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June 2008

June 30, 2008

ASTM Approves New Biodiesel Blend Specifications, Including B20

The new B6-B20 biodiesel (fatty acid methyl ester) blends will have a blue label at the pump to distinguish the fuel from others. B100 will have its own blue label. Click to enlarge.

The ASTM International D02 Main Committee approved a trio of ASTM specifications for biodiesel blends after more than five years of research and subsequent balloting by the ASTM fuel experts.

The committee approved changes to the existing B100 biodiesel blend stock specification (ASTM D6751); finished specifications to include up to 5% biodiesel (B5) in the conventional petrodiesel specification (ASTM D975); and approved a new specification for blends of between 6% (B6) to 20% (B20) biodiesel for on- and off-road diesel engines.

The ballot for B100 added a significant new test procedure and measurement requirement for a cold soak filtration test (CSFT) that had to be approved for any of the other biodiesel ballots to pass. The test was added as a means to ensure that cloud point is still an accurate indicator for B20 and lower blends, according to Jennifer Weaver, a spokesperson for the National Biodiesel Board.

The blend specification to be published by ASTM is basically a melding of the D6751 spec and the D975 spec with the addition of another couple of key parameters and tests to ensure fuel quality, even after transportation and over time, Weaver said. Revised and new specifications are generally published around 30 days after approval.

Blends containing biomass-based synthetic diesel (e.g., NExBTL) are to be treated as separate from biodiesel, and will have an orange label, consistent with other alternative fuels. Click to enlarge.

Automakers and engine manufacturers have been requesting a finished blend specification for B20 biodiesel blends for several years, with some citing the need for that spec as the single greatest hurdle preventing their full-scale acceptance of B20 use in their diesel vehicles. Biodiesel blends up to B20 meeting ASTM specifications will be able to be used in any diesel engine without modifications.

Automaker Chrysler LLC was instrumental in working with the ASTM task force toward B20 specification development and approval, having supported fleet use of B20 in its Dodge Ram diesel pickups since January 2006.

The approval of ASTM specifications for inclusion of up to 5% biodiesel (B5) in the regular diesel fuel oil also means that biodiesel could soon become more readily available at retail fueling stations nationwide.

The ASTM International Main Committee also approved a fourth set of specifications for inclusion of B5 biodiesel in heating oil (D396). Marketed as Bioheat, biodiesel is gaining popularity as a home heating oil, particularly in the Northeast United States.

The new biodiesel specifications do not address requirements for biomass-based renewable diesel such as Fischer-Tropsch diesel or hydrotreated oils and fats. If additional specifications for these outside of the primary diesel spec are required, they will be handled separately. Similarly, the FTC has decided to use different pump labels to distinguish between biodiesel (neat and B6-B20 blends) and biomass-based renewable diesel (neat and blends).

The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 directed the US EPA to set the legal specifications for biodiesel blends in the US if ASTM does not pass biodiesel blend specifications. Had ASTM been unable to secure final approval of biodiesel blend specifications by December 2008, EPA would have set its own legal specifications for biodiesel blends soon after December 2008 due to biodiesel’s role in meeting the requirements of EISA.


June 30, 2008 in Biodiesel | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Azure Dynamics Signs First Dealer for E450 Hybrid

The hybrid E450 Cutaway and Strip Chassis drive system. Click to enlarge.

Azure Dynamics Corporation has signed up its first dealer, Palmetto Truck Center, for the Balance Hybrid Electric E450 commercial vehicle. Azure Dynamics entered an agreement with Ford Motor Company in 2006 enabling Azure to develop a hybrid electric powertrain for Ford’s E-series commercial platform. (Earlier post.)

The Balance Hybrid Electric integrates Azure’s P1 parallel hybrid system on Ford’s E450 Cutaway and Strip Chassis with a conventional 5.4 liter Triton gasoline engine and 5-speed automatic TorqShift transmission.

The hybrid powertrain features electric-launch assist, engine-off at idle and regenerative braking, contributing to improved fuel economy of up to 40%, depending upon duty cycle, with a reduction in maintenance costs of up to 30%.

