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October 2005

October 31, 2005

Fuji Heavy and Partners Working on Hybrid Storage with 100x Current Discharge/Recharge Speeds

Nikkei. A research group including Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Hitachi Maxell Ltd. is developing a storage cell for hybrid automobiles capable of recharging and discharging electricity at 100 times the current speeds.

The partners, which include Nagasaki University and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, aim to commercialize the cell in three years.

The partners reportedly are working on nanomaterials for the electrodes that will have enhanced electrical conductivity, sources close to the matter said.

GM recently sold its stake in Fuji Heavy partly to Toyota, which now owns some 8.7% of the company.

October 31, 2005 in Batteries | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

New Mexico Utility Switches Diesel Fleet to B20 Biodiesel

PNM, a New Mexico utility, has begun using B20 biodiesel in its diesel fleets in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The utility began phasing in the B20 for 240 diesel-powered vehicles—including medium-duty trucks, large trucks, backhoes, compressors and welding units—in July.

Those 240 vehicles represent about 57% of the PNM diesel fleet. Other diesel equipment is located in more remote areas of the state that do not yet have access to the biodiesel fuel.

PNM is committed to promoting renewable energy, and our hope is that other large diesel fleets will consider using this fuel as well. In addition to the environmental benefits, biodiesel may offer a way for our nation to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, and we want to do our part to help increase the market for this fuel.

—Eddie Padilla, PNM vice president of operations

The biodiesel is supplied by Blue Sun, a Colorado-based company that markets various biodiesel fuels through distribution network that includes Amigo Petroleum in New Mexico. The fuel is produced from rapeseed and canola grown in several western states and could potentially be grown in New Mexico.

So far this year, PNM has purchased 53,000 gallons of B20 and expects to purchase as much as 100,000 gallons by the end of the year. The company projects using about 240,000 gallons annually beginning in 2006.

PNM provides electric utility service to 413,000 customers and natural gas service to 471,000 customers in New Mexico.

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

ZAP’s New Flex-Fuel Minicars

The Obvio! 828

ZAP has broadened its future minicar offerings by becoming the exclusive North American distribution for a pair of new flex-fuel minicars to be produced by Obvio! in Brazil. The two companies expect to unveil prototypes of the two in the US by the end of 2005. Initial plans are to roll out the vehicles in 2007.

Unlike its approach with the Americanized Smart Car, where ZAP takes the responsibility for converting imported smarts to meet US requirements, ZAP, which has taken a 20% stake in the company, will work closely with Obvio to ensure the vehicles are fully compliant when they leave the plant.

The Obvio! 012

Under the terms of the agreement, ZAP is ordering 50,000 vehicles from the Brazilian company during the three year period following initial delivery.

Both models, the 828 and the 012, may be small, but they feature an engine more than twice as large as that in the smart car: a 1.6-liter Tritec engine mated with a ZF Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).

Tritec started out in 1997 as a joint venture, based in Brazil, between Chrysler and the Rover Group (then a subsidiary of BMW) to design a new small straight-4 engine for small cars. When BMW sold Rover Group, BMW retained the stake in Tritec.

Chrysler designed the Tritec engine, which is related to the 2.0-liter Chrysler Neon engine. The Tritec comes in three versions: 1.4-liter, 1.6-liter and supercharged 1.6-liter, and has been used in models of the Mini, the Neon and the PT Cruiser. (BMW will replace the Tritec in the Mini with an engine it is developing with PSA Peugeot Citroën.)

Both Obvio! models offer a “low consumption” model with an 85 kW (114 hp) entry-level version of the Tritec with combined estimated fuel consumption (using gasoline) of 33 mpg US (29.4 mpg city; 40.69 mpg highway). Obvio says it will also offer 170- and 250-hp versions.

ZAP’s Minicars
ObvioAmericanized smart
1The EPA disagrees with ZAP’s 60 mpg figure. (Earlier post.)
Engine displacement (cc) 1,598 698
Power kW (hp) 85 (114) 45 (60)
Combined fuel economy (mpg US) 33 601

The result is a car more along the lines of a zippy Mini, rather than a fuel-sipping smart. (The 2006 Mini Cooper for the US delivers 31 mpg combined.)

