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October 2006

October 31, 2006

Volkswagen Research Introduces High-Temperature PEM Fuel Cell

Volkswagen Research has developed a PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cell that operates at temperatures about 50% higher than the conventional low-temperature fuel cells prevalent in current hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle prototypes.

Low-temperature PEM fuel cells (LTFC) operate at a membrane temperature of approximately 80° C. If the temperature greatly exceeds this value, fuel-cell performance breaks down and the fuel cell can be irreparably damaged. Accordingly, vehicle prototypes with low temperature fuel cells have sophisticated and expensive cooling systems.

Furthermore, in LT systems the supply of hydrogen gas and air must be continuously humidified; humidification systems also add additional weight and cost.

In contrast, the high temperature fuel cell (HTFC) membrane developed by Volkswagen can, in combination with newly designed electrodes, operate at temperatures of up to 120° Celsius with no loss in performance and without humidification.

The HTFC uses phosphoric acid as the medium for the exchange of protons. The acid has good electrolytic properties similar to water, yet demonstrates a higher boiling point—the reason that a significantly simpler cooling system and water management is sufficient for the HTFC. The space required for the fuel cell system is also reduced by more than 30%.

The high temperature fuel cell independently developed by Volkswagen in seven years of research work will make the overall system in the car lighter, more compact, stable and cheaper. And those are the decisive criteria for putting fuel cells on the path towards mass series production.

We believe that the high temperature fuel cell is part of the future. In contrast, we no longer give much chance to low temperature fuel cells going into series production.

—Prof. Jürgen Leohold, head of Volkswagen corporate research

A persistent obstacle in the development of the HTFC was the formation of product water via the reaction, which permeated the membrane and washed out the phosphoric acid. This, in turn, interrupted the flow of current.

Volkswagen’s breakthrough was to modify the electrodes to prevent the penetration of the product water. Volkswagen researchers used a special screen printing machine like the ones used in semiconductor production to coat several cloth elements made of carbon fiber with a new type of paste. The Volkswagen team found that the modified electrodes prevented the product water from penetrating the membrane.

Volkswagen Research expects to have its HTFC systems in research vehicles by 2010, and production versions ready for the public by about 2020.

Volkswagen has been involved in fuel-cell research for more than a decade. Milestones include the Capri Project (1996-2000, hybrid drive in the Golf Variant with 20 kW fuel cell), the Bora HyMotion (2000, fuel cell hybrid car with 30 kW fuel cell continuous power rating), the PSI Bora in cooperation with the Paul Scherer Institute (2001, driving tests over the 2,005 meter high Simplon Pass with 40 kW fuel cell) and the Touran HyMotion (since 2004, integration of a fuel cell with 65 kW continuous power rating with no restrictions on available space, including field tests in California and China).

The company’s resulting experience with low temperature fuel cells was instrumental in focusing its energy toward the development of high temperature fuel cell systems.

October 31, 2006 in Fuel Cells, Hydrogen | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Energy Conversion Devices Awarded D&D Contract for Hydrogen Hybrid Tow Tractor and Metal Hydride Fuel Cell

Ovonic metal hydride fuel cell. Click to enlarge.

Energy Conversion Devices (ECD Ovonics) has received a contract to develop and to demonstrate a hydrogen engine electric hybrid airport tow tractor and to further develop its advanced Ovonic metal hydride fuel-cell technology for the US Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) via its National Automotive Center (NAC).

The contract has a total value of approximately $1.8 million.

ECD Ovonics successfully developed and demonstrated a portable hydrogen refueling system for NAC in 2004. Now, under the new contract, ECD Ovonics will develop and demonstrate a high-efficiency, ultra-low emissions, hydrogen hybrid-electric internal combustion engine-powered aircraft tow tractor that uses on-board Ovonic solid hydrogen storage systems.

ECD Ovonics will also further develop its non-noble-metal hydride fuel cell stack technology, which provides performance advantages including instant start, good low-temperature performance, and intrinsic energy storage.

The contract will be administered by Aerospace Engineering Spectrum (AES), based in Ogden, Utah, via a subcontract to ECD Ovonics on behalf of Ovonic Hydrogen Systems and Ovonic Fuel Cell Company. AES will provide project management services through its prime contract with the Department of Defense under the Design Engineering Support Program.

