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September 2008

September 30, 2008

Enable IPC Acquires Ultracapacitor Company

A Ragone plot with two SolRayo candidate materials indicated. Click to enlarge.

Enable IPC Corp. has acquired a controlling interest in SolRayo LLC, a Wisconsin technology company developing new inexpensive nanoparticle-based ultracapacitors for use in various renewable energy, industrial, consumer, and automotive applications.

The SolRayo acquisition is in exchange for in kind contributions from a major grant to be announced shortly. SolRayo was founded by the same scientists who developed Enable IPC’s patent-pending ultracapacitor technology.

SolRayo has developed a new method of fabricating ultracapacitors that utilizes less expensive carbon cloths or papers as the electrode backing material. These materials are coated with nanoparticles that are able to improve the performance at a lower cost.

Dr. Mark Daugherty, CTO of Enable IPC, having previously served as CEO of Virent Technologies, will serve as the new SolRayo President. SolRayo’s co-founder, Kevin Leonard, will stay on as Chief Technology Officer.

Enable IPC (Intellectual Property Commercialization) was formed to bring new technologies to market either through licensing, manufacturing, or a combination of the two. It currently is developing two primary products: a nanowire-based microbattery, and a nanoparticle-based ultracapacitor with more energy capacity.

Among future products Enable IPC is considering are carbon nanotube/quantum dot-based Li-air batteries and ultracapacitor/battery combination units.

September 30, 2008 in Batteries | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

LightEVs Signs with EESTOR for Two-and Three-Wheeled EV Markets

Light Electric Vehicles Company (LightEVs) signed a world-wide exclusive technology agreement with EEStor, Inc to provide electric vehicles and propulsion systems using EEStor’s Electric Energy Storage Units (EESUs) (earlier post) for the two- and three-wheeled vehicles markets.

The EEStor EESU—a high-power-density multi-layered barium titanate ceramic ultracapacitor—is expected to provide energy densities of more than 450 Wh/kg and more than 700 Wh/L; charge in minutes; and have extremely long life. They are expected to deliver high current without loss of efficiency or excess heat, and they should operate at optimum efficiency over a wide range of ambient temperatures. They are to be configurable for any output voltage that optimizes vehicle performance, and to maintain that output voltage at a constant level over the span of each discharge cycle. Production is now expected to start mid-2009.

LightEVs expects to offer a variety of electric propulsion systems for use in electric bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, and three-wheeled vehicles in partnership with existing manufacturers and under its own brands.

We are planning an electric bicycle that will have a one kilowatt-hour EESU weighing less than five pounds which should provide approximately 100 miles or more of range, and we are considering a three-wheel two-passenger electric vehicle which could offer EESU options permitting ranges from about 120 miles to over 500 miles on a single charge, and a top speed of over 85 mph.

—John Stephens, Executive Vice President, LightEVs

In January, Lockheed Martin signed an exclusive international rights agreement to integrate and market Electrical Energy Storage Units (EESU) from EEStor, Inc., for military and homeland security applications. (Earlier post.)

In 2007, Canadian electric automaker ZENN Motor Company took an initial 3.8% equity position in EESTOR. Under its technology agreement with EESTOR, ZENN holds certain worldwide exclusive licenses for EEStor’s storage units for new small and medium-sized low-speed and highway-capable vehicles (up to 1,400 kg curb weight). ZENN also holds worldwide exclusive rights for EEStor units for the conversion of any used internal combustion passenger vehicle to electric drive.

September 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack

New Process Combines Ionic Liquids and Solid Catalysts for Mild Pre-Treatment of Biomass

Main product and byproducts from the acid catalyzed hydrolysis of cellulose. Click to enlarge. Credit: Angewandte Chemie.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research (MPI für Kohlenforschung) at Mülheim, Germany, have combined ionic liquids and solid catalysts in a new mild pre-treatment process for cellulosic biomass.

With this process, cellulose undergoes selective depolymerization, yielding cellulose oligomers (cellooligomers) and subsequently sugars without any substantial formation of side products. Even wood, a lignocellulosic material, is hydrolyzed using this methodology.

More conventional pre-treatment options for freeing sugars from cellulose for subsequent processing into fuels or chemicals can use high temperatures and pressures, or aggressive acid baths.

