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December 2007

December 29, 2007

Tesla to Use Interim Transmission to Get Production Roadster Out the Door

Faced with ongoing problems in developing a transmission that will deliver on the electric Roadster’s initial specification for acceleration (0-60 in 4 seconds), Tesla Motors will begin production in 2008 with an interim transmission design, according to CEO Ze’ev Drori.

The interim transmission will support acceleration from 0-60 in 5.7 seconds. When the final transmission is ready, Tesla will retrofit all cars, at Tesla’s expense, to meet the promised performance specifications.

It should be noted that the interim design is one we have a lot of experience with, having accumulated more than 100,000 miles of usage in our fleet. We have found these transmissions to be highly reliable and durable. It should also be noted that this was the transmission fitted to VP10 for the test drives we did with all of the top US car magazines in early December. I think you will enjoy the driving experience as much as they did, even with this interim solution.

—Ze’ev Drori

Drori said that the goal is to start full production of Tesla Roadsters in spring 2008. Due to some uncertainty over production ramp rates, Tesla is still not clear how many cars will be completed in calendar year 2008.

We plan to accelerate production until all 2008 orders are filled, although we expect some number of cars to be delivered in early 2009.

—Ze’ev Drori

In his update, Drori also noted that an error in the calibration of test equipment resulted in an overstatement of the EPA range testing for the car. A recent re-test resulted in an EPA combined range of 221 miles, which the company believes to be accurate. The original target for the Roadster was 250 miles.

We will need to re-test the car prior to full production, so the current test should be considered an estimate. The transmission is an important factor in determining drivetrain efficiency, so the final design may impact the result in either direction slightly.

—Ze’ev Drori

December 29, 2007 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Review Panel Recommends “No-Go” on Further Funding for Sodium Borohydride for On-Board Vehicular Hydrogen Storage

An independent technical review panel convened at the behest of the Department of Energy to consider the technical status and progress of R&D on the hydrolysis of sodium borohydride (NaBH4) for on-board vehicular hydrogen storage has unanimously recommended a “no-go” to further funding.

Millenium Cell and others have been working on sodium borohydride-based systems for a range of applications, from portable devices to transportation. DaimlerChrysler used Millenium Cell technology it its Natrium fuel cell concept car, introduced in 2001. The Natrium (Latin for sodium, and the origin of the “Na” symbol for the element) was based on a Town and Country minivan, and used a Millenium Cell fuel processor with a Ballard fuel cell, Siemens motor and SAFT Li-ion battery pack. (Earlier post.)

When NaBH4 is suspended in an aqueous solution and then passed over a catalyst, the reaction produces hydrogen, along with a benign byproduct—sodium metaborate—that can be recycled back into sodium borohydride.

NaBH4 + 2H2O 4H2 + NaBO2 + heat

Selected DOE Hydrogen Storage Technical Targets
Storage ParameterUnits20072010
System gravimetric capacity kWh/kg
(kg H2/kg system)
1.5
(0.045)
2
(0.06)
System volumetric capacity kWh/L
(kg H2/L system)
1.2
(0.036)
1.5
(0.045)
Storage system cost
(and H2 cost)
$/kWh net
($/kg H2)
$/gge at pump
6
(200)
4
(133)
2-3

The panel, in its recommendation statement, said that the hydrogen storage technology considered for the hydrolysis of sodium borohydride has clearly not met all the 2007 targets. In addition, the panel saw no promising path forward for this technology to reach all the 2010 targets.

The panel reviewed materials from Argonne National Laboratory, Millenium Cell, NREL, Penn State University, Rohm and Haas, TIAX, MERIT (Material & Energy Research Institute Tokyo), the DOE Chemical Hydrogen Storage Center of Excellence, and others.

Some of the status reports provided to the panel indicated system numbers that in some cases met the 2007 targets. In particular, Millenium Cell reported on the hydrolysis of an aqueous 30% (this was not in use in the Natrium) solution of NaBH4, containing 3% sodium hydroxide (NaOH) as a stabilizer. The hydrolysis is promoted by a proprietary catalyst.

However, the panel found a number of points of concern over the practicality of the system including the unproven single-tank bladder system; the requirement for large amounts of water on board the vehicle; and issues dealing with the precipitation of the sodium borate (NaBO2) product.

Millennium Cell essentially concluded that the solution-based NaBH4 approach was not likely to achieve 2010 capacity targets. Millennium Cell also felt that the problem of accumulating a solid product was a significant engineering issue that had not been addressed adequately, and that no practical engineering solution has been proposed. Finally, Millennium Cell pointed out that the hydrogen cost remains above the target with this system.

The panel also found the high energy penalty and cost of regenerating sodium borate back to NaBH4 fuel to be of significant concern, again concluding that the 2010 hydrogen cost target did not appear within reach.

In its document, however, the review panel was careful to note that improvements in NaBH4 production have application to the cost-effective production of amine boranes, for the alternative borane-based on-board storage system, which is a major area of research under the DOE Chemical Hydrogen Storage Center of Excellence.