The E450 Stripped & Cutaway Chassis supports GVWR up to 14,500 lbs (6,577 kg). In addition, a parallel hybrid electric Ford E350 Stripped & Cutaway Chassis will be available in fall of 2008.

Azure’s P1 system is intended to support a GVW range from 10,000 – 19,000 lbs. The company currently has orders from Purolator, Fedex Express, Florida Power and Light and AT&T for the Balance Hybrid.

Azure Dynamics plans to sign approximately 50 dealers in the next year in major metro markets in the United States and Canada. The Company has already identified 33 initial target markets. Prior to the Palmetto relationship, Azure had been selling direct to market, but is broadening its distribution network to meet demand.

June 30, 2008 in Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Chrysler Reduces Production Due to Dropping Minivan and Truck Sales

In response to larger economic conditions and dropping sales, Chrysler LLC announced that it will indefinitely idle the St. Louis South Assembly Plant effective 31 October 2008 due to volume declines in the total minivan vehicle segment.

The South Assembly Plant produces the Dodge Grand Caravan and Dodge Cargo Van for North American market, and the Chrysler Grand Voyager LHD and RHD for the export markets.

Chrysler will also reduce operations at its St. Louis North Assembly Plant from two shifts to one shift, effective 2 September 2008. St. Louis North builds the Dodge Ram Standard and Quad Cab Pickup (Models 1500, 2500 Light and Heavy Duty).

These measures will lead to a reduction of approximately 2,400 hourly jobs (1,500 at St. Louis South, 900 at St. Louis North).

Light-duty trucks account for about 70% of Chrysler’s US sales.

June 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

W2 Energy Forms Biodiesel Subsidiary

W2 Energy Inc., the developer of a GAT (Gliding Arc Tornado) plasma reactor for gasification for power and fuels generation (earlier post), has formed a subsidiary to build and operate biodiesel plants throughout North America. The new plants will use magnetic pulse cavitation technology to produce the biodiesel.

The magnetic pulse technology uses less energy, less methanol, and creates a more pure biodiesel.

—Mike McLaren, CEO of W2 Energy

Conventional transesterification process to produce biodiesel requires large amounts of methanol. W2 Energy’s biodiesel plants will not buy methanol; they will create their own methanol from on-site waste to liquid fuel plants.

The W2 Energy subsidiary will build its first biodiesel plant in Toronto. This plant will produce 2.5 million gallons per day of biodiesel from a combination of waste vegetable oil and jatropha. W2 Energy is seeking producers of jatropha, algae and waste vegetable oils who can commit to long-term contracts.

June 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Tesla to Build Electric Sedan in California; State Introduces New Incentive for ZEV Manufacturers

Enticed partly by a new package of incentives, Tesla Motors has decided to build the assembly plant for its upcoming electric sedan in California at a still-to-be-determined site in the San Francisco Bay Area rather than in New Mexico as it had earlier announced. (Earlier post.)

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Tesla CEO Ze’ev Drori made the announcement at a press conference today at Tesla Motors headquarters in San Carlos, California.

Tesla’s upcoming Model S (earlier named “White Star”), will be a $60,000 car, said Tesla Chairman Elon Musk at the press conference. The Model S is being designed to seat five and have a single-charge range of 225 miles. Musk also said that the company had some projects in the works that could deliver a pure electric car for less than $30,000 “maybe a lot sooner than anyone thinks.

In a statement posted on the Tesla blog, Drori said that after a thorough review of the operational and logistical elements for the sedan program, it was decided that the best strategy to ensure its success would be to locate manufacturing as close to headquarters as possible.

There are several key reasons why California is the right location for Tesla’s manufacturing facility: first, the operational advantages of locating our operation in the Bay Area close to our management and engineering teams. Second, the proximity to our most important markets. Last, but not least, Governor Schwarzenegger’s commitment to leading the nation and the world in addressing climate and energy concerns. Together, these reasons make the decision to move the sedan manufacturing program back to California clear.

