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April 2008

April 30, 2008

Air Force Begins Testing Synfuel Blend in Fighter Engine

Engineers at the US Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) have begun testing a Pratt & Whitney F100 engine, the power plant for the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon, with a blend of alternative synthetic fuel in the J-1 simulated altitude jet engine test cell. Once testing and evaluation is complete, this will be the first fighter jet engine to use the synthetic blend.

Since 2006, AEDC has taken an active role in its support of the US Air Force’s Alternative Fuels Certification Office in the evaluation and certification of the synthetic paraffinic kerosene (SPK) alternative fuel, which is derived from natural gas or coal using the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process, for use in all Air Force aircraft.

Testing at AEDC on the GE F101 engine, the power plant for the B-1 Lancer bomber, was the first series of testing of a high performance, afterburning engine with FT fuel for a combat aircraft. (Earlier post.) This engine was also tested in the center’s J-1 high altitude jet engine test cell.

The Air Force has already certified the engines for the B-52 Stratofortress bomber to operate on FT fuel and the C-17 Globemaster III transport has flown on SPK fuel.

April 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

CleanTech Biofuels and Green Tech America Enter Joint Research Agreement for Waste-to-Ethanol Project

CleanTech Biofuels, Inc. has entered into a Joint Research Agreement with Green Tech America, Inc., a company founded by Dr. Nancy Ho of Purdue University, whereby Green Tech America (GTA) will provide research and testing to CleanTech Biofuels on the fermentation stage of CleanTech’s municipal solid waste (MSW)-to-ethanol project.

CleanTech Biofuels is a development stage company that holds exclusive licenses to a pair of technologies for converting municipal solid waste (MSW) into ethanol. The first, Pressurized Steam Classification (PSC), involves the treatment of MSW at temperature and pressure in order to convert the cellulosic material into a homogeneous cellulosic fuel feedstock, recover other valuable byproducts, and reduce the volume of waste materials that must be sent to landfills. The second, the Brelsford dilute-acid hydrolysis process, converts the recovered cellulosic feedstock into C5 and C6 sugars that are fermentable into ethanol.

Pressurized Steam Classification (PSC). The PSC process separates MSW into organic and inorganic components using a combination of steam, pressure, and agitation in a large rotating pressure vessel (autoclave). Steam in the autoclave sterilizes the material, while the pressure and agitation cause a pulping action, resulting in three outputs, with the mix depending on the composition of the MSW:

  • 55-60 percent cellulosic biomass, which has been decontaminated and homogenized and is available for conversion to ethanol;

  • About 25 percent separated recyclables (steel cans and other ferrous metals, aluminum cans, plastics and glass), which can be sold to recyclers; and

  • 15-20 percent residual waste (rocks, fines, soils, textiles, and non-recyclable fractions), which must be sent to landfills.

The individual autoclave units can process up to 250 tons per day of MSW and can be combined in parallel to handle larger amounts of municipal solid waste. The technology has been used by an operator to generate cellulosic material from garbage on a commercial scale for the production of paper.

Brelsford Process. Brelsford Dilute-Acid Cellulose Hydrolysis (DACH) is a lower-cost acid hydrolysis process that uses low-pressure, high temperature oil to provide energy for the process rather than using more energy-intensive high temperature steam. The process a two-stage plug-flow-reactor system. It further reduces energy requirements by recovering heat and acid used in the first stage of the reaction and reusing them in the second stage.

CleanTech Biofuels cites a review of the technology by the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST – Final Technical Evaluation Report No. 457) “the Brelsford process has a potential for achieving considerable economic savings in: (1) acid composition, (2) heat-energy supplied for cellulose hydrolysis, and (3) process-energy for fuel ethanol production”.

CleanTech estimates a reduction in total capital and operating costs of roughly 30% compared to other acid hydrolysis processes.

Green Tech America, Inc. is developing and commercializing a yeast-based cellulosic ethanol technology that was pioneered by Dr. Ho, Research Molecular Biologist/Group Leader of the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering (LORRE) at Purdue University. (Earlier post.) During the 1980s and 1990s, researchers at LORRE altered the genetic structure of Saccharomyces yeast to enable the conversion of the two major sugars found in cellulosic materials—glucose and xylose—into ethanol.

