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New York Times Company Adds Sprinter Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle to Delivery Fleet

11 April 2007

Sprinterphev2
Positioning of the hybrid components in the Sprinter PHEV. All components are underneath the floor or in the engine bay. Click to enlarge.

The New York Times Company will receive a Dodge Sprinter plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV)—the first medium-duty plug-in hybrid vehicle on the US East Coast and the first of its kind in New York State—as part of a commercial fleet performance demonstration and technology evaluation process. (Earlier post)

The Sprinter PHEV has an all-electric range of up to 20 miles. The Times’ model uses a 14 kWh, 350V Saft lithium-ion battery pack to power a 70 kW (90 kW peak) electric motor.  DaimlerChrysler and its development partners are also evaluating a NiMH pack from Varta as part of the testing process.

The Sprinter PHEV uses a parallel hybrid configuration and operates in two modes: all-electric and blended hybrid in conjunction with the 5-cylinder diesel engine. Estimated fuel and CO2 reductions range from 10% to 50%, based on operation.

On short urban routes with a lot of stop-and-go driving the vehicle can operate for most of the day in zero-emission, all-electric mode. In hybrid mode the vehicle performs like a traditional hybrid, with improved fuel economy and lower emissions compared to a conventional diesel or gasoline vehicle. The plug-in technology lends itself to commercial applications where the vehicle returns to base after each shift to be plugged into the power grid. The New York Times PHEV will be recharged overnight, using off-peak, low-cost electricity.

The Times PHEV will be housed at The New York Times printing plant in College Point, Queens and will transport newspapers to The Times’ headquarters in midtown Manhattan, as well as to different locations in the New York City area. It will also travel to The Times’ plant in Edison, NJ.

The Dodge Sprinter plug-in hybrid was made available to The Times by a partnership between DaimlerChrysler, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Con Edison. The partnership was created to test and evaluate plug-in hybrid technology in real world driving environments.

Alliances such as this are necessary for new technologies to move forward. The daily operation of The New York Times Dodge Sprinter plug-in hybrid will give DaimlerChrysler the valuable real world experience needed for hybrid powertrain and lithium-ion battery development.

—Mark Chernoby, vice president – advance vehicle engineering, Chrysler Group

In January, DaimlerChrysler announced that it will put more than 20 Dodge Sprinter Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) in service in the US between then and the first quarter of 2008 as part of a test fleet program. (Earlier post.)

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Nice to see diesel hybrids making an appearance.

Is there a standard for how one would rate 'fuel' economy on a PHEV? If so, how does the Sprinter stand up.

The diesel plug-in hybrid with 20mi. all electric range is a
perfect application for the Sprinter Van. It would be nice
if they could roll this vehicle out with eigther a 20mi. or
a 40mi. all electric range. There are a lot of service oriented
businesses that are chomping at the bit for this technology to
make it through its preliminary testing and into the market
place.

@John McConnell -

good point, because how do you compare electricity from coal-fired or nuclear power plants with diesel distilled from crude?

In terms of well-to-wheels energy efficiency, the comparison is of course possible. It is also possible - and sensible - to compare that efficiency with the theoretical optimum, represented in many cases by the Carnot cycle. Typically, the capacity mix of electricity producers is used to estimate the primary energy footprint of electricity generation.

Since the sources of the various primary fuels can be traced, it should also be possible to draw up something like a "national energy security index" (NESI) for individual vehicle fleets, indicating their dependence on primary energy from domestic/friendly vs. unfriendly sources.

On these quantifiable indices, PHEVs should be an improvement on conventional ICEs. However, the verdict will depend critically on the duty cycle. Whether PHEVs are worth the initial cost premium will depend largely on the premium the energy markets place on future supply risks.

A much harder question is the issue of the total environmental footprint of the energy used to power a vehicle. How do you weigh toxic emissions, CO2 emissions, nuclear waste, competition with food production and landscape degradation by renewables against one another? Not to mention the damage due to military action aimed at safeguarding continued access to fossil fuels in e.g. the Middle East - does environmental damage really matter less if it happens "over there"? These issues introduce political and moral issues, on which there will never be complete agreement.

It may prove hard to make these trade-offs, but at least ramping up PHEV/EV market share should produce additional options. As long as virtually all vehicles are based solely on conventional ICEs running on hydrocarbon fuels, we have very few. The question is how great an increase in vehicle TCO we are prepared to accept for greener mobility.