Therefore, the Panel is recommending that some continued research activities related to the cost-effective production of amine boranes may be appropriate. This does not contradict the Panel’s no-go recommendation for on-board sodium borohydride; the recommended future work relates to addressing the viability of chemical hydrogen storage approaches as an alternative to sodium borohydride.

Resources

December 29, 2007 in Hydrogen Storage | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Scania Enters Chinese City Bus Market with Euro 4 Buses

Scania is now delivering 25 Euro 4 articulated buses to the public transport company in Changzhou in the Jiangsu province in eastern China. Scania won the contract because of its emission technology, low operating cost and long service life, according to the company.

Scania’s emission technology is based on EGR (exhaust gas recirculation), which neither requires aftertreatment of exhaust gases, nor extra tanks with additive on-board.

In October this year, Scania signed a contract and is also in the process of supplying 500 city buses to Singapore, where environmental performance was a deciding factor.

The delivery was made as a result of the agreement between Scania and Chinese bodybuilder Jiangsu Alfa Bus. Alfa Bus is a privately owned company based in Jiangsu province that manufactures buses for urban traffic as well as tourist and express coaches. With backing from Scania, the company will also be responsible for marketing the Scania buses it produces.

December 29, 2007 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 28, 2007

Kansas Launches Pilot Project Retailing Multiple Blends of Ethanol

The Kansas Department of Agriculture is launching a one-year pilot project that will allow flexible-fuel vehicle owners to purchase a range of ethanol blends such as E20, E30, E50 or E85. Currently there are 28 stations in Kansas selling E85 fuel.

To ensure that owners of conventional vehicles don’t accidentally pump a higher ethanol blend into their vehicle, the pumps will feature a bright orange label with the message “For use in flexible fuel vehicles only.”

Fueling stations currently sell gasoline blended with either 10 percent or 85 percent ethanol. This pilot project will allow them to install pumps that dispense ethanol fuel blends not currently offered, like 20 or 30 percent ethanol, to allow consumers to decide for themselves which blend is best for them based on price and performance.

The US Department of Transportation is now testing how regular fuel vehicles perform on higher ethanol blends. Initial research shows that E15 and E20 blends deliver the same environmental benefits without any adverse effect on vehicle engines. It’s very possible the Department of Transportation may one day endorse using these higher ethanol blends in non-flexible fuel vehicles.

—Adrian Polansky, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture

A few filling stations in eastern South Dakota and one in Rapid City are also offering a range of blends of ethanol between E10 and E85, but not as part of an organized program.

A recent study co-sponsored by the US Department of Energy and the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), found that mid-range ethanol blends can in some cases provide better fuel economy than regular unleaded gasoline, even in standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles. The new study also found that mid-range ethanol blends reduce harmful tailpipe emissions. (Earlier post.)

December 28, 2007 in Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Researchers Develop New Class of Lithium-Rich Solids with High Lithium Ion Mobility

German researchers have developed a new class of inorganic ionic conductor featuring high lithium ion mobility. In ionic conductors, charge is not transported in the form of electrons as it is in metals; instead, the charge is transported in the form of charged particles—typically, lithium ions. This transport requires materials in which the lithium ions can move as freely as possible.

The team, led by Hans-Jörg Deiseroth from the University of Siegen, in cooperation with scientists at the University of Münster, developed a set of argyrodite minerals made of lithium, phosphorus, sulfur, and bromine atoms. They report the characterization of the most conductive representative of the engineered argyrodite minerals in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Argyrodite is a relatively scarce silver-, germanium-, and sulfur-containing mineral discovered near Freiberg, Germany in 1885; the silver ions in this material are very mobile. The individual components of argyrodite can be replaced by a number of other atoms without altering the typical structure of the mineral. The term argyrodite now refers to an entire class of compounds that have a specific arrangement of atoms and type of structure.

The team led by Deiseroth produced a version of the mineral in which silver is replaced by lithium, germanium by phosphorus, and some of the sulfur atoms by halides (chloride, bromide, or iodide), resulting in argyrodite-like structures that have a composition of Li6PS5X (X: Cl-, Br-, or I-).

In the crystal lattice the phosphorus, sulfur, and halide atoms adopt a dense tetrahedral packing arrangement in which the gaps are filled somewhat regularly with lithium ions. The lithium ions can “jump” from gap to gap. The freely moving ions indicate that the solid has a high ionic conductivity and the reported bromine-containing structure has the highest ionic conductivity of lithium ions known for any argyrodite to date.

Such a material could be used as a solid electrolyte for a lithium-ion battery.

Resources

  • Hans-Jörg Deiseroth, Li6PS5X: A Class of Crystalline Li-Rich Solids With an Unusually High Li+ Mobility, Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2008, 47, No. 4, 755–758, doi: 10.1002/anie.200703900

December 28, 2007 in Batteries | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Mahindra & Mahindra Introduces New 2.2L Diesel for Scorpio SUV

Mahindra & Mahindra recently introduced its new Scorpio V-Series SUVs, equipped with the new “mHawk” 2.2-liter turbodiesel. The company will continue to offer the older CRDe 2.6-liter diesel models in the Scorpio line-up.