Ovonic metal hydride storage system. Click to enlarge.

The Ovonic onboard storage system for vehicles is constructed in a lightweight carbon fiber-wrapped tank integrated with an internal heat exchanger. The system provides nearly four times the hydrogen storage capacity of a similarly sized 5,000 psig compressed hydrogen tank. The charging pressure of the system is no more than 1,500 psig (normally between 300 and 1500 psig, depending on the application), with a charging time of less than 10 minutes to 90% of capacity.

The Ovonic metal hydride fuel cell uses Ovonic metal hydride materials in the anode, an alkaline electrolyte and metal oxide materials in the cathode.

The metal hydride fuel cell has an intrinsic energy storage capability, and as a result can store and use regenerative braking energy. It also can provide instant cold start. The onboard energy storage also allows the Ovonic Metal Hydride Fuel Cell to operate for several minutes without hydrogen.


October 31, 2006 in Fuel Cells, Hybrids, Hydrogen, Hydrogen Storage | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mayor of London Introduces Hybrid Double-Deck Bus

Mayor Livingstone looks out the rear window of the new series hybrid double-decker. Click to enlarge.

The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, today unveiled the first hybrid double-deck bus in the world and announced plans for a hybrid bus fleet for London. (Earlier post.)

Built by Wrightbus, the double-decker is a series hybrid with a 660-volt lithium-ion battery pack powering two 85kW electric motors. A 1.9-liter Euro-4 diesel engine is the genset. By contrast, a conventional double-deck bus uses a 7-liter engine. The hybrid bus is expected to cut emissions by up to 40%.

Hybrid vehicles can make a real contribution to a cleaner, greener public transport network for the capital. Bus manufacturers and operators now need to rise to this challenge to make this economically and financially feasible.

Creating a low-carbon bus fleet is an important part of our work to cut the emissions which are causing climate change. It is an important step towards my vision that London becomes one of the world's most sustainable cities.

—Mayor of London Ken Livingstone

The adoption of hybrid buses is a key part of a range of measures being developed by the Mayor and Transport for London to meet London’s contribution to tackling climate change. The measures include:

  • Continuing modal shift from private car usage to public transport, cycling and walking;

  • Greater energy efficiency across all Transport for London businesses and modes of transport;

  • The adoption of more energy from renewable sources and innovative technology to recycle energy;

  • Support for the continued research and development of low carbon fuels;

  • Strategies and support for organisations and individuals to travel in more environmentally friendly ways through Travel Demand Management schemes, including in the London Borough of Sutton the largest of its kind in the UK; and

  • A new £25m climate change fund, to mitigate transport related emissions.

Transport for London currently has six single-deck hybrid buses operating on route 360 in London, from Elephant & Castle to Kensington and is actively pursuing the development and increased deployment of hybrid buses on London’s bus network. The single-deck Wrightbus Electrocity hybrids use an Enova 120kW series-hybrid drive coupled to Enova’s 60kW genset driven by a 1.9-liter Euro-4 common-rail diesel engine (Earlier post.)

The London Bus fleet includes 8,000 buses on 700 routes, carrying more than 6 million passengers per day. All buses in the London fleet meet at least Euro II emissions standards and have particulate traps, 60% meet Euro III standards and are also fitted with particulate traps, and buses meeting Euro IV standards are now being introduced.

October 31, 2006 in Diesel, Europe, Fleets, Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

China’s Chery to Supply Engines to Fiat

One of Chery’s new 1.8-liter, Euro-4 engines.

Chery Automobiles and Fiat Auto have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) according to which Chery Automobile will supply 1.6- and 1.8-liter gasoline engines for application in Fiat cars to be produced in China and outside China.

The two companies expect an annual supply exceeding 100,000 engines and anticipate signing the definitive supply agreement before year end.

Chery is a young and modern company with a solid technical background and I am glad to welcome this further step in our strategy of targeted alliances. In the relation with Chery we see the potential for a wider cooperation both in powertrains and, eventually, in other automotive sectors.

—Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat and Fiat Auto

Chery Automobile Co., Ltd. was founded in 1997 in the city of Wuhu, in China’s Anhui Province. Chery has developed complete product lines, and the company’s own R&D projects have enabled the development and production of vehicles, engines, gearboxes and other core components.