Let me close by pointing out the decision that we announced today with the Governor represents a major milestone in the sedan program. Having set down a marker of where we will be establishing this critical operation, we can move forward on many fronts. This will allow us to bring the sedan program to fruition and to continue to drive toward Tesla Motors’ mission of making the electric vehicle the dominant mode of automotive transport for the 21st century and beyond.

—Ze’ev Drori

A key component of the incentives is a newly adopted waiver on state sales tax on manufacturing equipment for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) built in state.

Existing law exempts the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority’s (CAEATFA) from paying the sales tax on equipment used to manufacture advanced transportation products.

Under the new policy, CAEATFA will pass through that tax break to qualifying ZEV manufacturers under “sales-lease-back” agreements. Under such an agreement:

  • A ZEV or ZEV component manufacturer applies to CAEATFA to have a project approved pursuant to the policy. If approved, CAEATFA buys the equipment, and finances the purchase by taking out a loan or selling bonds. CAEATFA does not pay the sales tax on the transaction. The manufacturer makes lease payments to CAEATFA for use of the equipment, and CAEATFA uses these payments to repay the bonds or loan.

  • Under the lease arrangement with CAEATFA, the manufacturer has the option to purchase the equipment outright. If it purchases the equipment, the manufacturer obtains the benefit of the sales tax exemption, saving seven percent to nine percent on the purchase price.

Tesla will ask CAEATFA to approve such an arrangement to finance the purchase of equipment to build the Model S.

The tax incentive policy approved by CAEATFA covers several ZEV and near-ZEV technologies, including fuel cell electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, hydrogen internal combustion engines, advanced technology partial ZEVs and neighborhood electric vehicles. Any qualifying ZEV manufacturer can apply.

Today’s announcement is great news for California, our economy and our environment. We want these cutting-edge companies not to just start in California and do their research and development here—we want them to build in California. Tesla’s announcement today is just one of many we will celebrate as we implement AB 32 and reach our greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

—Governor Schwarzenegger

ZEV makers can also apply for funding from the new alternative fuel and vehicle technology program outlined in AB118.

June 30, 2008 in Electric (Battery), Policy | Permalink | Comments (38) | TrackBack

Toyota To Make, Sell Camry Hybrid In China In 2010

Nikkei. Toyota Motor Corp. will begin manufacturing the Camry Hybrid in 2010 at its joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., Guangzhou Toyota Motor Co.

Toyota plans to produce 10,000 Camry Hybrids on the plant’s new second line, due to go operational in 2009. The factory will first produce the gasoline-powered Camry, with the hybrid version following. Key components will be imported from Japan.

Toyota has been making and selling the Prius hybrid in China since 2005, but 2007 sales stalled at around 1,000, or one-third of its target. The firm aims to retrench with a new offering, hoping to parlay the Camry's strong brand name into substantial hybrid sales. Some 170,000 of the gasoline-powered models sold in 2007.

The Chinese government recently hiked gasoline prices in response to the run-up in crude oil and is considering giving preferential tax treatment to eco-friendly cars. Eyeing these changes, Toyota plans to add production capacity of hybrid cars as part of its drive to double Chinese sales from 2007’s level to more than 1 million vehicles annually by the start of the next decade.

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

Sweden and US Expand Cooperation with Volvo on Alt Fuel and Hybrid R&D

The governments of Sweden and the US are extending their cooperation with the Volvo Group on R&D on alternative fuels and hybrid solutions with a combined US$18 million grant from the US Department of Energy and the Swedish Energy Agency. Volvo will provide a matching $18 million, for a combined $36 million investment.

The new program will run for three years and is an extension of the one-year research and cooperation agreement signed between the Volvo Group and the Swedish and US governments in June 2007. (Earlier post.) The supported work is aimed at reducing heavy vehicles’ use of fossil fuels through research and development projects in the areas of energy efficiency, drivelines for alternative fuels and hybrid solutions.

The climate issue and increasing fuel prices make energy use and energy efficiency some of the most important societal issues of our time. The transportation industry has a special responsibility and this research and development co-operation with the US Government is crucial in our efforts to develop the drivetrains and technology required by both our customers and society as a whole.

—Leif Johansson, CEO of the Volvo Group

The US government and the Swedish Energy Agency intend to each invest a total of US$9 million during the three years of the program.

