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July 2005

July 30, 2005

Brazil’s Petrobras Exports First Shipment of Ethanol


ANBA. Petrobras, the Brazilian state-owned oil, gas and energy company, made its first export shipment of ethanol this week, destined for Venezuela. Initial forecasts are for a monthly shipment of some 25,000 cubic meters (some 6.6 million gallons US).

The company had announced earlier this year that it intended to begin participating in the renewable fuels export market. Petrobras will invest US$330 million in the next five years to develop the requisite transport infrastructure.

The company hopes to have a capacity for export of 8 billion liters (2.1 billion gallons US) by 2010. In 2004, Brazilian companies sold 2.4 billion liters (634 million gallons US) into the world market.

Petrobras’ next ethanol customer will be China, with Japan not far behind (earlier post).

Venezuela is ending the use of Tetra-ethyl lead in its gasoline in August. As a replacement, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) will initially add 8% ethanol to gasoline in the eastern region of the country, with a 10% blend countrywide targeted in the future.

July 30, 2005 in Brazil, Ethanol, Latin America | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

California’s AQMD to Acquire and to Test Plug-in Prius

The Southern California Air Quality Management District (AQMD) has decided to acquire and to test an Energy CS plug-in Prius (earlier post) in addition to the fleet of 35 Priuses it is converting to hydrogen-fueled combustion engine-hybrid drives (earlier post).

This plug-in project complements another plug-in hybrid (PHEV) initiative by AQMD in testing five PHEV commercial vans (the DaimlerChrysler Sprinter).

The decision came during the AQMD board meeting in May; the district is now awaiting production and delivery of the vehicle.

The rationale for the project mirrors larger discussions in the sustainable transportation marketplace about hydrogen and nearer-term steps.

A more near-term solution [than hydrogen] is to rely on well-developed, lower-cost technology, specifically lithium-ion batteries and hybrid electric drive technology.

This battery-dominant strategy increases battery capacity and electric motor utilization to provide true zero-emission miles, which increases vehicle range, reduces fuel consumption, and decreases the role of the engine or fuel cell. When used in ICE vehicles, the battery-dominant strategy also decreases tailpipe emissions.

Because the battery packs must be grid-recharged to fully utilize the electric motor and zero-emission range capability, these vehicles are called plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

AQMD Plug-in Prius Costs (not including the car)
PartnersCost sharePercentage
* plus in-kind cost of vehicle
(in-kind development)
(funding & in-kind development)
(funding & in-kind demonstration)
(in-kind performance testing)
Santa Monica
(in-kind demonstration)
Valence Batteries
(funding & in-kind development)
(in-kind emissions testing)
AQMD requested*$130,00025%

Overall costs for the project—which will ultimately result in the deployment of four plug-in hybrids for testing—are estimated to be some $539,000, borne by AQMD, EnergyCS, CalCars, Clean-Tech, Southern California Edison, Valence Batteries, the City of Santa Monica, and CARB.

The basics of the project are as follows:

  • EnergyCS will engineer, design, and optimize of the PHEV replacement system, using a Valence Saphion lithium-ion battery pack (with approximately 9 kWh of energy storage) to replace the OEM NiMH battery.

  • Once the system has been designed and tested, the demonstration phase will consist of installing the system on test vehicles to further optimize the system and ensure the emissions are maintained at SULEV levels.

    These vehicles will be demonstrated by CalCars, the City of Santa Monica, EVO Transportation Corp., and the AQMD, with each entity providing a vehicle as in-kind cost-share. The entire project is anticipated to conclude within one year of initiation.

  • Clean-Tech, a transportation integrator, will assist in the design migration from demonstration to commercialization, with a focus on eventual sale as a conversion system. (Clean-Tech and EnergyCS have created EDrive, a joint venture to commercialize the plug-in technology. Earlier post.)

  • The technical goals of the project include optimization of battery performance and life, maintenance and expansion of the EV mode, double the fuel economy of the conventional HEV, and seamless driver experience from a standard Toyota Prius.

AQMD’s staff recommendation was enthusiastic about the potential:

Successful completion of this project will result in growing recognition of the business value of PHEVs and increase consumer demand for PHEVs. This project also has the potential for wide application if commercialized due to the popularity of the Toyota Prius vehicle.

Increasing zero emissions miles [i.e., miles under electric drive] and doubling the fuel economy of the current Prius population would have dramatic effects on air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, energy diversity, and technology advancement.

Furthermore, the conversion system may also have application to other Toyota hybrid vehicles, namely the Ford Escape HEV which uses the Toyota technology, as well as the hydrogen hybrid conversions authorized by the Governing Board in March 2004 as part of the “Five Cities” hydrogen ICE project.

(A hat-tip to Jack Rosebro!)