Production capacity is currently 400,000 cars and 300,000 transmissions per year. In 2005, Chery achieved a sales volume of 189,100 cars with a total increase rate of 118%, and exported 18,000 cars overseas, ranking number 1 in the export of domestically made cars.

Chery launched its engine series—the ACTECO series, developed with AVL and meeting Euro 4 emissions requirements—on 31 October 2005. Chery produces many engines with displacement ranges from 0.8- to 4.0-liters, including in-line and V-type engines, and gasoline engines and diesel engines.

The company is targeting engine production capacity of up to 1 million units annually in 2007.

October 31, 2006 in China, Engines | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sharp Expands Solar Cell Production Capacity to 600 MW Per Year, World’s Largest

Sharp Corporation has invested ¥3.5 billion (US$30 million) to increase annual production capacity for solar cells at its Katsuragi Plant by 100 MW to meet burgeoning demand in Japan and abroad. The new line will be in full production in November 2006.

Solar cell production capacity at the Katsuragi Plant will now reach 600 MW per year, the world’s largest.

Despite concerns in the photovoltaic (PV) power generating market about a shortage of processed silicon, PV systems are increasingly being used in Japan for industrial applications and are being installed on new residential construction in collaboration with home builders.

Sharp expects future demand to expand even further in Europe and the US, with a focus on industrial and commercial uses due to the introduction of subsidies and implementation of policies mandating power buy-back programs by utilities.

To more effectively utilize raw materials, Sharp is working to make solar cells even thinner and improve thin-film solar cells which use minimal amounts of silicon, as well as establish highly efficient production systems and expand and upgrade its production lines.

Sharp currently offers a range of solar modules ranging from 62–208 Watts.

October 31, 2006 in Solar | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Eaton Introduces Next-Generation Supercharger

Eaton Corporation has unveiled its newest generation of Roots-type supercharger design that will enable automakers to use smaller, more efficient compressors to create more engine boost.

The new design, called Twin Vortices Series (TVS), features four-lobe rotors and high-flow inlet and outlet ports that greatly enhance thermal efficiency, enabling greater volumetric capacity at higher revolutions per minute (RPM). Previous Eaton Roots-type designs featured only three-lobe rotor assemblies. The new TVS supercharger design is scalable and adaptable to virtually all engine designs, according to Eaton.

We think the TVS is a game-changer that will allow our customers to make more horsepower without the traditional engineering tradeoffs. The TVS design has remarkably improved efficiencies and broadens the performance range of the supercharger across an engine’s entire performance range.

—Jeff Romig, vice president and general manager of Eaton’s supercharger business

Eaton has development programs underway with several automakers to incorporate the TVS into future vehicle programs and it is working with its aftermarket partners to make the TVS technology available to performance enthusiast in 2007.

October 31, 2006 in Engines | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

GM and Jay Leno Show Biodiesel-Fueled, Turbine-Powered Concept Car

The Eco-Jet biodiesel turbine car.

General Motors Advanced Design Studio and Jay Leno and his garage’s team have designed a biodiesel-fueled, turbine-powered concept car they call the “Eco-Jet.” Leno and Ed Welburn, GM Vice President of Global Design, introduced the car at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show.

The 650 hp (485 kW) supercar is powered by a Honeywell LT-101 turbine engine (a well-established engine often applied in helicopters) that develops 400 lb-ft (542 Nm) of torque. The engine sits in a modified Corvette Z06 hydroformed aluminum frame with aluminum and magnesium structural and chassis components. The vehicle’s shell is an advanced construction of carbon fiber over Kevlar.

We thought we pushed the creative envelope with the '66 twin turbo Toronado project with GM, but this turbine-powered monster is a whole new level of complexity.

—Bernard Juchli, the chief mechanic and caretaker of Leno’s collection

Leno, an avid car enthusiast and collector, turned to Wellburn and GM for design direction following discussions on the idea with Juchli.

Project partners for the Eco-Jet include:

  • GM Advanced Design Studio: conceptual and build design, engineering, digital design and fabrication support;
  • Alcoa: chassis and wheel engineering;
  • Metalcrafters: body engineering and construction;
  • Honeywell: engine supplier;
  • Intermountain Turbine: engine builders;
  • Dana: chassis supplier;
  • BASF: paint and finishing supplies;
  • GE Plastics: Lexan windows; and
  • Viper Technologies: wheel construction.