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

Propel Opens Biodiesel Station in Downtown Seattle

Propel held the grand opening of its newest and largest Clean Fuel Point in downtown Seattle, Washington. The station offers B5 and B20 biodiesel blends, and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The new Propel station.

In building the station, Propel incorporated sustainable best practices to minimize environmental impact. Features include:

  • Canopy and Cistern: The station’s canopy is designed to conserve water and reduce storm runoff. Rainwater is collected in a cistern integrated into the canopy’s western column. The cistern provides a water source for foliage, while irrigating the feedstock planters via an underground pipe. In addition, the station’s canopy was constructed utilizing aluminum composite derived from 95% recycled materials. The canopy is equipped with energy conserving LED lights with photocells that provide illumination only as needed.

  • Landscape Green Roof Technology: The station’s garden landscape uses resource-conserving green roof technology to collect excess water from the canopy and cistern. Constructed with 100% recycled materials, the system actively stores water irrigating the landscape as needed and reducing dependence on the city’s water supply. Collecting and filtering water with green roof technology helps prevent the spread of particulates into Seattle’s groundwater and into Lake Union. The resulting runoff is clean filtered water.

  • Urban Agriculture – Feedstock Planter: The Fuel Point also features planter boxes, constructed out of recycled material, that grow crops such as canola, camelina, soy and sunflower. These represent the types of plants used to create the fuel Propel sells at the location.

Propel also offers customers CleanDrive, an integrated carbon emission tracking platform. By creating a CleanDrive account with Propel, purchasers of its fuel can get real time reporting of the volume of carbon emissions reduced by using biodiesel. Clean Drive graphically displays the positive impacts of biodiesel: reductions in CO2, imported oil displaced and equivalent annual CO2 reduction of mature trees. Members can display their reductions on their blog or company website with the CleanDrive widget. Since inception, Propel drivers have collectively removed more than 1 million tons of CO2 from their use of biodiesel.

June 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

ASTM Beginning Work on New Specification for Synthetic Jet Fuel

The standards organization ASTM is beginning work on developing a specification for producing jet fuel with hydrocarbon components from non-conventional sources—i.e., synthetic.

The title and scope of the specification are under development with a new ASTM subcommittee, D02.JO.06, and will be initially characterized as work item WK20470. In the ASTM taxonomy, a Work Item (WK) may be a new standard or a revision to an existing standard that is under development by a committee.

The DO2.JO committee handles specifications for aviation fuels. The committee also has begun work on a specification for ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE) blending with aviation spark-ignition fuel (WK16902).

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

Survey: 94% of US Consumers Have Made Lifestyle Changes Due to Gasoline Prices

High gas prices have caused 94% of consumers to make lifestyle changes to keep costs down, according to a survey conducted by DMS Research and sponsored by MapQuest. Among the changes are more careful route planning (57%), walking or biking more (24%), partially filling gas tanks (31%), and making a conscious effort to drive less (82%).

In addition, 66% of consumers say that high gas prices have caused them to alter vacation plans, with 34% canceling their vacation plans altogether. Another 37% have opted to take shorter trips that are closer to home.

Other top-line survey findings include:

  • More than 80% of respondents are forfeiting day-to-day activities and changing their spending habits by dining out less (62%), giving up heating and air conditioning (19%) and resorting to only paying the minimum balance on credit cards (18%). Additionally, nearly one out of ten consumers are stopping or cutting back on medications.

  • More than half of consumers are unwilling to take road trips of more than 100 miles.

  • Twenty-four percent of consumers are turning to the Internet to search for cheap gas prices, and more than half intend to utilize websites to determine the cost difference between driving and flying when planning their next trip. Additionally, when evaluating modes of transportation for a trip 58% of consumers are the most concerned with cost of gas vs. airplane ticket fare.

  • Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed feel that the Federal government should step in and set limits on prices and 27% of consumers believe the oil companies are to blame for the continually rising gas prices.

DMS gathered data from a national sample of 1,001 Internet users (age 18+). Interviews were collected from June 5 - 11, 2008.

June 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

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