The ability to co-ferment glucose and xylose to ethanol was enabled by cloning three highly modified xylose-metabolizing-genes—XR, XD and XK—on a high-copy-number plasmid, followed by transforming the yeast with the plasmid (incorporating the plasmid into the yeast cells). A high-copy-number plasmid is a plasmid capable of self-replicating in the host cells many times—the resulting host cells will contain many copies of the cloned genes via the plasmids.

The initial target was the yeast strain 1400(LNH-ST), which was owned by a company. LORRE began screening for better yeasts with no legal constraints for converting cellulosic sugars to ethanol. Among the yeasts tested and integrated with the XR-XD-XK genes (more than ten yeast strains), 424A (LNH-ST) and 259A (LNH-ST) are effective for industrial production of cellulosic ethanol.

Further genetic engineering of the best yeast, 424A (LNH-ST) improved its xylose fermentation and enabled it to ferment two other minor sugars effectively. The further improved yeast should be able to ferment xylose and other minor sugars 30 to 75% faster.

April 30, 2008 in Biotech, Cellulosic ethanol | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

California Gasoline Consumption Declining

California consumed 4.5% less gasoline, including aviation gas, in January 2008 than in January 2007, according to figures released by the State Board of Equalization (BOE). The BOE is able to monitor gallons through tax receipts paid by fuel distributors.

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California gasoline consumption. Click to enlarge.

Total gallons of gasoline used in January 2008 were 1.234 billion—58.2 million less than in January 2007. For all of 2007, Californians used 0.97% less gasoline compared to the previous year. Californians used a total of 15.672 billion gallons of gasoline for the twelve months of 2007—a decline of 153 million gallons from the total of 15.825 billion gallons for the calendar year 2006. Gasoline consumption in the state has now fallen for two years in a row.

The January 2008 pump price averaged $3.30 per gallon, 68 cents above those seen in January 2007 of $2.62.

Despite the drop in gallons consumed, the BOE estimates that sales tax revenue has increased due to higher gasoline prices. Higher prices generated approximately $299 million in sales tax during January 2008. In contrast, January 2007’s gasoline sales generated $249 million.

Figures for February 2008 are scheduled to be available near the end of May.

April 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (44) | TrackBack

TNT Launches Australia’s First Hybrid Truck Fleet

Hinohybrid
A Hino hybrid truck.

TNT Express Australia has put 10 Hino Hybrid trucks into service, becoming the first business in Australia to start operating a fleet of diesel-electric hybrid as replacements for conventionally powered vehicles.

Speaking at the official launch of the hybrid truck fleet in Sydney, TNT Express Australia Managing Director Roger Corcoran said the new vehicles would reduce TNT’s greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 kilograms of CO2 a year per vehicle.

This is an historic first step by TNT Express in Australia to prepare itself for the inevitable emergence of a carbon economy. TNT accepts that climate change is a reality and we believe that all businesses must adopt new strategies in order to meet looming carbon emissions reduction targets.

—Roger Corcoran

Hino introduced the Dutro Hybrid in November 2003, and released a new model in 2006. TNT first began trials of the Hino Dutro hybrid in 2004. The hybrid combines a 4.0-liter 110 kW (134 hp) turbodiesel engine that develops 392 Nm (289 lb-ft) of torque at 1,600 rpm with a 23 kW, 143 Nm electric motor and a six-speed transmission. The battery pack is a 273V, 6.5 Ah NiMH system, with liquid coolant battery pack.

TNT tests showed that under real-world operating conditions, the Hino Hybrid truck emits 14% less carbon dioxide than a conventional diesel-engined truck of equivalent size. The hybrid vehicle also reduces NOx emissions by almost half and PM by 98.9%.

TNT is taking a fairly pragmatic approach to this and will consider putting more hybrid trucks into service as and when new trucks are required.

—Roger Corcoran

TNT is installing a certified system to measure, report and manage its CO2 emissions.

April 30, 2008 in Australia, Diesel, Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Audi Brings the 1.8 TFSI to the TT

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Direct injection in the 1.8 TFSI.

Audi is expanding its application of the 1.8 TFSI to TT line. The four-cylinder gasoline engine with turbocharger and direct injection deliver performance similar to that of larger, naturally-aspirated V-6 engines: 118 kW (160 hp) of power and 250 Nm (184.39 lb-ft) of torque available between 1,500 to 4,500 rpm. In the TT Coupé, the 1,798 cc engine consumes 6.7 L/100km (35 mpg US) and in the Roadster 6.9 L/100km (34 mpg US).

