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September 2005

September 30, 2005

New York Governor Joins Governors’ Ethanol Coalition

New York governor George E. Pataki is joining the Governors’ Ethanol Coalition, a bipartisan organization that is working to promote the development and use of ethanol-based fuels nationally and globally.

Governor Pataki is the first Northeast governor to join the coalition of 31—now 32—states, Puerto Rico and four foreign countries (Sweden, Canada, Mexico and Brazil).

New York State is a national leader in the use of renewable energy, and we’re committed to finding new ways to diversify our energy supplies and increase our use of ethanol and other renewable fuels.

I am particularly interested in developing cellulosic ethanol, an effort being led by research institutions at SUNY-ESF and Cornell.

—Gov. Pataki

In a speech to the meeting of the Governors’ Ethanol Coalition (GEC) earlier this week, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, the chairperson of the GEC, called on every state to take steps toward use of at least 10% ethanol in gasoline (an E10 blend) by 2010. (Earlier post.)

Within the next year, up to three ethanol plants are expected to begin production in New York State, including Northeast Biofuels in Fulton, Oswego County. The Northeast Biofuels plant would be the largest ethanol plant in the Northeast, with a capacity to produce 100 million gallons annually.

New York State’s vehicle fleet, which had only a few alternative-fueled vehicles in 1995, now includes more than 4,600 alternative-fueled vehicles. These vehicles use fuels such as ethanol, compressed natural gas (CNG), or propane. Governor Pataki has committed that by the end of the decade, every non-emergency vehicle purchased by the State (approximately 1,200 per year) will be an alternative-fueled vehicle.

September 30, 2005 in Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Japan to Issue World’s First Fuel Economy Standards for Large Trucks and Buses

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun reports that Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Transport have decided to set the world’s first fuel economy standards for large trucks and buses in an attempt to curb Japan’s CO2 emissions.

Such an unprecedented step (heavy-duty vehicles are untouched by fuel economy regulations worldwide) would put additional pressure on engine makers, who are already putting a great deal of effort into meeting increasingly strict emissions regulations.

Many current approaches to emissions reductions can come at the expense of fuel consumption. Meeting both goals for entire classes of vehicles will require some tremendous engineering creativity: alternative fuels, new combustion processes, greatly improved mechanisms for waste heat recovery and hybrid configurations could all play roles.

The standards, which would be introduced this coming April, are aimed at improving fuel consumption of these vehicles by about 12% on average from their fiscal 2002 levels by fiscal 2015.

Targets for improving fuel consumption will be set for 11 weight categories of trucks weighing more than 3.5 tons. A target for 2.5- to 3.5-ton vehicles will be set at a later date. The standards would improve the fuel economy of trucks over 3.5 tons by an average of 12.2% by fiscal 2015. For buses, fuel economy would improve by an average of 12.1%.

Manufacturers failing to meet the targets will receive corrective action orders from the ministries. If they still fail to meet the standards, they and the models will be publicly named and fines levied. Pressure would be applied to end production of poorly performing models.

The regulations are designed to help Japan meet its Kyoto targets for reducing CO2 emissions. The country has seen a 20% increase in CO2 emissions in the transportation sector since 1990—heading in the wrong direction, in other words. By contrast, emissions from the industrial sector have been flat, despite growth in the economy.

September 30, 2005 in Fuel Efficiency, Japan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Altairnano Ramps Up Lithium-Ion Battery Work

Altair Nanotechnologies has expanded its research, product development, manufacturing and marketing groups with the addition of eleven advanced battery scientists, engineers, manufacturing and marketing specialists.

The mission of the enlarged battery team is to accelerate the development of Altairnano’s nano-structured battery electrode materials and provide new capabilities to manufacture in-house prototype lithium-ion cells, batteries and battery packs and increase testing capabilities.

Altairnano is looking into combining its nano titanate spinel electrode materials (earlier post) with other materials that utilize manganese or iron phosphate (as compared to other batteries containing lead, acid, cobalt, cadmium, nickel and so on).

Additionally, in contrast with graphite electrodes currently used in lithium-ion batteries, the nano titanium-based anodes are expected to safely operate in the thermodynamically stable voltage window of available existing electrolytes. The ionic transport capacity through the nano-structured materials provides high charge and discharge rates resulting in high power ratings when needed.

Testing with Altairnano’s electrodes has shown a reduction in recharge time to up to one-sixth.

September 30, 2005 in Batteries | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nissan Unveils Pivo Concept Electric Vehicle

The Pivo EV

Nissan Motor unveiled Pivo, an electric car concept, in partnership with renowned Japanese artist Takashi Murakami at the company’s Nissan Ginza Gallery in downtown Tokyo.