The major difference, though, is the flex-fuel (gasoline or ethanol blend) capability of the Brazilian cars.

October 31, 2005 in Brazil, City car, Ethanol, Fuel Efficiency | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Port of Los Angeles Shares Air Quality Technology with China, Taiwan

An executive delegation from the Port of Los Angeles is visiting China and Taiwan this week as part of a mutual pact between the United States and China to manage air pollution derived from marine vessels and ports. China is the Port’s number one trading partner, with more than $64 million worth of cargo coming through the Port of Los Angeles last year alone.

Discussions at the ports of Shanghai and Taipei will focus on reducing diesel emissions and managing urban air pollution resulting from port-related operations.

The Port of Los Angeles is planning a major shift to natural gas, electric vehicles and alternative fuels to reduce diesel emissions from the port. (Earlier post.)

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners authorized the acceptance of a grant on behalf of the Port of Los Angeles from the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) that provides $185,000 for a program facilitating the exchange of ideas on air quality technology between the ports of Los Angeles and Shanghai. Part of the funding will be used for the Far East trip.

The Port of Los Angeles will assist the Port of Shanghai in establishing an advisory group, which will be modeled after the California Air Resources Board’s Maritime Working Group. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency holds a cooperative agreement in environmental protection with China’s State Environmental Protection Administration.

On September 2, 2005, the ports of Los Angeles and Shanghai entered into a draft friendship port agreement and signed a letter of intent to collaborate on air quality issues. The Port of Los Angeles also has an established sister port agreement with the Port of Keelung, Taiwan and international offices in both China and Taiwan.

According to Container Management’s World Port Rankings for 2004, the Port of Shanghai ranked as the third busiest port in the world, with an annual container throughput of 14.6 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units)—a standardized maritime industry measurement used when counting cargo containers of varying lengths. The Port of Los Angeles ranked number one in the U.S. and eighth in the world, with 7.4 million TEUs.

October 31, 2005 in China, Diesel, Emissions, Ports and Marine | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Caterpillar Retrofits Diesel Equipment at Port of Cleveland

In a demonstration of the effectiveness of its retrofit technology, Caterpillar is equipping all land-based equipment at the Port of Cleveland with emission-reducing catalyzed converter/mufflers (CCM). Port operator Federal Marine Terminals owns the 26 lift trucks and other machines being retrofitted under this effort.

The project represents the type of retrofit solutions that can be supported nationwide under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Program (earlier post), which was introduced by Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and passed into law as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Retrofitting older diesel engines is the right thing to do for the environment and for our economy. That is why this bipartisan program has broad support from industry, public and environmental officials. On-road and non-road diesel vehicles and engines account for roughly half of the nitrogen oxide and particulate matter mobile source emissions nationwide. By retrofitting 26 diesel engines at this port, 25.9 tons of emissions will be reduced.

—Sen. Voinovich

Caterpillar’s CCM is a diesel oxidation catalyst within a muffler assembly, and is certified by the EPA to reduce particulate matter emissions by 20%, hydrocarbons by 40% and carbon monoxide emissions by 20%. To achieve these reductions, the engine must be burning a fuel with a maximum of 500 ppm sulfur.

October 31, 2005 in Diesel, Emissions, Ports and Marine | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mitsubishi Racks Up 2,500 Orders in Two Weeks in Japan for New SUV

The hot Outlander

In an indication that SUVs are still popular around the world, Mitsubishi Motors has already taken 5,000 orders in Japan for its new Outlander mid-size SUV, which launched two weeks ago on October 17. This greatly exceeds the monthly sales target of 2,000 vehicles.

The company began accepting pre-launch orders for Outlander in the middle of September and these had reached some 2,500 by the October 17 launch date.

The Outlander features Mitsubishi’s new four-cylinder, 16-valve 2.4-liter MIVEC engine (earlier post) and a continuously variable transmission to deliver 125 kW (168 hp) of power and 226 Nm of torque with combined fuel consumption of 8.62 liters/100km (27.3 mpg) in the Japanese 10-15 drive cycle.

By comparison, Ford’s Escape (non-hybrid) in Japan delivers 9.09 l/100km (25.9 mpg US) for the XLT model with a 115-kW, 2.3-liter engine, or 12.5 l/100km (18.8 mpg US) for the Limited model with a 149-kW, 3.0-liter engine, all in the Japanese 10-15 cycle.