The 1.8 TFSI is one of a new engine series (EA 888) designed to deliver greater power density. The new engine family was developed by Audi for worldwide use in all brands of the VW Group. Audi first introduced the engine in the A3 line in 2006 and has since expanded its application to the A4 and A5 lines. (Earlier post.)

The 1.8 TFSI is compact, and at 135 kilograms (297.62 lb), it is unusually light. Two balancing shafts refine the engine’s running character. The toothed chain that drives the balancing shafts has also been designed for this quiet running. Another chain drives the oil pump. With its volumetric flow control and two pressure stages, it saves 0.2 liters of fuel for 100 km. A third toothed chain drives the two camshafts. The newly developed variable camshaft system adjusts the intake camshaft through 60 degrees on the crankshaft.

The exhaust camshaft drives the newly developed high-pressure fuel injector pump via a four-section cam. The six-hole injectors, which are also new, distribute the fuel precisely in the combustion chamber to achieve more efficient combustion. A two-stage injection is executed after a cold start, the first during the intake stroke, the second during the compression stroke to rapidly bring the ceramic catalytic converters, which are located close to the engine, to their operating temperature.

Fuel is injected directly into the four-valve cylinder head at 150 bar pressure from a high-pressure accumulator through newly developed, six-hole injectors. There it mixes with air that is set into a swirling motion by newly designed charge movement flaps in the intake manifold.

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The integral turbocharger in the 1.8 TFSI.

The mixture is homogeneous; 14.7 parts of air are added to one part fuel. Evaporation of the directly injected fuel cools the combustion chamber, which, when combined with turbocharging, supports a compression ratio of 9.6:1. The charger is designed to react to demand so that the engine quickly reaches maximum torque and remains at this high level for long periods. The result is high elasticity at any rpm.

Combined with a six-speed manual transmission, the 1.8 TFSI accelerates the Audi TT Coupé to 100 kph (62 mph) in 7.2 seconds, up to a top speed of 226 kph (140 mph). This performance is also due to the low total weight: the Coupé weighs 1,240 kg (2,734 lb), and the Roadster 1,285 kg (2,833 lb). Both car bodies consist primarily of aluminum.

Audi also recently introduced TDI versions of the TT—the Audi TT Coupe 2.0 TDI quattro and Audi TT Roadster 2.0 TDI quattro are the first series-production sports cars to be powered by diesel engines. (Earlier post.)

The two-liter four-cylinder engine delivers dynamic thrust, with a power output of 125 kW (170 hp) and 350 Nm (258 lb-ft) of torque. On average, however, the TDI in the TT Coupe requires 5.3 liters of fuel per 100 km (44 mpg US).

Also new to the Audi TT lineup is quattro all-wheel drive for the top-selling 2.0 TFSI.

April 30, 2008 in Engines, Fuel Efficiency | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Electric smart Cars to Test Li-Ion Packs Next Year, Perhaps in LA

German magazine auto motor und sport reports that smart will begin testing lithium-ion battery packs in its smart electric vehicle next year. If the outcome is positive, said CEO Anders Jensen, the company may quickly decide on serial production.

The smart car, said Jensen, “is predestined for alternative fuels. We have the space and do not have to redesign the car for this kind of drive.

The company is currently testing 100 smart fortwo ed (electric drive) units in London (earlier post). The Li-ion trials might begin in Los Angeles, according to Jensen, the city in the US where the smart is selling the best.

April 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Proton Motor To Partner With AVL on Fuel Cell Hybrid Powertrains

Proton Motor, a developer of industrial fuel cells, fuel cell systems and hybrid systems, and AVL List GmbH, an independent developer of powertrains, have signed a framework contract to collaborate on the development of fuel cell hybrid systems for powertrains as well as related measurement and diagnostic technology.

AVL will serve as the powertrain engineering and measurement technology provider while Proton Motor will be the PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cell system provider. The acknowledgment establishes the formal basis for the joint activities of the two companies. Furthermore, it will accelerate the offer and order procedure, as well as setting the parameters for future projects.