Pivo, which Nissan will show at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, features an innovative cabin that revolves 360 degrees, eliminating the need to reverse. Thanks to its compact body, the car is also exceptionally easy to maneuver.

Pivo is powered by Nissan’s high-performance lithium-ion battery and Super Motor, used in its X-Trail fuel cell vehicle (FCV) prototype, and the Effis FCV commuter car concept shown at the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show among others.

Cutaway of the dual-rotor Super Motor. Click to enlarge.

The Super Motor features dual rotors on both the inside and outside of a single stator, and can output power through two shafts under the application of a compound current. To avoid torque interference between the rotors, magnets having different numbers of pole pairs are used for the inner and outer rotors.

The Super Motor offers greater power density than conventional motors, but also increased heat generation. To address that issue, Nissan engineers placed the cooling system in between the stator teeth.

The Super Motor controls the power output of each shaft separately, making it possible to drive the right and left wheels independently, and is targeted for a variety of applications, including in fuel cell vehicles or as a generator in hybrid vehicles.


September 30, 2005 in Electric (Battery), Japan, Motors | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 29, 2005

Oxygen Picks Valence Li-Ion Batteries for Electric Scooters

Oxygen S.p.A. , a provider of electric scooters, has chosen Saphion lithium-ion battery systems from Valence Technology to power two of its models.

Oxygen will use the U-Charge U1 Power System in its Oxygen E, which is designed to address the need for low-cost transportation in congested urban areas, recreational areas such as beaches or resorts, and restricted communities where gas-powered vehicles are prohibited.

U-Charge Power Systems
Capacity 40Ah 100Ah
Specific Energy 91.6 Wh/kg 97.8 Wh/kg
Energy Density 130 Wh/L 135 Wh/L

The Oxygen Cargo Scooter will use either the U-Charge U1 or U24 Power System, depending on customer’s needs. This larger scooter offers a comfortable ride and excellent handling, has a cargo box that can be custom designed to store a variety of commodities and has a range of up to 86 miles.

Both scooter models use regenerative braking to supplement the battery charge. The change from Nickel-Zinc batteries to Li-ion batteries provide longer range and higher reliability.

Oxygen vehicles powered by Saphion batteries will be available starting late this year, with volume production beginning in first quarter 2006.

Valence is the battery partner in EDrive’s work in commercializing the plug-in Prius. (Earlier post.)

September 29, 2005 in Batteries, Electric (Battery) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Capstone MicroTurbines Surpass 10 Million Operating Hours

The CARB-certified Capstone MicroTurbine HEV engine.

The installed fleet of the Capstone Turbine’s MicroTurbine energy systems has surpassed the 10-million-hour mark—equivalent to more than 1,000 years of continuous operation—in documented runtime operation.

Although the large majority of the more than 3,200 units in the field function in on-site power generation or combined heat and power applications, some have been installed as gensets in series-hybrid mass transit applications.

In such an application, the microturbine replaces the conventional combustion engine used as a generator to power the electric drive motor(s) and recharge the energy storage system.

Some of Capstone’s hybrid vehicle partners have been or are:

  • eBus

  • ISE Research/ThunderVolt

  • Designline, (a New Zealand company also serving Japan)

  • AVS

Capstone has configured a 30-kW microturbine power system for use in hybrid electric vehicles. The C30 HEV microturbine can burn natural gas (CNG, LNG, LFG), propane, diesel or kerosene.

The electronics of the system support grid-connect (i.e., a plug-in hybrid configuration). Stand-alone battery support and automatic grid/stand-alone switching are options.

The system incorporates a compressor, recuperator, combustor, turbine and permanent magnet generator. The rotating components are mounted on a single shaft that rotates at up to 96,000 rpm and is supported by air bearings.

The generator is cooled by intake air flow, eliminating the need for liquid cooling.


Air is compressed and injected into the recuperator where its temperature is elevated by the exhaust gases expelled from the turbine. This process increases the system efficiency. The heated compressed air is mixed with fuel and burned in the combustion chamber. The combusted hot gases expand through the turbine, providing the rotational power. Patented techniques in the combustion process result in the extremely low emission exhaust stream.

The output of the generator is variable voltage, variable frequency AC power. Integrated power electronics convert this to 250–700V DC for hybrid vehicle applications.

The microturbines reduce emissions well below the levels of conventional CNG or diesel engines.

Although hybrid vehicle applications of the microturbine have been few, perhaps this may change as the market gains more experience with the pros and cons of the series hybrid configuration in general, and a microturbine genset in particular.

September 29, 2005 in Engines, Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Pennsylvania Consortium to Buy Fuel Output from Waste Coal-to-Liquids Plant

Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell has announced the formation of a consortium that will purchase nearly the full output of synthetic diesel fuel to be produced by the nation’s first Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) plant that uses waste coal as a feedstock.