October 31, 2006 in Biodiesel, Engines | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack

October 30, 2006

NextEnergy to Provide Additional Michigan Gas Retailers with Incentives to Sell Biofuels

NextEnergy, Michigan’s alternative energy accelerator, will offer cash incentives to Michigan gas station retailers to install or convert fueling equipment to ethanol (E85) and/or biodiesel (B20).

The incentives are funded by a $150,000 grant awarded by the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth (DLEG). This is the second round of grant funding awarded to NextEnergy, the first being a $50,000 incentive grant, which NextEnergy is in the process of distributing to six stations.

The cash incentives range up to $3,000 per station for converting equipment to E85 or B20; up to $4,000 for installing new equipment to dispense B20; and up to $12,000 for E85. Projects must be completed and providing biofuel to the public by August 31, 2007 and station owners must agree to provide the E85 or B20 for at least 3 years after receiving the incentive.

Funding for the Biofuels Infrastructure Incentive Grant was made available through a grant from the State Energy Office, a division of the State of Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth.

NextEnergy is managing the implementation of the program in coordination with the Clean Energy Coalition, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit which was also awarded funding through the state program. Other program partners include the Michigan Corn Marketing Program, Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee, National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, and National Biodiesel Board. Applications for grant funding must be received by December 15.

October 30, 2006 in Biodiesel, Ethanol, Infrastructure | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

EPA Approves Diversa’s Purifine Enzyme for Biodiesel Production

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved Diversa Corporation’s Purifine enzyme for non-food applications, including its use in increasing the efficiency of oilseed processing for the production of biodiesel.

Traditionally, enzymes have not been used extensively in the vegetable oil refining process. Diversa’s approach reduces the need for harsh chemicals and provides a novel method for removing oil phospholipids (degumming the oil) while improving the quality and yield without requiring major changes to conventional processing conditions.

The pending FDA approval for edible oil applications of the Purifine lipase enzyme is required for a full commercial launch, as most vegetable oil processing plants producing biodiesel also produce edible oil. The Purifine enzyme is used shortly after crushing the oil seeds, before the oil is split into the two different streams. Diversa will manufacture the Purifine enzyme under its agreement with Fermic S.A. de C.V.

With this regulatory approval, we now look forward to dedicated biodiesel mills performing commercial scale trials to determine the extent to which Purifine enzyme can improve overall yield and reduce low-value byproducts. Our next step is to obtain US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for edible oil applications, which we hope to receive by the second quarter of 2007.

—Edward Shonsey, Diversa CEO

San Diego-based Diversa Corporation has been developing high-performance specialty enzymes since 1994. Among its biofuel activities, Diversa has partnered with a consortium including DuPont, Deere & Co., the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Michigan State University to develop a biorefinery that can produce ethanol and other products from the entire corn plant, integrating traditional grain-based ethanol production with cellulosic ethanol production from stalks and husks. (Earlier post.) Diversa has already introduced a new alpha-amylase enzyme designed to improve the efficiency and economics of corn ethanol production. (Earlier post.)


October 30, 2006 in Biodiesel, Biotech | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Enova Hybrid Drive Systems for New Line of Commercial Buses Include Plug-In Option

The Enova hybrid drive systems provided for IC Corporation’s new line of hybrid commercial buses (earlier post) will be available with either a charge-depleting (i.e., plug-in hybrid) or charge-sustaining battery technology. The technologies are expected to improve fuel economy up to 100%.

Enova is offering the same range of battery technology for the new line of hybrid school buses from IC Corporation as well. (Earlier post.)

The Enova 80 kW Post-Transmission System to be used is one in which the electric drive system is integrated behind the transmission and is designed to be installed either as a fully integrated drop-in to an OEM production line or retrofitted in post-vehicle production in a modular, as-needed basis.

The bus market in which IC Corporation plans to compete is approximately 18,000 units annually. The market can be broken into 2 primary segments: public and private. There is an estimated 60/40 split in favor of the public buyers. It is now estimated that 30% of the buses purchased for public transit are some form of hybrid/alternate fuel vehicles and analysts project this number to grow significantly over the next 5 years.

October 30, 2006 in Fleets, Hybrids, Plug-ins | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

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