July 30, 2005 in Plug-ins | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

GM–Toyota Fuel-Cell Talks Stall

Kyodo. Progress on defining a joint venture between Toyota Motor and GM to develop fuel cell cars has stalled over the terms of sharing intellectual property rights and the results of joint research.

Failing to clear even that fundamental barrier has prevented negotiations on the specifics of the proposed joint venture.

GM and Toyota have been exploring ways to pool their resources (and reduce their costs) in developing fuel cell cars since May when GM Chairman Wagoner visited outgoing Toyota President Cho.

New Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe has said Toyota and GM should decide quickly on the proposed joint venture.

July 30, 2005 in Fuel Cells | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 29, 2005

Ohio School District Switches Buses to B20

The Daily Standard. St. Marys City Schools in Celina, Ohio, is switching its 39-bus fleet to a B20 biodiesel blend for the next school year.

Board of education members approved the plans to purchase the B20 blend from Burke Petroleum in Minster during their July meeting.

The St. Marys district is the first in the area to go with biodiesel.

There are a number of other attributes [Transportation Supervisor] Grothaus favors: the reduced dependence on imported fuel, it’s a renewable fuel produced by farmers, no engine modifications are required, and most important, he said, is that the fuel is better for the environment and thus better for the kids.

“I have asthma myself so I know what respiratory problems are like. Regular diesel exhaust contains small particles, smog-forming and toxic air pollutants. That can cause lung damage and exacerbate asthma and allergies,&dquo; he said.

The district expects its fuel bill to increase by about $600.

(A hat-tip to Doug Meier!)

July 29, 2005 in Biodiesel | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Illinois Law Expands Biodiesel Mandate for Public Fleets

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed into law House Bill 112 which requires state government, county and local governments, school districts, universities and community colleges and mass transit agencies to use a minimum of B2 (2% biodiesel blend) in their diesel vehicles.

State facilities already useB2 in accordance with an executive order issued by the Governor in 2004. Local governments, community colleges and mass transit systems will now join the state in boosting biodiesel use.

Earlier this year, Gov. Blagojevich approved legislation that provides rebates for drivers using fuels with a minimum B20 blend.

The new law becomes effective 1 July 2006.

July 29, 2005 in Biodiesel, Policy | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hydrogenics Putting More Hydrogen Forklifts into Trials

The H2 Hyster Forklift

Hydrogenics is preparing to enter a second phase of one of its early-adopter, light-mobility programs by deploying fuel cell-ultracapacitor hybrid forklifts at a Fedex facility in the Toronto area.

The light mobility program is designed to seed early-adopter markets for hydrogen fuel cells with Hydrogenics systems, to focus product development and to build distribution channels. Hydrogenics believes that forklifts can be one such early adopter application of its technology.

(Several other Canadian fuel cell companies—General Hydrogen and Cellex—are also looking to industrial vehicles, specifically forklifts, as a natural fit for fuel cells.)

The Hyster E55Z, 5000-lb lift capacity forklifts are equipped with a Hydrogenics HyPM 10 Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell module which delivers 10 kW net continuous power.

Electrical energy produced by regenerative braking is stored in Maxwell Technologies’ Boostcap ultracapacitors that are integrated into the power pack. The ultracapacitors provide extra energy for applications such as lifting.

Phase One of the initiative, already complete, involved the deployment of two forklifts at GM Canada’s main car assembly plant in Oshawa. Results of the complete two-phase project will be developed into a white paper to be published later this year.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada is supporting the forklift project with a C $1.45 million (US $1.18 million) contribution, leveraging a C $1.98 million (US $1.6 million) commitment from a Hydrogenics-led consortium. The consortium members include Deere & Company, FedEx Canada, General Motors of Canada, NACCO Materials Handling Group and the Canadian Transportation Fuel Cell Alliance.

Inasmuch as customers typically start with small orders of one of two units as they test the technology and the value proposition, we believe many of the customers we are working with today can materialize into substantial commercial opportunities tomorrow. This 'pathway to profitability' model has been used very successfully by developers of new technologies in the past - we believe that Hydrogenics is the company that is going to do it for fuel cells.

—Pierre Rivard, President and CEO

Other light mobility activity over the last 6 months includes:

  • Delivery and road-permitting of Purolator’s first zero-emission, fuel cell powered vehicle. The vehicle, equipped with a Hydrogenics 65 kW HyPM in a battery hybrid configuration, will commence in-service trials this summer as part of Purolator’s “greening of the fleet” initiative.

  • Preparation of Toronto’s ExPlace to receive a small fleet of next-generation fuel cell-powered John Deere Gators to integrate into their regular grounds operations. This will be the first deployment of John Deere vehicles for end-user validation. Deere continues on a progressive product development track with a recent follow-on order for two HyPM units bringing the total to nine.