The Outlander’s fuel consumption exceeds Japan’s 2010 specification for this weight class of vehicle, and on the emissions side, it beats the Japanese 2005 Emissions Regulations by more than 70%. CO2 emissions are 200 g/kilometer.

Outlander Emissions (g/km)
PollutantOutlanderJapanese 2005
Tier II Bin 2
NOx 0.013 0.05 0.012
NMHC 0.013 0.05
CO 1.15 4.02 1.30
CO2 200

The new engine—which will become Mitsubishi’s primary powerplant—uses Mitsubishi’s intake and exhaust cylinder head port design and intake/exhaust systems along with a double-wall stainless exhaust manifold and a high-performance catalytic converter. The new 2.4-liter engine delivers a 5% increase in power over the current 2.4-liter MIVEC engine.

The basic design of the new 2.4-liter MIVEC engine was developed through the World Engine project—the alliance among Mitsubishi, the Chrysler Group and Hyundai Motors.

October 31, 2005 in Fuel Efficiency, Japan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Toyota Temporarily Trims Fleet Sales of Prius Due to Consumer Demand

Toyota Motor Sales is temporarily suspending model year 2006 Prius sales to government and rental fleets and cancelling existing order agreements due low inventories and an anticipated surge in retail demand.

The company is advising commercial fleet buyers that availability will remain limited with longer than normal order-to-delivery timing (“possibly in excess of six months”).

Due to Toyota’s exceptionally low retail dealer days supply position and an anticipated increase in future retail Prius demand stimulated by the recent passage of the Federal Highway Bill (retail tax credits & HOV lane eligibility), Toyota Motor Sales, USA Inc. is not in a position to accept MY06 Prius fleet production orders specific to government & rental fleets.

This regrettable but necessary action is being taken as a result of the company’s need to address the extreme shortage of Prius availability at the dealer retail level.

Commercial fleet orders will most likely need to be spread out over several order/delivery months as we manage customer demand against our established monthly production guides.

Toyota will restore fleet availability to government and rental buyers once production volumes are sufficient to meet both retail and fleet order demand.

(A hat-tip to Jack Rosebro!)

October 31, 2005 in Fleets, Hybrids, Sales | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 30, 2005

Hong Kong Environment Chief Looks to Hydrogen to Counter Air Pollution

The Standard. Hong Kong’s Secretary for Environment Works and Transport, Dr. Sarah Liao, countered criticism that not enough is being done to battle rising air pollution by pointing to the long-term promise of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The Secretary has been vocal in her support for a hydrogen solution for a number of years (earlier speech).

Answering charges that not enough is being done to battle rising air pollution, Sarah Liao said Friday natural gas as a fuel source is impractical and foreign countries are gradually overcoming many technological issues for hydrogen use, such as developing tanks that can safely store hydrogen.

The big question now, she said, is infrastructure. “We need to better prepare ourselves by developing suitable infrastructure, including finding the right places to store hydrogen tanks and gas filling stations,” she said.

[...] Liao dismissed calls for introducing natural gas as a vehicle fuel, saying the government will have problems in finding locations for filling stations.

The government has spent HK$1.2 billion (US$155 million) on LPG retrofits for taxis and other vehicles while introducing ultra low-sulfur diesel to reduce emissions from diesel vehicles.

According to an Audit Commission report in April, Hong Kong’s air is among the worst in the developed world. The delta’s rapid industrial development has been the leading cause of pollution, with about 80% of air pollutants in Hong Kong coming from the mainland.

Democrat Martin Lee said pollution has reached an intolerable level.

“Earlier I went to The Peak and I still saw thick smog clouding Hong Kong. Secretary Liao has explained that it was due to an increase of diesel vehicles in Guangdong. This is an unacceptable excuse,” Lee said. ”I think what Hong Kong people want are concrete results, not excuses.”

Dr. Liao’s stance against natural gas seems to run counter to China’s growing development of natural gas as a fuel, both for vehicles and industrial and heating purposes. The DOE’s EIA projects that China’s current use of natural gas (approximately 3% of total energy consumption, will double by 2010.

