standards

China’s State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) issued five new standards on vehicle emissions, including the timeline for the implementation of the Euro-III and -IV standards for light-duty vehicles.

Euro-III standards are to be implemented nationwide from July 1, 2007 and -IV standards from July 1, 2010.

April 29, 2005 in China, Emissions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Quarterly Oil Production from Majors Dropping

According to quarterly reports, average daily production of crude oil and natural gas liquids from eight major oil firms dropped by some 304,000 barrels per day (-2.8%) during the first quarter of 2005 as compared to the prior year.

Combined liquids production for these firms dropped to 10.475 million barrels per day (mbpd) in 1Q 2005 from 10.779 mbpd in 1Q 2004.

The firms include ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron Texaco, ConocoPhillips, Amerada Hess, Unocal and Marathon. Results from the mega major international companies such as Total and Eni, or the state-owned firms such as PEMEX and PDV are not yet released.

Oilprod1q05percentage Oilprod1q05actual

Royal Dutch Shell experienced the largest actual drop—184 thousand bpd. Separately, the company faces losing 10% of its oil and gas acreage in Oman, its biggest source of oil in the Middle East, as the government considers bringing in other companies to revive production. (Bloomberg).

To offset these declines, these firms are angling for more access to reserves held by national oil companies (NOCs)—to work together with the state owners to develop more completely the oil in place.

At an oil industry conference last week, Jeroen van der Veer, CEO of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group and President of Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, remarked:

We currently use 200 million barrels of oil equivalent [BOE= barrels of crude plus natural gas counted by the equivalent amount of energy contained in a barrel of oil] a day to meet the world’s energy needs and of these 80 per cent are hydrocarbons. By 2050 we are likely to use 400 million barrels of oil equivalent a day of which 60 per cent will be hydrocarbons—that means we are going to see a very substantial increase in the use of oil and gas over the next half century.

And contrary to what some commentators say there is plenty of oil and gas left. It might not be in traditional locations, it might take unconventional forms, and it might be mined rather than drilled but there is plenty left. The costs of recovering these fuels has more than halved in the last decade and in an era of high prices they are now looking even more economic.

The IEA predict unconventional resources such as oil sands and oil shale could make up 8 per cent of global oil supply by 2030 at 10.1 million barrels a day. And there is similar scope to develop unconventional gas reserves such as coal bed methane.

In this last quarter, Shell produced 78,000 barrels per day of oil from oil sands—down from 82,000 (-5%) from the first quarter in 2004. The company also has maintained its development work on extracting oil from oil shale.

Increasingly, the companies will need to look in all the hard places for their supplies. Not that it is hurting the bottom line—revenues and profits were up again this quarter. But with peak production of the “easy” crude (relative term—some of the drilling efforts are technically amazing) approaching, you can count on rising oil and gas prices as a constant.

April 29, 2005 in Oil | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tracy, Calif to Add More CNG to Bus Fleet

The Record. Fresh off its $2-million acquisition of six CNG-fueled buses and a fueling station, the city of Tracy, California plans to add two more 30-foot CNG buses and quadruple the size of the fueling facility.

The additional $750,000 comes from  federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program (CMAQ).

The transit service is also trying to line up funds for new modified CNG minivans for motorized scooter access.

April 29, 2005 in Fleets, Natural Gas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

Corning Introduces New PM Filter; Bullish on Diesel Market


Corning will begin supplying a new, advanced diesel particulate filter to light-duty vehicle manufacturers later this year.

The new Corning DuraTrap AT filter uses an advanced ceramic material and monolithic design to deliver a filtration efficiency of more than 90%. This new filter also provides excellent pressure drop performance to help minimize the impact on engine power output. The Corning DuraTrap AT filter can be used in either catalyzed or uncatalyzed applications.

It joins the DuraTrap RC filter, targeted at medium- and heavy-duty diesels.