The plant, to be built by Waste Management and Processors Inc. (WMPI) of Gilberton, Schuylkill County, will produce as much as 40 million gallons of synthetic diesel annually. WMPI expects to break ground and start construction as early as spring of 2006.

The Gilberton Coal to Clean Fuels project, with an estimated price tag of $612 million, has been in the works since 2000 (at least in concept), but now the ongoing hikes in energy prices, the increased funding for CTL provided by the Energy Act, and now the purchase commitment from the state are making it viable.

We are going to be part of changing how America produces its fuel. We are going to ensure Pennsylvania has a long-term supply of clean, secure and affordable energy. Not only will Pennsylvania be the first state to build such a plant, we also will be the first state to use its purchasing power to lead a consortium to purchase some 40 million gallons of this Pennsylvania produced fuel.

—Gov. Rendell

At the Governor’s direction, the state has worked with potential partners to ensure a long-term, viable market for this project and others like it. The buyers’ consortium is led by the commonwealth and private sector businesses that include Worley & Obetz Inc. and Keystone Alliance, a fuel purchase group for the trucking industry. Nearly all of the plant’s output, which can be refined for use as diesel, jet fuel and home heating oil, is locked up in principle in purchasing agreements.

Recently, representatives from the US Department of Defense (DoD) met with Governor Rendell and WMPI to discuss their interest in these fuels and the production facilities. The US Department of Defense has taken strong interest in Governor Rendell’s initiative, and Dr. William Harrison, senior advisor of DoD’s Clean Fuels Initiative in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, joined the Governor for the announcement in Harrisburg.

The main process units for the Gilberton waste coal-to-liquids project. Click to enlarge.

In the process, coal waste, also known as culm, is broken to create a fine material. A fine slurry of 65% coal material (carbon, hydrogen, inert material and traces of sulfur) and 35% water is pumped into a gasifier. In the gasifier, the slurry is mixed with oxygen and heated to 2,500° F to produce a syngas composed primarily of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and a glass-like aggregate.

The syngas is cooled, cleaned and desulfurized. The cleaned syngas is then piped to a slurry phase reactor for the Fischer-Tropsch process, which produces a paraffin.

The paraffin is then distilled into a high-cetane, sulfur-free diesel fuel. The aggregate can be used in road or concrete construction, and the sulfur may be saleable.

The waste heat from the process will be used to generate 41 megawatts of low-cost electric power that will be fed into the grid. The waste heat is enough to power more than 40,000 homes.

WMPI has been in discussions with Shell Global Solutions to license its gasification technology for the plant, and with Sasol to license its Fischer-Tropsch technology.

Pennsylvania has offered significant financial incentives to make energy manufacturing a cornerstone of the state’s economic future, including $47 million in tax credits for the development of this project. The US Department of Energy has committed another $100 million in grants, and the recently passed federal energy plan singles out this project for a federal loan guarantee.


September 29, 2005 in Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

DaimlerChrysler to Partner with NextEnergy on Biodiesel Research and Development

DaimlerChrysler will collaborate with Detroit-based NextEnergy and Biodiesel Industries on biodiesel development and technical innovation, as well as the development and refinement of industry standards for the rapidly-growing biodiesel industry.

Worldwide, DaimlerChrysler is putting increasing emphasis on renewable and synthetic fuels. The company has promoted use of biodiesel fuel in the US with the launch of the Jeep Liberty CRD diesel, the first mid-sized SUV with a diesel powertrain in the U.S. market. Every Jeep Liberty CRD leaving the factory in Toledo, Ohio, is fueled with B5 (5% biodiesel). (Earlier post.)

The Liberty CRD will register its highest monthly sales during September, with more than 1,200 units sold nationwide. Liberty CRD has already exceeded initial estimates for first-year sales, with more than 6,300 sold; more than 10,500 units have been built and shipped to dealers.

As part of its work with NextEnergy, DaimlerChrysler will commit currently unused land at a former SuperFund environmental site for use in producing soybeans, and perhaps other oil-bearing crops, for use in NextEnergy research programs.

The company is working cooperatively with the EPA in identifying and developing sites for use in producing crops for the NextEnergy research. The goal is to include the properties in EPA’s “Return to Use Program” designed to put currently under-utilized former SuperFund sites back into productive use.

NextEnergy, located in Detroit, is a non-profit organization created by the State of Michigan to advance the Alternative Energy Technology industry in Michigan. Biodiesel Industries, headquartered in Santa Barbara, California, claims to have the largest network of biodiesel production facilities in the nation.

September 29, 2005 in Biodiesel | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Initial Testing of Hybrid Utility Trucks Shows 40%–60% Drop in Fuel Consumption

International-Eaton Hybrid Utility truck

Initial independent test results of prototype hybrid utility trucks being used in the WestStart’s Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF) pilot program (earlier post) have shown a decrease in fuel consumption of 40%–60% measured against driving and work cycles typical of the utility industry. The target requirement for the hybrids was a 50% reduction in fuel consumption.