In May 2004, some 50 scientists from the US DOE and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology along with government officials and business people met at a workshop to envision the potential role of hydrogen in China’s energy future. In addition to noting the opportunity for rapid hydrogen uptake in China, the workshop also concluded:

However, significant investment in hydrogen energy development is needed, because the technologies of today are not competitive from cost and performance standpoints. The public, and decision makers in government and industry, are not generally aware of hydrogen as a potential energy carrier in China, and for progress to be made, they will need more information and education about the relative merits of the hydrogen economy. Nevertheless, with impressive technical and business capabilities in hydrogen technologies and markets, China is well-positioned to play a lead role in hydrogen energy development internationally.

[...] China will rely on conventional fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy resources to play important roles in China’s economy, until the point where hydrogen is the most competitive form of energy available. This point will not be reached until at least 2050, and maybe well beyond that, unless significant technical and economic breakthroughs are achieved.

[...] China’s transition to the hydrogen economy will be accomplished in stages. During the initial research, development, and demonstration stage substantial government support and international collaboration will be needed. Public transportation is the most promising initial market for hydrogen technologies and will be the focus of initial demonstrations and studies. The second stage, market entry, will involve use of hydrogen technologies in more markets, including stationary systems in rural areas, leading to the point where hydrogen makes up about 1% of the overall energy market. The final stage, where the hydrogen economy emerges, will be driven by market forces and will occur when hydrogen energy is the most competitive form of energy available.

That seems unlikely to address the needs of Hong Kong in the short-, or even medium-, term.


October 30, 2005 in China, Hydrogen, Natural Gas, Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kansas Ethanol Consumption Rises Seven-Fold to 2% of non-Diesel Fuel Use

Kansans are using more ethanol in their vehicles, and more stations are set to start offering ethanol-blended fuels in the next year.

According to fuel reports from the Kansas Department of Revenue, Kansans consumed more than 4.3 million gallons of ethanol (in E10 and E85 blends) in July and August compared to the same two-month period in 2004—more than seven times the 2004 number.

Those 4.3 million gallons represent some 2% of the combined total of 230 million gallons of gasoline and ethanol consumed by Kansan drivers in July and August 2005. (Drivers consumed 230 million gallons of both in July and August; an increase of 1% from the same period in 2004.)

This is welcome news. Ethanol burns cleaner and it is made right here in Kansas, which helps both our environment and our economy. Plus it cuts down on the need to import foreign oil, which is good for national security

—Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius

Kansas is currently home to seven ethanol plants that use 65 million bushels of corn and grain sorghum to produce 170 million gallons of ethanol per year. A plant in Phillipsburg is under construction.

The state now has seven E85 stations: in Coffeyville, Garnett, two in Great Bend, Hays, Maize, and Topeka. To meet growing demand, 20 more E85 stations are slated to open across Kansas in 2006.


October 30, 2005 in Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

First Biodiesel Plant in Arkansas Opens

NWAnews. The Eastman Chemical Co. plant near Batesville, Arkansas has begun producing biodiesel from soybean oil, the first facility in Arkansas to do so. By the end of this year, the company plans to also use recycled vegetable-based cooking oil as a feedstock.

The Eastman Chemical plant has a current capacity of 3 million gallons annually. Eastman plans to double that by the end of the year.

Biodiesel fuel is currently available in 15 Arkansas counties, most in the eastern part of the state, according to the Arkansas Farm Bureau. The plant should improve local availability.

Soybeans are Arkansas’ No. 1 row crop in terms of acreage. The state’s farmers harvested 3 million acres of soybeans this year, which are expected to yield 102 million bushels. Arkansas has two soybean crushing facilities.

Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Richard Bell said Arkansas has been late in coming to biofuels, in part because soybean export markets have been so readily accessible through the Mississippi River system. But with $60 per barrel petroleum a reality, the biodiesel equation has changed dramatically, Bell said.

“The whole process has captured the imagination of the growers,” he said.

Several other Arkansas biodiesel production facilities are under consideration.

The Arkansas unit of Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman Chemical produces specialty chemicals and chemical intermediates used in detergents, pharmaceuticals, food additives, paints and coatings, fibers and herbicides.

October 30, 2005 in Biodiesel | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

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