Mhawk
The new mHawk 2.2-liter diesel.

The four cylinder diesel features a variable geometry turbo and produces 87 kW (120 bhp) of power and a flat torque of 290 Nm (214 lb-ft). The older 2.6-liter engine offers output of 85 kW and torque of 278 Nm. The new Scorpio V-Series accelerates from 0-60 km/h (37 mph) in 5.7 seconds.

The engine uses a second-generation Bosch Common Rail system with solenoid injectors. Recyclable plastics and an aluminum head result in lower weight and improved fuel consumption of 10%.

December 28, 2007 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Brazil Requiring 2% Biodiesel Blend Starting 1 Jan 08

Brazil is instituting its compulsory 2% biodiesel blend in all diesel fuel (earlier post) beginning 1 January 2008.

Meeting that target will require about 800 million liters (211 million gallons US) per year of biodiesel. Current production is around 300 million liters. Brazil currently has 44 biodiesel plants authorized by the National Petroleum Agency (ANP) with another 17 due to come online in 2008. Installed annual capacity will total approximately 2 billion liters. The majority of Brazilian biodiesel uses soybeans as feedstock.

The Brazilian government is also targeting a B5 minimum for 2013, but may bring the 5% goal forward to 2010.

December 28, 2007 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Honda Eyeing Mass Production of Fuel Cell Vehicles in 10 Yrs; No to Short-Range EVs

Honda Motor Co. may be able to start mass-producing fuel cell vehicles within 10 years, President Takeo Fukui said in an interview with Jiji Press. Fukui emphasized Honda’s intention to focus on fuel cell vehicles, rather than electric vehicles.

Fukui indicated that electric vehicles are not attractive, citing their short travel distance and a long time needed for recharging. Electric vehicles are not suitable for overseas markets, where there are many long-distance drivers, he said.

Although Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan and Fuji Heavy Industries all plan to release shorter-range electric vehicles over the next few years, Fukui said that Honda has no plan to develop automobiles that can be used only in limited areas.

Honda is introducing the FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle (earlier post) on a limited basis in Japan and the US next year. Honda is also developing a home-based system for the production of hydrogen from natural gas.

December 28, 2007 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

EPA Publishes Draft Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a report assessing the various waste discharges from cruise ships, and is seeking public input on the report, as well as input regarding options, alternatives, and recommendations about whether and how to better control and regulate the waste streams described.

Cruise ships operate in every ocean worldwide, often in pristine coastal waters and sensitive marine ecosystems. Because cruise ship operators provide amenities to their passengers that are similar to those of luxury resort hotels, they also have the potential to generate wastes similar in volume and character to those generated by hotels.

The cruise industry is one of world’s fastest growing tourism sectors, with the number of cruise ship passengers growing nearly twice as fast as any other travel sector over the last 10 years. In addition, average ship size has been increasing at the rate of roughly 90 feet every five years over the past two decades. As the cruise industry continues to expand, there is an increasing concern about the impacts cruise ships may have on water quality.

—Draft Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report

In March 2000, the Bluewater Network, representing 53 environmental organizations, submitted a petition to EPA requesting that the agency identify and take regulatory action on measures to address pollution by cruise ships. Specifically, the petition requested an in-depth assessment of the volumes and characteristics of cruise ship waste streams; analysis of their potential impact on water quality, the marine environment, and human health; examination of existing federal regulations governing cruise ship waste streams; and formulation of recommendations on how to better control and regulate these waste streams. The petition also included specific requests related to sewage, graywater, oily bilge water, solid wastes, and hazardous wastes, as well as monitoring, record-keeping, and reporting. In addition, the petition requested that EPA prepare a report of the requested assessment.

The Draft Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report responds in part to the petition from Bluewater Network. The Draft Report examines five primary cruise ship waste streams: sewage, graywater, oily bilge water, solid waste, and hazardous waste. For each waste stream, the report discusses (1) what the waste stream is and how much is generated; (2) what laws apply to the waste stream; (3) how the waste stream is managed; (4) potential environmental impacts of the waste stream; and (5) actions by the federal government to address the waste stream.

Resources

December 28, 2007 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

California May See More Than $4/Gallon Average Gasoline in Spring 08

Los Angeles Times. Analysts are predicting a steady increase in gasoline prices in the spring that could result in an average cost of $3.75/gallon across the US and more than $4.00/gallon in California.

Ongoing higher demand is one factor, along with persistently strong crude oil prices and the absence of the traditional December drop in pump prices.

The Energy Department’s weekly survey of service stations Monday found the average pump price was $2.980 nationally and $3.261 in California, a couple of pennies lower than a week earlier—but much higher than the same period last year, when the number was $2.341 across the US and $2.607 across the state.

“It’s unprecedented having prices this high at the end of the year,” said Marie Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California.

According to the DOE’s most recent Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO), WTI (West Texas Intermediate) crude averaged $72.05 a barrel this year, up from $66.02 last year, and could hit nearly an average $85 in 2008.

...by the middle of next spring [gasoline prices] are projected to rebound to over $3.40 per gallon as the driving season begins.

—11 Dec 2007 STEO

December 28, 2007 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

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