  • Unveiling of Hydrogenics’ HyPM hybrid package in The Toro Company’s proof-of-concept fuel cell hybrid greensmower. This is believed to be one of the earliest applications for fuel cell technology in grounds equipment.

  • Completion and demonstration of a fuel cell hybrid midi-bus to the state of North Rhine Westphalia. German T?V road certification is in progress and expected to be complete in the third quarter. This fuel cell battery hybrid design has the capacity to at least double the range achievable by batteries alone.

  • Engagement with REVA Electric Car Company (Maini Industrial Group, India,) and Th!nk Nordic (Norway). Initial HyPM sales for prototype vehicles are being secured at this time. The REVA initiative plans for a small fleet of vehicles as an eco-tourism pilot project launched by the Indian Oil Corporation, and the Th!nk Nordic project plans for additional vehicles over the next two years for various demonstration projects, including Norway’s Hynor initiative.

  • Demonstration initiatives launched in 2005 included Hydrogenics’ sponsorship of University of Waterloo’s Challenge X team as they integrate a HyPM power module into the drive train of a GM Equinox vehicle. The team took top honors for their design stage deliverables at a recent Challenge X competition.

  • The provision of a 2X10 kW HyPM to SunLine Transit Agency for integration into an APU in a modified standard Class-8 Peterbilt truck. The truck recently made a trip across the US, demonstrating a significant overall reduction of fossil fuel consumption.

  • The provision of a electrolyzer-fuel cell APU, to be deployed on board a Stryker Light Armored Vehicle (LAV). The APU will extend the LAV’s silent watch capabilities.

July 29, 2005 in Canada, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2005

Australian Medical Association Backs Mandatory Biofuels Use

The president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, wrote Australian Government’s Biofuels Taskforce to detail the AMA’s support for the mandatory use of ethanol and biodiesel in the interests of protecting and improving human health.

Dr Haikerwal said the AMA wants to see the biofuels debate in Australia shift from economic issues to human health issues.

The AMA is a strong advocate on initiatives related to environmental impacts on human health such as global warming.

We are equally passionate about the impact of vehicle emissions on human health and we would encourage governments to pursue responsible measures to reduce emissions.

In our opinion, there is incontrovertible evidence that the addition of ethanol to petrol and biodiesel to diesel will reduce the deaths and ill-health associated with the emissions produced by burning those fuels.

—Dr Haikerwal

The AMA believes that the following interventions would reduce the negative health impacts:

  • Introduction of mandatory biofuel blends (gasoline with 10% ethanol and diesel with 20% biodiesel)

  • Reduction of highly toxic aromatics such as benzene in gasoline

  • Replacement of gasoline/diesel vehicles with those that use liquid petroleum gas (LPG) or compressed natural gas (CNG).

  • Installation of in-tunnel filters and gas-detoxification systems in vehicular tunnels in heavily populated cities.

July 28, 2005 in Australia, Biodiesel, Ethanol, Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Energy Bill Passes House, Heads for Senate

Select funding initiatives from the Energy Bill.

The Conference version of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (which the House passed today 275–156) is a head-wracking 1,724 pages of policy, programs, pork—and the occasional hint or glimmer of a shift in focus and attitude.

In general, the bill (a) incents more production through generous subsidies to the energy industry, but with some increasing emphasis on renewables (b) invests heavily in long-term, high-ticket technologies (hydrogen, fusion, clean coal, next-generation nuclear) (c) does essentially nothing for the short- to medium-term to reduce the consumption of petroleum.

That’s not to say that there are no positive aspects to the bill. It significantly increases the amount of money targeted toward renewables. It significantly ups the ante on the hydrogen front (which, admittedly, is not a benefit for some). It supports and funds the development of forest biomass as an energy feedstock, and supports the development of cellulosic ethanol.

It even has minor funding provisions for plug-in hybrids, and for the exploration of V2G systems (Vehicle-to-Grid, in which excess electricity stored in an electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fuel cell vehicle could flow back into the grid.

But it ignores the most obvious, simplest, and probably least overall expensive option for decreasing petroleum use: increasing fuel economy requirements. Aggressively supporting the development of hybrids, plug-ins and electric vehicles. (There is funding for those in the bill, but relatively minor.)

It lost, along the way, provisions that mandated targeted reductions in petroleum consumption in years to come. And it sidesteps any targeted reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

(As a bit of a surprise, it also does not include drilling in ANWR. Nor does it indemnify the makers of MTBE, the targets of more than 150 lawsuits.)

What follows is a rough, initial snapshot of some of the provisions relevant to transportation. (Dollar figures with a “+” indicate that the bill specifies funds “as needed” for later years of a specific program. The funding for each item is spread over differing ranges of years.)