Ferdi Schüth and his colleagues Roberto Rinaldi and Regina Palkovits dissolved cellulose in an ionic liquid (1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride). To this they added water, and then the commercially available resin. Depolymerization of the cellulose was carried out at 373 K (100°C) for 5 hours.

Schüth suggests stopping the process at the oligomer stage, because sugars are soluble in ionic liquids, and therefore hard to separate. The oligomers can be separated from the ionic liquids by adding water. Schüth suggests that these cellulose oligomers could then be treated with enzymes to produce fuels or chemical feedstocks.

The solid resins can be filtered out from the reaction mixture and recycled as catalysts. Scale-up would require an energy-efficient mechanism for separating the ionic liquid solvent from the added water.

It’s been known for half a decade that ionic liquids can dissolve cellulose—even from solid wood; while researchers have also tried using solid acid resins to break down cellulose, but only in water and without much success. Schüth suggests that cultural boundaries between research communities may explain why nobody has connected the two process before.

—“Cracking Wood Gently”


  • Roberto Rinaldi, Regina Palkovits, Ferdi Schüth (2008) Depolymerization of Cellulose Using Solid Catalysts in Ionic Liquids. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 47, doi: 10.1002/anie.200802879

  • Michael Gross, “Cracking Wood Gently”, Chemistry World

September 30, 2008 in Biomass, Catalysts, Cellulosic ethanol | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Australia Seeks Public Discussion of Measures to Encourage the Adoption of More Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

Projected average CO2 emissions of the Australian LDV fleet under a range of CO2 targets. Fleet-wide improvements take a long time even with aggressive new vehicle targets. Click to enlarge.

The Australian Transport Council and the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Working Group, with support from the Australian Government, have released a public discussion paper on potential measures to increase the adoption of more fuel-efficient, low-carbon emission vehicles.

Among the measures considered are a CO2 emissions standard for new vehicles; standards for non-engine components; and feebate programs. Closing date for public comments is 7 November 2008.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) requested the ATC and the EPHC to provide a report on relevant programs and incentives and to provide advice on opportunities for reforms to regulations, standards, codes and labelling requirements to improve vehicle fuel efficiency.

Following consideration of an initial report, COAG requested ATC and EPHC to develop jointly a package of vehicle fuel efficiency measures. In response to that request, the two produced the public discussion paper: Vehicle Fuel Efficiency: Potential measures to encourage the uptake of more fuel efficient, low carbon emission vehicles.

The Australian Vehicle Fleet. Australia has about 15 million motor vehicles on its roads, with passenger vehicles accounting for 77% of that. The fleet growth rate has averaged 2.9% per year since 2003. In 2007, 1.05 million vehicles sold in Australia, 60% of which were passenger cars and 19% of which were SUVs. SUV sales have been gaining steadily over the past 20 years.

Gasoline is the dominant passenger vehicle fuel, while diesel dominates in the heavy vehicle sector. Diesel passenger car sales have risen from 1% in 2005 to more than 4% in 2007. Around 3% of the total vehicle fleet is powered by LPG; annual sales of factory-fitted LPG models rose to 1.6% in 2007.

Average fuel consumption for the gasoline-fueled passenger vehicle fleet is 11.2 L/100km (21 mpg US). Average fuel consumption for diesel-fueled passenger vehicles is higher—12.5 L/100km (18.8 mpg US), reflecting the current situation in which these vehicles tend to be larger SUVs .

The average fuel consumption of all light vehicles has hardly changed over the last decade. Engine technology in terms of fuel consumption per power output has improved substantially and there has been an improvement in fuel efficiency in the new passenger vehicle fleet. However, potential fuel savings across the whole light vehicle fleet have been offset by increases in vehicle power, size and weight, by the strong growth in sales of four wheel drive sports utility vehicles (SUVs), and increases in the fuel consumption of light commercial vehicles.

—“Vehicle Fuel Efficiency”

The transport sector contributed 79.1 Mt CO2e (13.7%) of Australia’s net greenhouse gas emissions in 2006. Road transport was responsible for 87% of that, or 12.0% of Australia’s total emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from road transport have been increasing at an average of 1.7% per year since 1990.

Ongoing strong demand growth in all areas of road transportation is expected to lead to ongoing growth in CO2 emissions within the road transport sector. The Australian Government has committed to cutting total greenhouse gas emissions by 60%, from 2000 levels, by 2050.