Proton Motor focuses on back-to-base applications such as materials handling, utility vehicles and mass transport. These applications can be commercialized at an early stage as they do not depend on the existence of a ubiquitous hydrogen infrastructure. In September 2007, for example, Proton Motor unveiled the world’s first triple-hybrid forklift combining a fuel cell, a battery and supercapacitors to form an energy-efficient power system. (Earlier post.)

Proton currently offers a “PM Turnkey” package to OEMs, using modular fuel cell hybrid systems of between 5 and 200 kW. A modular system of this type comprises a fuel cell stack, storage elements such as batteries and supercapacitors, power management and an electrical converter as well as hydrogen tanks appropriate for the type of operation in question.

AVL has been active in the development of hybrid drives for more than 15 years and has expanded capacity significantly in recent years to meet a rapidly increasing demand for development and testing solutions. It has completed more than 60 hybrid powertrain development and testing projects at its engineering centres in Europe and the US for customers around the globe.

AVL has also established a fuel cell system engineering team supporting the development of PEMFC and SOFC systems as well as the integration and control in mobile applications.

April 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dyno Testing of Enova Systems Plug-In Hybrid School Bus Shows 70% Improved Fuel Economy and Significantly Reduced Emissions

Recent dynamometer test results show that IC Bus school buses using post-transmission plug-in hybrid drive systems from Enova Systems (earlier post) can improve fuel efficiency by more than 70% compared to standard diesel-powered school buses. The Enova hybrid drive systems installed in the IC Bus school buses also significantly reduce carbon dioxide, NOx and particulate matter emissions.

The series of fuel consumption and emissions tests were conducted to simulate actual route cycles and conditions using the West Virginia University Suburban Test Cycle. The tests were conducted at an independent commercial laboratory accepted by the California Air Resources Board that is properly equipped to perform specialized tests in accordance with applicable federal and California test procedures.

Tests were conducted on the following buses equipped with the Enova plug-in hybrid electric (charge depleting) systems:

  • 2007 model year IC Bus CE Series school bus with a VT365 engine and Allison 2500 transmission

  • 2008 model year IC Bus CE Series school bus with a MaxxForce 7 engine and Allison 2500 transmission

Compared to identical IC Bus school buses with standard diesel engines and drive systems, the test of both plug-in buses showed:

  • More than 70% increase in fuel economy over the standard diesel system;

  • More than 40% reduction in CO2;

  • More than 30% reduction in Particulate Matter; and

  • More than 20% reduction in NOx.

The results are based on the route-specific conditions defined by the West Virginia University Suburban Cycle and do not necessarily reflect fuel consumption and emissions data that may be generated from other route conditions. Selecting routes with frequent stops and starts and minimal highway miles allows the bus to get the most out of the hybrid system and is a key element to obtaining similar results.

Enova’s post transmission parallel hybrid system is one in which the electric drive system is integrated behind the factory-installed transmission. The Enova Hybrid has proven to be a non-invasive system that requires little or no modification to OEM chassis, body or instrumentation. The hybrid systems are designed to communicate with many other electronic systems on the bus, such as engine, transmissions, emissions and ABS systems controllers.

The initial Enova Charge Depleting 25/80-kW hybrid-electric powertrains incorporate a 22.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

The plug-in bus uses a blended operating strategy and in charge depletion mode draws the pack down to approximately a 25% state of charge. Subsequent to being drawn down, the vehicle will switch to charge sustaining mode, with a =20% to 50% improvement in fuel economy for the rest of the route. Charge depletion occurs over the first 40 miles of the route. It is also tailorable, allowing the system to draw down quicker and provide greater mpg improvement or a sorter amount of miles, or drawn down more slowly resulting in a lower mpg improvement, but over a greater mileage range. The depleting cycle is a direct result of the software programming within the Hybrid Control Unit.

We are very pleased with the test results, and will now focus our attention to understanding school bus routes and determining the types and duration of routes that can strongly benefit from plug-in hybrid electric systems. This proves that significant benefits are available as long as we put these in the right place,

—Ewan Pritchard, Hybrid Program Manager for Advanced Energy

In March 2007, the first plug-in hybrid electric school bus was delivered to Manatee County Schools in Bradenton, FL., by IC Bus, Enova Systems and Advanced Energy, a Raleigh, N.C.-based non-profit focused on market-based approaches to energy issues. Today, 19 hybrid school buses are on the road in 11 states due to the efforts of Advanced Energy and its partners.