Select Provisions from the Energy Bill
SectionInitiativeFunding ($mil)
208 Sugarcane Ethanol Program (targeted at Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Hawaii) $6
210 Improving forest biomass for electric energy, heat and transportation fuel $550
417 Development of Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuels from Illinois basin coal $85
706 Developing flex-fuel hybrids/plug-in flex fuel hybrids $40
721 Advanced Vehicle pilot program for alternative fuel, fuel cell or hybrid vehicle programs $200
731 Fuel cell bus development and demonstration program $50
741 Clean School Bus Program (alternative fuels, ethanol, biodiesel, ULSD) $110
742 Diesel truck retrofit program $100+
755 Conservation through bicycling program $6.2
756 Reduction of idling program (including locomotives) $140
757 Biodiesel engine testing program (biodiesel from different sources, and blended with ULSD) $25
758 Development of ultra-efficient aircraft engines with a 10% increase in fuel efficiency and a 70% decrease in NOx emissions on takeoff and landing $250
782 Mandated levels of federal and state fleet procurement of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles starting in 2008 and running through 2015 $100+
791–797 Programs for the reduction of diesel engine emissions $1,000
801–805 Programs to develop the hydrogen supply; develop fuel cell technology; and fund demonstrations $3,230
915 “Secondary Electric Vehicle battery use”—V2G study
801–805 Programs to develop the hydrogen supply; develop fuel cell technology; and fund demonstrations $3,230
942 Production incentives for cellulosic biofuels—1 billion gallons per year by 2015, with cost parity to diesel or gasoline $250
801–805 808 Programs to develop the hydrogen supply; develop fuel cell technology; and fund demonstrations $3,230
1346 An increase in tax credits from $0.50 to $1.00 per gallon renewable biodiesel (made from a thermal depolymerization process of waste rather than from the transesterification of seed oil
1512 Conversion assistance for cellulosic biomass, waste-derived ethanol and other approved renewable fuels $750
1514 Advanced biofuels research $110

There are other tax credits and subsidies I’ve missed in this initial list.


July 28, 2005 in Policy | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Hydrogen-Station Homing on Honda FCX

Honda is equipping all of its hydrogen fuel cell-powered 2005 FCX vehicles with a navigation system that incorporates the location of hydrogen fueling stations, including those being developed as part of California’s “Hydrogen Highway” initiative.

Based on the Honda-developed navigation systems offered in many Honda and Acura models, the voice-activated system includes features such as the capability to find and display hydrogen stations through voice commands, including directions and driving distances.

Offering national navigation coverage, the system currently includes a total of 26 H2 stations in its database with nine of them outside the state of California. There is also a feature included that will allow the user to add stations to their personal address book. As the infrastructure develops further, periodic system updates will be performed by Honda to include any new stations to the directory.

July 28, 2005 in Hydrogen | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

EPA: 2005 Fuel Economy is Flat at 21 MPG

Fuel economy for last 30 years

Despite improvements in the efficiency of technologies, model year 2005 light-duty vehicles in the US are estimated to average 21.0 mpg, eking out just a 0.2 mpg improvement over 2004, according to the EPA.

The data, published in the just-released annual report on automotive technology and fuel economy trends, highlights that fuel economy has been essentially flat for the past dozen years, although the size and power of the vehicles sold has increased dramatically.

In other words, the efficiencies of new technology are applied to creating vehicles (in an aggregate view) with roughly equivalent fuel consumption, but that are bigger and more powerful.

Vehicle weight in tons times fuel economy

The chart to the right (Click to enlarge) plots the ton-mpg (weight in tons times fuel economy) of vehicles since 1975.

Improvements in actual fuel economy of light-duty vehicles peaked in 1987 at a combined average 22.1 mpg, and has since declined some 5% due both to the increasing size and power of vehicles in each succeeding model year, and to the increasing mix of trucks and SUVs in the fleet.

On the basis of ton-mpg, however, improvements have been steady over the past 30 years, rising from an average 26.9 ton-mpg in 1975 to 43.2 ton-mpg in 2005. (There is also less of a gap, as you might expect, beween cars and trucks when viewed on this basis.)

Vehicle Weight and Acceleration

Another view of the situation comes from the next chart (at right, Click to enlarge) that plots vehicle weight and acceleration time for the model years 1975 through 2005.

Reductions in weight and power, and increases in fuel economy, all maximized in response to the series of oil crises in the 1970s and early 1980s that culminated with the Iranian revolution.

Since then, we have steadily moved back toward heavier, more powerful vehicles, although advances in vehicle and engine technology managed to maintain the baseline fuel economy gains made during the 1980s.

Objectively, that level of fuel economy is grossly inadequate, given the geopolitical, geological and environmental constraints and issues we face today.

Ironically, the report comes right when the House and Senate are voting on a consolidated version of the energy bill—a bill that makes no quantitative advances in fuel economy regulations and that neglects short-term initiatives that could substantially alter that figure.


July 28, 2005 in Fuel Efficiency | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

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