The DuraTrap AT filter has a cellular structure with individual channels open and plugged at opposite ends. Exhaust gases enter the open end, flow through the pores of the cell walls, and exit through the adjacent channel. Soot particles are too large to flow through the pores, and they collect on the channel walls. Periodically, the filter is regenerated—or heated—to consume the soot and clean the filter.

The DuraTrap AT uses an advanced aluminum titanate composition in a monolithic structure.

Concurrent with the product announcement, Corning executives told their shareholders that the company expects the diesel market “to represent a strong growth opportunity for the company.“

In 2001, Corning posted just $12 million in sales of its diesel products. In the first three months of 2005, however, sales have already topped $20 million.

April 28, 2005 in Diesel, Emissions | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

CARB Cracks Down on Ozone

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) approved the nation’s most health protective ozone (O3) standard today.  The new 8-hour-average standard of 0.070 parts per million (ppm) (not to be exceeded) is designed to further protect California’s most vulnerable populations from the adverse health effects associated with ground-level ozone, or smog.

The current California ambient air quality standard for ozone is 0.09 ppm averaged over one hour and was set by the Board in 1988.

The genesis of this regulation was the The Children’s Environmental Health Protection Act, passed in 1999, which requires the ARB, in consultation with the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, to “review all existing health-based ambient air quality standards to determine whether these standards protect public health, including infants and children, with an adequate margin of safety.”

As a result of that requirement, the ARB today adopted the new, stricter 8-hour standard. The 1-hour-average ozone standard is retained at 0.09 ppm, not to be exceeded.

Ozone (O3) Air Quality Standards (ppm)
Regulation1-hour Average8-hour average
US EPA 0.12 0.08
Current CARB 0.09
New CARB 0.09 0.070

CARB recommedned the tougher standard based primarily on the number of studies conducted over the last 15 years, supported by the important health outcomes reported in many of the epidemiologic studies.

In the detailed review of the standard, CARB notes specifically that the new recommended 8-hour average concentration has three rather than two decimal places. This is to protect against rounding conventions that could reduce, say 0.074 ppm to 0.07 ppm. The staff didn’t believe that left enough of a margin of safety.

Among the health risks CARB believes could be avoided via the new standards are:

  • 580 premature deaths for all ages

  • 3,800 hospitalizations due to respiratory diseases for all ages

  • 600 emergency room visits for asthma for children under 18 years of age

  • 3.3 million school absences for children 5 to 17 years of age

  • 2.8 million minor restricted activity days for adults above 18 years of age

(See the full review for details on confidence intervals and methodologies.)

The new standards will go into effect late this year or early next year, after going through California’s review process for new regulations.


April 28, 2005 in Emissions | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Enova Electric Drives in Two More Fuel Cell Prototypes

Enova Systems’s 120 kW HybridPower drive systems are being used in two different fuel cell-powered ground support equipment prototypes and tests for the US Air Force.

In the first, Concurrent Technologies Corporation, which operates the Department of Defense (DoD) Fuel Cell Test and Evaluation Center (FCTec), is integrating the Enova drive system with a Hydrogenics HyPM 65 kW fuel cell system in an MB-4 aircraft tow tractor.

The MB-4 tow tractor vehicle will be tested in fuel cell demonstrations at select Air Force Bases and civil airports in the United States.

In the second project, Enova contracted with the High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC) and the Hawaii Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies (HCATT) in Hawaii to integrate and to evaluate a fuel cell hybrid step van for Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu.

The Enova 120 kW electric drive motor delivers 650 Nm (480 lb-ft) torque.

Enova has worked with HCATT and Hickham in the past on other airport bus and electric vehicle projects. In late 2004, Enova also teamed with Hydrogenics to develop and deploy a fuel cell hybrid delivery van for Purolator Courier.

Enova Systems (formerly US Electricar) has been partnering with Hyundai for years on the research and development of all electric, hybrid electric, and fuel cell drive systems. Hyundai Motors and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) took equity stakes in Enova, and in 2003 the companies opened the joint Hyundai Enova Innovative Technology Center.

April 28, 2005 in Fleets, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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