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December 2008

December 31, 2008

3rd Quarter 2008 Gasoline Use in California Declined 6.1%; Diesel Use Dropped 10.4%

The California State Board of Equalization (BOE) released gasoline and diesel consumption figures for September and complete figures for the third quarter of 2008. The third quarter of 2008 marked the tenth consecutive three-month period to show lower gasoline consumption. In the third quarter of 2008, Californians used 242.6 million gallons less than the third quarter last year—a decline of 6.1%.

Net taxable gasoline gallons (including aviation gasoline) in the third quarter of the last nine years. Click to enlarge.

Comparing monthly gasoline consumption over the same month a year earlier, gasoline consumption declined by 4.3% in September 2008 from September last year. Californians consumed a total of 1.22 billion gallons of gasoline in September, 54.6 million gallons below the same month a year ago. The average California gasoline price at the pump in September was $3.84 per gallon, a 31.5% change from the average price the same month in 2007 when it was $2.92.

Diesel consumption in California declined 10.4% in the third quarter of 2008 from the third quarter last year. A total of 731.5 million gallons of diesel fuel was sold in the third quarter of 2008, which is 84.7 million gallons less than the third quarter last year.

Diesel fuel sold for use on California roads in September 2008 declined 8.8% over September 2007; the total used was 254.4 million gallons, which is 24.6 million gallons below the year before. The decreased diesel consumption reflects both the impacts of higher diesel prices of $4.09 in September 2008 and the slowing economy that is associated with less freight movement on California roads and highways. California diesel prices were up 35.4% in September 2008 compared to September 2007 when the average diesel price was $3.02.

The BOE is able to monitor gallons through tax receipts paid by fuel distributors. Figures for October 2008 are scheduled to be available near the end of January 2009.

December 31, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ford ’s New Active Park Assist Leverages Electric Power Assisted Steering; Nearly 90% of Ford Lineup to Have EPAS by 2012

Ford’s Active Park Assist. Click to enlarge.

Ford is introducing a new Active Park Assist technology on its 2010 Lincoln MKS flagship sedan and new Lincoln MKT seven-passenger luxury crossover. Available in mid-2009 as an option, Active Park Assist uses an ultrasonic-based sensing system and Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) to position the vehicle for parallel parking, calculate the optimal steering angle and quickly steer the vehicle into a parking spot.

Active Park Assist is enabled by Ford’s advanced EPAS technology. In addition to helping with parallel parking, EPAS improves fuel economy up to 5%, while reducing CO2 emissions and enhancing steering performance compared with traditional hydraulic powered-assisted steering systems.

EPAS saves fuel primarily because the steering system is powered by an electric motor connected to vehicle’s battery, as opposed to engine-mounted hydraulic pump steering systems. By 2012, Ford plans to fit nearly 90% of the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury lineup with EPAS.

Active Park Assist system uses sensors on the front and rear of the vehicle to guide the vehicle into a parking space. Ford’s system requires less driver interface than camera-reliant parking assist systems, and reduces the risk of selecting a parking spot that is too tight. Ford’s Active Park Assist also works in downhill parking situations, unlike competing systems.

  • The driver activates the system by pressing an instrument panel button, which activates the ultrasonic sensors to measure and identify a feasible parallel parking space. The system then prompts the driver to accept the system assistance to park.

  • The steering system then takes over and steers the car into the parking space hands-free. The driver still shifts the transmission and operates the gas and brake pedals.

  • A visual and/or audible driver interface advises the driver about the proximity of other cars, objects and people and provides instructions.

  • While the steering is all done automatically, the driver remains responsible for safe parking and can interrupt the system by grasping the steering wheel.

As we use advanced technology like Electric Power Assisted Steering to improve the fuel efficiency across our vehicle lineup, we have the opportunity to introduce new comfort and convenience innovations like Active Parking Assist. This is technology not for the sake of technology, but technology designed to meet the needs and wants of customers.

—Ali Jammoul, Ford’s chief engineer for chassis engineering and steering systems

As Ford introduces EPAS in more vehicles, it will be able to offer Active Parking Assist in more models. In addition, Ford is working on using EPAS and other sensors for other smart technologies, including one that could prevent a vehicle from drifting out of lane on the highway.

Active Park Assist works in tandem with other new technologies that will be offered on the 2010 MKS and MKT and other Ford Motor Company vehicles, including Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and Cross Traffic Alert. BLIS employs a sensor on the outboard rear quarter panel that monitors the traditional blind spot area, and can notify the driver with a warning indicator light in the corresponding side view mirror if the sensors in this optional system detect a vehicle in the blind spot. Cross Traffic Alert uses BLIS sensors to help detect cross traffic when backing out of a parking space.