The primary mechanism for achieving these cuts will be through the development and implementation of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS)—an economy-wide carbon cap program—which begins operation in 2010. The Government is proposing including the transport sector in the CPRS; the carbon price arising from the CPRS will be reflected in the price of transport fuels.

Existing and proposed international greenhouse emission targets for passenger vehicles. All standards are converted to gCO2/km, according to the new European drive cycle (NEDC). The 2012 figure for the EU assumes a 120 g/km achievement. The California line is dotted, pending go-ahead. Click to enlarge.

Fuel consumption targets. Australia does not have a mandatory fuel consumption requirement such as the US CAFE. It does have a voluntary national average fuel consumption (NAFC) target for new passenger cars, negotiated between the Australian Government and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).

The target established in 2003 was 6.8 L/100km (34.6 mpg US) for gasoline passenger cars by 2010. Achieving this would represent an estimated 18% improvement in the fuel consumption of new vehicles between 2002 and 2010.

Australia changed the fuel consumption testing procedure that underpinned the NAFC target in 2004. The revised test (in Australian Design Rule (ADR) 81/01) produces higher nominal fuel consumption figures for the same vehicle model than the previous testing procedure. ADR81/01 also expanded the scope of vehicles to include diesel and LPG vehicles, and increased the maximum mass from 2.7 tonnes to 3.5 tonnes.

Australia is converting the NAFC target to a National Carbon Emissions (NACE) target expressed in gCO2/km, although agreement on a NACE target has yet to be achieved, according to the report.

The FCAI has proposed a NACE target of 222 g CO2/km for all new light vehicles by 2010. An independent analysis, commissioned by the FCAI and the Australian Government in 2004, recommended a NACE target of 214 g CO2/km for new light vehicles by 2010. The FCAI proposal represents virtually no improvement over the NACE already achieved in 2007.

—“Vehicle Fuel Efficiency”

Measures. The discussion paper considers a set of possible complementary measures to support the CPRS within the road transport sector. Key measures include:

  • Impose sales-weighted average CO2 emission standards for new light vehicles. The report suggests that to provide adequate time for the vehicle industry to respond, a two-step standard could be considered, with an initial target date of 2015 and a longer term target for 2020.

  • Realign existing State and Territory stamp duty and/or registration charges for light motor vehicles on a sliding scale based on greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Encourage consumer uptake of low emission vehicles by establishing a balanced set of direct financial incentives and disincentives based on the CO2 emissions performance of a vehicle—i.e., feebates.

  • Develop a voluntary scheme that supports the adoption of best-practice fuel efficiency strategies in government and business light vehicle fleets. The measure could include (1) comprehensive information and advice on greenhouse abatement strategies to government and business fleet operators; and (2) a national fleet accreditation process which supports government and business fleet operators to set and achieve voluntary, enterprise-level fleet greenhouse emission targets.

  • Including fuel consumption data in vehicle advertisements.

  • Introduce standards or labelling requirements for non-engine components—such as tires, tire pressure monitors and vehicle air conditioning units—which impact on vehicle fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

  • Establish a heavy-duty vehicle environmental rating scheme to provide guidance for heavy-vehicle buyers in relation to fuel efficiency.

  • Establish a scheme aimed at assisting road transport operators to evaluate new low emission transport technologies applicable to light commercial vehicles, heavy trucks and buses. This would provide the transport industry with independent information on options to reduce fuel consumption.

The ATC/EPHC Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Working Group will consider the comments and advice received during the consultation process to inform the preparation of a final report to the ATC and the EPHC. ATC and the EPHC expect to consider the final report in early 2009.


September 30, 2008 in Australia, Climate Change, Fuel Efficiency, Policy | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Japan Auto Output Drops 10.9% in August; Domestic Sales Down 10.7%

Japan automobile production in August 2008 dropped 10.9% to 769,829 from 864,283 units in the same month last year, according to data from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. This marks the first year-on-year decline in production in thirteen months.

Production of all passenger cars dropped 10.7% to 653,485 units. Standard cars with engines of larger than 2.0-liter displacement dropped 10.1% to 393,080 units; small cars dropped 12.2% to 172,334 units; and mini cars with engines of less than 0.6-liter displacement dropped 10.5% to 88,071 units.

Production of trucks dropped 14.1%. Standard trucks were down 5.4% to 54,822 units, while production of small trucks dropped 18.2% to 23,694 units. Mini trucks (engines of less that 0.66-liter displacement) were down 24.5% to 28,395 units.