Larger-scale testing involving 24 of the hybrid utility trucks jointly developed by International and Eaton Corporation will begin by year’s end.

These early results are very promising. While we will need to test these trucks on a larger scale and over a longer period of time, we continue to see indications that these vehicles are commercially viable and will deliver real value to customers.

—Bill Van Amburg, senior vice president, WestStart

These initial findings support our vision of making diesel-electric hybrid trucks a viable option. The other benefits we expect, such as extended maintenance intervals and fewer brake changes, further illustrate the promise of this technology.

—George Survant, director of fleet services, Florida Power and Light Company; chairperson of the HTUF Utility Working Group

Major components of the hybrid utility truck system

The drive system in the utility trucks is in a pre-transmission parallel hybrid configuration, with a 44-kW permanent magnet motor mounted directly in front of the transmission, behind engine and clutch. Li-ion batteries provide the energy store.

The engine is a 6-cylinder 215-hp (160-kW) diesel that delivers 759 Nm of torque.

Power from the engine is used to drive the conventional drive-train directly or converted into electrical energy and stored for use as needed. Electric torque can be blended with engine torque to improve vehicle performance and to operate the engine in the most fuel-efficient range for a given speed or to operate the vehicle with electric power only.

The system recovers kinetic energy during braking, charging the batteries while the truck is slowing down which provides additional power for acceleration. This truck also can operate the utility bucket in electric-only mode, with the engine off, significantly contributing to improved fuel economy.


September 29, 2005 in Diesel, Fleets, Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Arctic Ice Melt Accelerates to Record Lows

The decline in sea ice extent from 1978-2005

Accelerating melting has shrunk Arctic ice to its smallest extent in at least a century, according to scientists from NASA, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), and the University of Washington.

For the fourth consecutive year, NSIDC and NASA scientists using satellite data have tracked a “stunning” reduction in arctic sea ice at the end of the northern summer. The persistence of near-record low extents leads the group to conclude that Arctic sea ice is likely on an accelerating, long-term decline.

Considering the record low amounts of sea ice this year leading up to the month of September, 2005 will almost certainly surpass 2002 as the lowest amount of ice cover in more than a century. If current rates of decline in sea ice continue, the summertime Arctic could be completely ice-free well before the end of this century.

—Julienne Stroeve, NSIDC

That conclusion echoes last year’s findings from the Arctic Council, an eight-nation report by 250 experts.

Arctic sea ice extent, or the area of ocean that is covered by at least 15% ice, typically reaches its minimum in September, at the end of the summer melt season. On September 21, 2005, the five-day running mean sea ice extent dropped to 5.32 million square kilometers (2.05 million square miles), the lowest extent ever observed during the satellite record from 1978.

A recent assessment of trends throughout the past century indicates that the current decline also exceeds past low ice periods in the 1930s and 1940s.

For the period 1979 through 2001, before the recent series of low extents, the rate of September decline was slightly more than 6.5 percent per decade. After the September 2002 minimum, which was the record before this year, the trend steepened to 7.3 percent.

Incorporating the 2005 minimum, with a projection for ice growth in the last few days of September, the estimated decline in end-of-summer Arctic sea ice is now approximately 8 percent per decade. All four years have ice extents approximately 20 percent less than the 1978 through 2000 average. This decline in sea ice amounts to approximately 1.3 million square kilometers (500,000 square miles). This is an area roughly equivalent to twice the size of Texas.

With four consecutive years of low summer ice extent, confidence is strengthening that a long-term decline is underway.

Having four years in a row with such low ice extents has never been seen before in the satellite record. It clearly indicates a downward trend, not just a short-term anomaly

—Walt Meier, NSIDC

The winter recovery of sea ice extent in the 2004-2005 season was the smallest in the satellite record. Cooler winter temperatures allow the sea ice to rebound after summer melting. But with the exception of May 2005, every month since December 2004 has set a new record low ice extent for that month.

In addition, arctic temperatures have increased in recent decades. Compared to the past 50 years, average surface air temperatures from January through August, 2005, were 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than average across most of the Arctic Ocean.

The trend in sea ice decline, lack of winter recovery, early onset of spring melting, and warmer-than-average temperatures suggest a system that is trapped in a loop of positive feedbacks, in which responses to inputs into the system cause it to shift even further away from normal.

Feedbacks in the system are starting to take hold. Right now, our projections for the future use a steady linear decline, but when feedbacks are involved the decline is not necessarily steady—it could pick up speed.

—NSIDC Lead Scientist Ted Scambos

September 29, 2005 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

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