(A hat-tip to S R!)


  • Michael Wellenzohn (2008) Improved Fuel Consumption through Steering Assist with Power on Demand (SAE 2008-21-0046)

December 31, 2008 in Fuel Efficiency, Vehicle Systems | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Jaguar Introduces New 3.0L Diesel for European Market

The new AJ-V6D. Click to enlarge.

Jaguar is introducing a new 3.0-liter diesel engine—the AJ-V6D Gen III—in two power levels in its XF Diesel S sedan for the European market. The new V6 engine, derived from the 2.7-liter diesel, improves fuel economy by 12% and produces 10% less CO2 (179 g/km) than the 2.7L, while increasing power by 33%. The new 3.0L engines are Euro-5 compliant.

The 275PS (271 hp, 202 kW) version delivers 600 Nm of torque, accelerates the sedan from 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, and has combined fuel economy of 35 mpg US (42 mpg UK, 6.7 L/100km)—a 12% improvement in fuel economy over the 2.7-liter V6 diesel. The engine is also available in a 240PS (237 hp, 177 kW) variant, with 16% more power and 15% more torque than the 2.7-liter diesel.

Torque buildup (top) and torque gradient (bottom) for the AJ-V6D Gen III compared to the 2.7L diesel at 1,500 rpm. Click to enlarge.

A key feature of the new engine is the parallel sequential turbocharger system, the first of its type to be fitted to a V-engine. Delivering high torque throughout the entire engine rev range, improved throttle response and low CO2 emissions, the twin-turbochargers work sequentially to deliver 61% more torque from 1,500 rpm than the 2.7L diesel.

For most day-to-day driving, including highway cruising, a variable-geometry primary turbocharger does all the work, while a smaller, fixed-geometry, secondary turbo is dormant, saving energy and improving efficiency. When the engine revs climb above 2,800rpm, the secondary turbo is brought on line within 300 milliseconds with no discernible turbo-lag or power-step.

Valves under the control of the engine management system isolate the secondary turbocharger both from the exhaust stream and the engine inlet tract when it is not required to alleviate pumping losses.

Some twin-turbo systems rely on a smaller turbo for primary use, only using a larger turbo when higher power is required. Though effective, this has the disadvantage of raised exhaust pressure and increased pumping losses, Jaguar says. The Jaguar system uses a larger, variable-geometry turbocharger more of the time, which not only reduces pumping losses, but also improves fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Jaguar engineers particularly focused on the issue of turbocharger lag at low engine speeds. The new AJ-V6D Gen III 3.0-liter diesels deliver 500 Nm of torque 500 milliseconds from idle.

A new commonrail fuel-injection system delivers up to five injections on each cycle at a pressure of 2,000 bar. Each injector has seven holes. The piezo crystals in Jaguar’s new injectors are fitted nearer the tip—i.e., they are mounted deeper inside the engine providing better sound insulation and quieter operation.

Another new feature of the third-generation fuel-injection system is the metering mode. Traditional diesel commonrail fuel pumps oversupply the injectors, with the surplus being returned to the fuel tank. During this process, fuel temperature increases and cooling it again consumes energy. In metering mode, the pump delivers fuel to the injectors only at the rate required. Consequentially, there is no rise in fuel temperature and no wasted energy.

The two cylinder heads, with four valves per cylinder, are made from aluminium and the cylinder block is made from compact graphite iron (CGI). The higher tensile strength of CGI makes it possible to cast a smaller block; some 80mm shorter than a conventional grey cast iron equivalent.

The new, water-cooled, exhaust gas recirculation system (EGR) is more efficient and consumes less power than the 2.7-liter unit. The valves that allow exhaust gas into the system are located on the hot side of the engine nearest the exhaust manifolds; these valves never cool while the engine is running, so there is no condensation of combustion deposits which occurs on engines fitted with cold side valves, hence the EGR system always works at maximum efficiency. Since the EGR cooling is so effective, exhaust gasses can bypass the system and return to the exhaust pipes, allowing faster engine warm-up from start-up and reducing emissions still further.

The Jaguar XF diesel. Click to enlarge.

Euro 5 emissions compliance is achieved through using conventional diesel oxidation catalysts and diesel particulate filters (DPFs). NOx levels are reduced at source through the combustion system design, the addition of the new commonrail injection system and the new EGR system with by-pass. As a result, specialized NOX exhaust after-treatment is unnecessary, avoiding a potential cost and the need to use additional precious metals in the exhaust system.