Exports dropped 2.2% in August to 496,735 vehicles—the first year-on-year drop in exports in 37 months—on a decline in passenger car exports.

Passenger car exports were down 4.0% to 430,691 units; truck exports rose 6.7% to 54,363 units, and bus exports rose 39.3% to 11,681 units.

Japan domestic sales in August 2008 posted 310,091 vehicles, down 10.7% compared with August 2007. Passenger car sales dropped 8.0% to 255,295 units; trucks were down 21.4% to 53,730 units; and buses were down 23.9% to 1,066 units.

September 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Shell Contacts Jacobs for Ethanol and Biodiesel Blending Facilities in Euro Depots

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. has received a 3-year contract from Shell Supply and Distribution to provide front-end design, engineering, procurement, and construction management services for Shell’s European biofuels program. The objective of the program is to install bioethanol and biodiesel blending facilities in Shell depots throughout Europe.

Under the program, Jacobs will develop conceptual designs and basic engineering packages for various biofuel blending projects, progressing to full implementation and construction management for most of the projects. Jacobs will execute the work in its Ghent, Belgium, office.

Officials did not disclose the contract value.

Jacobs, with more than 56,000 employees and revenues exceeding $10.0 billion, provides technical, professional, and construction services globally.

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

Lignol and Weyerhaeuser to Collaborate on Commercial Development of Cellulose-based Products and Biochemicals

Lignol Energy Corporation, a cellulosic ethanol and biochemical company, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Weyerhaeuser Company to explore the development of commercial applications of biochemical outputs from Lignol’s proprietary biorefining technology.

The parties have also agreed to evaluate the development of a commercial-scale Lignol biorefinery plant at or near a Weyerhaeuser mill site. The MOU excludes applications for transportation fuel. The initial scope of the MOU involves the testing of certain biomass feedstocks within Lignol’s facilities, including the company’s integrated industrial-scale biorefinery pilot plant located in Burnaby, British Columbia.

Lignol uses a modified solvent based pre-treatment technology for cellulosic biomass, originally developed by a former affiliate of General Electric, and then further developed and commercialized for wood-pulp applications by a subsidiary of Repap Enterprises Inc. The technology produces a clean pulp that converts biomass feedstock rapidly into fermentable sugars with high yield and lower enzyme costs.

The process also produces co-products with revenues that mitigate the costs of production and commodity risks, including a high-quality cellulose fiber with applications in certain specialty markets and high-purity lignin (HP-L Lignin), an organic compound that is differentiated from other types of lignins that are typically produced as by-products in the traditional Kraft pulp manufacturing process.

Unique chemical and physical properties of HP-L Lignin include: greater purity; an absence of sulfur; low mineral content; hydrophobic properties; and higher reactivity. Lignol has developed novel methods to produce different lignins from each of the non-food cellulosic feedstocks it has processed.

Materials with novel properties can be developed from HP-L Lignin. For example, HP-L Lignin can be blended with industrial adhesives such as phenol formaldehyde, isocyanates and epoxy resins that can be used in coatings, and as a precursor for carbon fiber production, thereby reducing the use of and dependency on petrochemicals.

As part of the Lignol-Weyerhaeuser MOU, the two companies will assess yields and qualities of the biorefinery process outputs, including the cellulose fibers and HP-L Lignin, for commercial potential and evaluate the development of a commercial-scale Lignol biorefinery plant at or near a Weyerhaeuser mill site.

Earlier in September, Lignol and HA International, North America’s largest supplier of products for foundry core and mold production, announced a Joint Development Agreement for the development of commercial applications incorporating Lignol’s HP-L in foundry binders and associated applications.

Lignol Innovations Inc., the US subsidiary of Canada-based Lignol Energy Corp., is building a cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant in Grand Junction, Colorado. In January 2008, the US Department of Energy (DOE) approved Lignol’s funding application for a proposed cellulosic ethanol plant, including up to US$30 million in funding to construct the facility. (Earlier post.)

The proposed facility will be designed to process hard and soft woods and agricultural residues such as straw and corn stover. Lignol expects the facility, once operational, will process about 100 tonnes of feedstock per day and produce approximately 10 million liters of ethanol per year.