I note that the plan is to recharge the batteries at night using off peak electricity. Some percentage of this will come from renewables, probably wind, however this may produce a lot of energy one night and very little another so the mix would change on a day to day basis. Some days it may be more cost effective overall to reduce demand for applications like charging batteries on hybrid vehicals, however this would require not only time of day charging but individual half hour charging. Does anyone know if this is available or around the corner?

I'd be interested to know what lithium battery chemistry they're using. Perhaps a varient of these http://www.saftbatteries.com/120-Techno/20-10_produit.asp?paramtechnolien=20-10_lithium_system.asp&paramtechno=Lithium+systems&Intitule_Produit=VLPcells

lithium skeptics please note the 10-15 year projected calender life ; )

Anybody notice how much filtering goes on the teslamotors blog? I can't post anything!
I would like to know the reliability and integrity of in-wheel electric motors. Although they are suppose to be more efficient are they reliable? Putting into consideration you have potholes, hard turns and hitting sidewalk etc..will one engine degrade faster than the other leading to pulling of the car or driving in circles?

Any plug in hybrid on the road reduces oil imports, operating cost, energy use and local and global pollution even if the electricity comes from Coal fired power plants. I doubt if the overall energy efficiency of fuel production by the oil companies is as efficient as some might think. Government statistics show that it takes 23 units of oil energy, in addition to the fuel delivered, to produce and process 100 units of oil fuels for delivery. If the fuel used to transport the crude oil and the refined product were also added, this would decrease the efficiency as well.

These additional uses of oil resources could make power generation from coal actually the less polluting producer of power in terms of how much carbon dioxide is released per kilo-watt-hour from the most efficent diesel engine or turbine compared to the most efficient coal burning plant. Several people have already shown that burning gasoline or diesel in a car releases much more carbon dioxide per mile travelled than does a coal power plant combined with an electric car. This is true of large or small vehicles.

There is much natural gas associated with crude oil, and in many cases this is just burnt at the well when the cost of transporting it to a market is thought to be too high; this would add measurably to the energy cost and pollution impact of the use of oil. At one time these gas flares were(and may still be) the most visible sign from earth orbit of oil producing countries. This flaring of gas also happens in the US.

The efficiency of use of fuel in an automobile is very low compared to its use in a large generating plant; it has been shown to be less than half as efficient in many cases. The efficiency of the electric drive, including the battery charging approaches 80 percent.

While many believe that Natural Gas is a cleaner fuel than coal because it has a higher energy content per unit of carbon dioxide released, If we were to average all of the carbon dioxide released in the production and refining and transportation of oil AND OF NATURAL GAS it is likely the case that the Petroleum industry as a whole produces more carbon dioxide than does the coal industry per unit energy delivered to the customer for burning and including the carbon dioxide released in burning. In terms of actual horse-power-hours or kilo-watt-hours delivered to the customer or the wheels of a vehicle per unit of carbon dioxide released, the coal industry is clearly less polluting.

The cost of coal at the mine is not a large part of the price of electricity delivered to the home. The administrative costs alone account for half of the electric bill. Much or most of the other half is the capital and repair cost of the power plant. Charging the vehicle battery at night when the equipment is little utilized increases the fuel cost for the power plant and the maintenance cost, but all the other costs remain about the same. There is enough over capacity at night to charge most of the vehicles in the US if they could be charged for the next days use.

Peabody Energy delivered about 500,000,000,000 pounds of coal for a revenue of about $5,300,000,000.00 or about one cent per pound. A pound has a minimum energy of about 11,000 BTU and as much as 15,000 BTU. A 33% efficient steam power plant would make the 11,000 BTU into one kilowatt-hour of electricity. The coal cost of the kilowatt-hour of electricty sold to you at your home at 10 to 50 cents is only one cent. At $3.00 a gallon, gasoline fed into to same power plant would generate about 12 Kilowatt-hours at a fuel cost of about 25 cents per kilowatt-hour. This is obviously cheaper than the peak price of electricity during high consumption hours, but it is only the fuel cost. The lower efficiency of a motor vehicle makes electricity always cheaper.

With oil on the global market going for $60 a barrel, only 840 BTUs are delivered for one cent, but at least 11000 BTUs are delivered for one cent by a US coal company. The raw energy cost of crude oil is 13 times that of coal. Considering the energy needed for refining alone, only 34 gallons of the original 42 gallons can be delivered as diesel or gasoline. The crude oil cost alone for a gallon of gas becomes $1.76.