We believe these results show the success of our system in obtaining fuel economy and air quality improvements without major changes to standard production engines. But this is only the first phase of development. IC Bus and Enova are committed to developing ‘engine off’ technology to obtain additional fuel economy and emissions control improvements.

—David Hillman, Marketing Director for IC Bus

IC Bus recently announced that it will reduce the price of their school buses equipped with plug-in hybrid electric systems by up to $40,000.

April 30, 2008 in Heavy-duty, Plug-ins | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

DOT to Provide More Than $153M to Chicago to Reduce Traffic Congestion

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has selected Chicago to receive more than $153 million in federal funding to support the reduction of traffic gridlock through the use of congestion pricing for street parking spaces and the implementation of a Bus Rapid Transit system.

The federal funds will be used to support Chicago’s creation of four pilot routes of a new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network. The new BRT routes will have their own dedicated lanes and the buses will be equipped with technology to help speed them through traffic with priority right of way at busy signalized intersections. In addition, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) will be able to purchase new and cleaner hybrid engine vehicles.

Congestion pricing for the city’s metered parking spaces will raise meter rates during the morning and evening rush periods to encourage commuters to take transit downtown instead of driving.

The federal funding is contingent, in part, on the city and the CTA adopting the necessary legal authorities. Also, the city must successfully move forward on its previously announced plans to privatize its metered parking system and enter into a long-term agreement with a private firm by 31 December 2008.

The Chicago announcement is a component of the Department’s National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America’s Transportation Network.

April 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

European Biodiesel Board Files Complaint Against US Biodiesel Exports

The European Biodiesel Board (EBB) filed an anticipated joint anti-dumping and anti-subsidy complaint with the European Commission against what it characterizes as unfair subsidized biodiesel exports from the United States.

In the framework of the US policy adopted in 2004, biodiesel can be subsidized up to $264 per m3 (US$300/tonne, approximately €200/tonne) with the addition of only a drop of mineral diesel to biodiesel. US producers can therefore claim the maximum subsidy for a “B99.9” blend. Such a blend can then be exported to Europe where it is also eligible to European subsidy schemes.

Since 2007, as a result of these measures, the EBB says, there has been a dramatic surge in US biodiesel exports to the EU, thereby injuring the EU biodiesel industry. US biodiesel producers, facing higher production costs domestically, are taking advantage of the relative weakness of the dollar against the Euro as well as incentives.

The European Commission says that the US exported about 300 million gallons of biodiesel to Europe in 2007, up 10-fold from 2006. US biodiesel production last year was about 450 million gallons, according to the US National Biodiesel Board. The imported biodiesel represents 15% to 20% of the European biodiesel market.

The unfair competition from US B99 is price-setting and has progressively disrupted the margins of European biodiesel producers, putting most of them out of business. Consequently, the important EU biodiesel production capacity has remained largely unutilised in 2007 and production has increased at a much lower rate than in the previous years.

—EBB Statement

Perceiving that the US support scheme could extend beyond 2008, the EBB filed its complaints, urging the European Commission to initiate an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation, with a view to impose as soon as possible countervailing measures against US “B99” exports to the EU.

Subsidized “B99” exports are a trade practice that is not only breaching WTO rules but also threatening the very concept of international trade in biodiesel. This is undermining the potential of biodiesel production as a powerful tool in the fight against climate change. Given the environmental and economic advantages of biodiesel production, it is even more urgent to re-establish a level playing field in terms of biodiesel trade flows.

—EBB

The US National Biodiesel Board (NBB) responded that:

The supposed woes facing the European biodiesel industry have nothing to do with US exports. The EBB’s membership produce fuel from a more expensive feedstock than American producers and the cost of that feedstock has significantly increased. It is also important to note changes in EU member state policies unfavorable to the biofuels industry have impacted European producers.

The motivation behind this case is simple—the EBB is trying to use litigation as a protectionist tool to shield them from US competition. The US biodiesel industry plans to use every resource at its disposal to wage a vigorous defense against the EBB’s baseless allegations. In addition, our industry will aggressively challenge existing EU trade barriers—such as the EU’s discriminatory biodiesel fuel specification—and other EU biofuel policies that are inconsistent with WTO rules and provide preferential treatment to European fuel producers.

—Manning Feraci, the National Biodiesel Board’s (NBB) Vice President of Federal Affairs

April 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

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