September 30, 2008 in Biomass, Cellulosic ethanol | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

California Gasoline Consumption Down in June and Second Quarter 2008

Consumption of gasoline in California declined 7.5% in June from the same month a year ago, according to figures from the State Board of Equalization (BOE).

California gasoline consumption in the first half of the year, from 2000. Click to enlarge.

In the second quarter of 2008, Californians used 191 million gallons of gasoline less than in the second quarter last year, a decline of 4.8%. The second quarter of 2008 marks the ninth consecutive three-month period to show less gas consumption.

The average California gas price at the pump in May was $4.02 per gallon and $4.53 in June 2008, which was a 36.0 percent change from the average price of June 2007 when it was $3.33. The BOE estimates that nearly twice as much sales tax is generated annually by higher gasoline prices than five years ago. Those higher prices generated approximately $3.6 billion in sales tax during 2007 when the average price was $3.12. In contrast, 2003’s gasoline sales generated $2.1 billion when the average pump price was $1.88.

June 2008 diesel fuel sold for use on California roads totaled 260 million gallons, which was 8.4% below that of June 2007. Diesel use in California declined 9.0% in the second quarter of 2008 from the same quarter a year ago. The decreased consumption reflects both the impacts of higher diesel prices and the slowing economy, which is associated with less freight movement on California roads and highways. California diesel prices were up 64.6% compared to June of 2007.

The BOE monitor gallons through tax receipts paid by fuel distributors. Figures for July 2008 are scheduled to be available near the end of October.

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

US House Rejection of Bailout Drives Auto Stocks, Oil Price Down

In the wake of the US House of Representatives torpedoing the $700-billion Wall Street bailout on Monday, the Dow plunged 777.68 points (6.98%), to close at 10,365.45, its lowest close in nearly three years. The dive bested the record for the largest single trading-day decline set on 17 September 2001, when the market reopened after 9/11. On a percentage basis, however, it was only the 17th biggest single-day decline for the Dow, much less severe than the 20+% drop in 1987.

Auto stocks were pummeled, with GM dropping 12.8% to $8.51; Ford falling 13.3% to $4.17; Daimler AG down 10.3%, to $50.84; Honda Motors down 9.6%, to $28.93; and Toyota Motor falling 7.9%, to $83.56.

Light sweet crude for November delivery dropped 8.9%—more than $10 a barrel—to $96.37 on the NYMEX. This was the second largest drop in dollar terms on an active contract.

The Detroit News noted that GM stock fell to its lowest close since June 1954, according to the University of Chicago’s Center for Research in Security Prices. GM’s market cap fell is now at $4.8 billion.

Ford Motor Co. stock hit its lowest close since February 1986, and now has a market capitalization of $9.43 billion.

September 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

California Governor Signs Anti-Sprawl Bill Into Law

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 375, the nation’s first law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by curbing sprawl. (Earlier post.)

This landmark bill takes California’s fight against global warming to a whole new level, and it creates a model that the rest of the country and world will use. When it comes to reducing greenhouse gases, California is first in tackling car emissions, first to tackle low-carbon fuels, and now with this landmark legislation, we are the first in the nation to tackle land-use planning. What this will mean is more environmentally-friendly communities, more sustainable developments, less time people spend in their cars, more alternative transportation options and neighborhoods we can safely and proudly pass on to future generations.

—Governor Schwarzenegger

SB 375 provides greenhouse gas emissions-reduction goals around which regions can plan—integrating disjointed planning activities and providing incentives for local governments and developers to follow new conscientiously-planned growth patterns.

SB 375 enhances the Air Resources Board’s (ARB) ability to reach our AB 32 goals by directing ARB to develop regional greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to be achieved from the automobile and light truck sectors for 2020 and 2035. ARB will also work with California’s 18 metropolitan planning organizations to align their regional transportation, housing and land-use plans and prepare a sustainable communities strategy to reduce the amount of vehicle miles traveled in their respective regions and demonstrate the region’s ability to attain its greenhouse gas reduction targets. Spending less time on the road is the single-most powerful way for California to reduce its carbon footprint in the short term.

Additionally, SB 375 provides incentives for creating attractive, walkable and sustainable communities and revitalizing existing communities. The bill also allows home builders to get relief from certain environmental reviews under the California Environmental Quality Act if they build projects consistent with the new sustainable community strategies. It will also encourage the development of more alternative transportation options—e.g., biking and walking—which will promote healthy lifestyles and reduce traffic congestion.

September 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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