The figures also show that for deregulated Califonia, the power companies are spinning straw into gold with a fuel cost of one cent spun into an electricity cost of 50 cents. California is being hypocritical by refusing to use more coal generated power than they do now when California is still allowing the use of less efficient motor vehicles by anyone and promoting or attempting to require efficient light bulbs. Burning New Mexico coal to generate electricity for California gives far less pollution per kilowatt-hour delivered to the wheels, than allowing California crude to be refined and burnt in the engine of a HUMMER or even a DATSUN.

CalCars measured a use of about 0.200 Kilowatt-hours per mile for an electric car. Night rates can be lower but even at ten cents/kwh you can get a hundred miles for two dollars electric. At 33 miles per gallon this translates into Nine dollars for gasoline.

Honda has produced and sold, for about five years now, A natural gas fired water boiler that also generates electricity for the home (cogeneration), and by using it with a large hot water storage tank, one or two such units could not only heat your home for the whole day but also charge your car up at night for the next days driving while reducing your electric bill for the rest of the day. With long proven techniques the heat can also cool your home as well as heat it. This multiple use of natural gas reduces the release of carbon dioxide to less than half of what is released by a combination of gasoline cars, central power plants and a gas furnace for an identical level of use.

Natural gas, all over, the world, contains radio active radon in greater or smaller quantities this is released when it is burnt, but all humans, plants and animals are radio active and have been as long as life has existed. It would be illegal to transport in Great Britain any other industrial substance that had the same high levels of radioactivity as natural gas without special permit.

The earth is not measurably more radio active since the beginning of the use of atomic energy. Much of the radio activity that the earth is exposed to comes from space, even the sun, and cannot be avoided except at great cost, and this would be futile because much of our radioactive exposure comes from ourselves. If we were to dissolve and distribute evenly in the oceans all of the radio active materials that has come from our reactors it would not be measurable and it would not expose the earth and its life forms to any measurable greater danger. The dangers of the ordinary life, in the US even, far exceed the danger of radio activity.

There is absolutly no truth to the statement that there is no relatively safe way of getting rid of nuclear materials used by man in his reactors; the truth is that most people do not know that they are already radioactive and what they eat is also radio active and that their great-great-great grandmothers were not less radioactive than they themselves are.

No arguments can pusuade most people that any use or storage or transportation of radiactive materials is highly safe when they do not know that they and every natural food that any man on earth has ever eaten is radio active. A radio activity sensor on a bridge leading to NYC would detect banana and orange shipments before it would find an ounce of shielded uranium according to a recent newspaper article.

To appease the voting public, most politicians also denounce and prevent any use or transportation of radio active materials even when such transportation is statistically and actually far less dangerous than transporting a truck of propane or chlorine.

Nuclear reactors feeding power to electric or plug in hybrid cars is the least cost method of reducing both carbon dioxide and oil importation. No car manufacturer should ever design or build a totally electric car. It is bad for advertising, public relations and the usability of the car. Even if there is no anticipated use, there should always be a small combustion engine generator and fuel tank. Every large airplane and even some military tanks have combustion auxiliary power units. A hydrocarbon fuel with air is the least weight* volume*cost fuel system for vehicles that is likely to be available.

A plutonium 238 powered car that did not expose its driver to dangerous doses of radio activity could be built that would not need refueling for years. The two Mars Rovers have P238 capsules in them to keep them warm enough to survive in a cold Martian winter. It would have been a small additional expense to the whole program to have put P238 powered electrical generators in them as well and in the future, will be less costly than solar cells. Small nuclear reactors have been orbited in space, and can be used where the power need is too high for isotope generators, but the electronics of a sattelite are much easier to shield from an isotope.

EPA research seems to show that hydraulic hybrids are cheaper and can give equivalent performance to electric hybrids. A large battery and an electric powered hydraulic pump is an obvious and simple way to get a Hydraulic-Electric-Plug-in-hybrid. The high peak power and starting torque of a hydraulic system removes a high peak power requirement from the battery. The UPS truck should be converted forth with. Some one will try to patent the combination.

The Honda heat-electricity machine with a plug in hybrid will give you a highly efficient Natural gas powered car, but with a Nuclear power plant you get an almost no carbon dioxide or other pollutant releasing car. HG


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