The XF sedan mates the new 3.0L engine with a six-speed ZF 6HP28 automatic transmission.

December 31, 2008 in Diesel, Engines, Europe | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Beijing Implementing Plan to Remove Heaviest Polluting Vehicles

Gasgoo. Beginning 1 January, Beijing is implementing a plan (earlier post) to ban vehicles that do not meet the Euro 1 emissions standard, which was adopted in China in 1992.

Before the 2008 Olympic Games in April, the environmental watchdog of Beijing labeled the city’s heavy-polluting vehicles “Yellow” and thus has made them known as “yellow-label vehicles.” Beijing now has 353,800 yellow-label vehicles, which account for just 10% of the total number of motor vehicles but make 50% of auto emissions.

Yellow label cars will be prohibited from driving within the 5th ring road beginning 1 January, and banned within the 6th ring road beginning 1 October.

The 6th ring road in Beijing. Click to enlarge.

Beijing has multiple ring roads (beltways)—the 6

th ring road (physically the fifth), is currently the outermost at some 15-20 km from the center of Beijing. This toll expressway ring road links Beijing with Shunyi District, Tongzhou District, Changping District and Daxing District.

Beijing will also provide subsidies of up to 25,000 yuan (US$3,660) for scrapping an older, higher emitting car and buying a new one.

December 31, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Lawson To Add 150 Mitsubishi i MiEVs To Corporate Fleet

Nikkei. Convenience store chain operator Lawson Inc. plans to add 150 Mitsubishi i MiEV electric vehicles to its fleet in the summer of 2009. The company may add as many as 1,600 i MiEVs eventually, according to the report in the Nikkei.

Because the i MiEV’s traveling distance on a fully charged battery is around 160 km (99 miles), Lawson intends to deploy the vehicles first in the Tokyo metropolitan area, in the Kinki region and in other areas, where distances between stores are short.

Prior to the full-scale introduction in the summer, the company plans to begin using a single i MiEV in the Tokyo metropolitan area on Jan. 12 to evaluate its ease of use and effectiveness in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Lawson will also install a rapid charger for electric vehicles at one of its convenience stores in the Tokyo area in fiscal 2009 or later and provide it for use by customers as a trial service.

December 31, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

UK Met Office Forecasts 2009 to be One of Top 5 Warmest Years on Record Despite Cool Pacific

Warmest 50 years, color-coded by period. The inset shows the entire data range from 1850. Click to enlarge.

Climate scientists at the UK’s Met Office and the University of East Anglia forecast the 2009 global temperature to be 14.44 °C—more than 0.4 °C above the long-term average. This would make 2009 warmer than 2008 (preliminarily pegged at 14.3 °C, the tenth-warmest on a record dating back to 1850); the warmest since 2005 (14.48 °C); and one of the top-five warmest years on record, despite continued cooling of huge areas of the tropical Pacific Ocean.

The 2009 forecast includes an updated decadal forecast using a Met Office climate model. This indicates a rapid return of global temperature to the long-term warming trend, with an increasing probability of record temperatures after 2009.

A cool wedge continues to dominate the tropical Pacific. Image credit: NASA/JPL. Click to enlarge.

The Pacific Ocean is currently in a strong, cool phase which the UK Met attributes to a La Niña phenomena and others to the ocean also being in the cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), a long-term ocean fluctuation of the Pacific Ocean. The PDO waxes and wanes approximately every 20 to 30 years. El Niño and La Niña can be thought of as lying on top of the large scale temperature distribution determined by the PDO, according to NASA/JPL.

Phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña have a significant influence on global surface temperature. Warmer conditions in 2009 are expected because the strong cooling influence of the recent powerful La Niña has given way to a weaker La Niña. Further warming to record levels is likely once a moderate El Niño develops.

—Professor Chris Folland from the Met Office Hadley Centre

These cyclical influences can mask underlying warming trends.

The fact that 2009, like 2008, will not break records does not mean that global warming has gone away. What matters is the underlying rate of warming—the period 2001-2007, with an average of 14.44 °C, was 0.21 °C warmer than corresponding values for the period 1991-2000.

—Professor Phil Jones, Director of the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia
“Globally [2008] would have been considered warm, even as recently as the 1970s or 1980s, but a scorcher for our Victorian ancestors.”
—Dr. Myles Allen, Oxford University

The 1961-90 global average mean temperature is 14.0 °C. The warmest year on record is 1998, which was 14.52 °C, a year dominated by an extreme El Niño. The ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1997.

The Met Office Hadley Centre advises the UK government on climate change research. Its work is, in part, jointly funded by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs); DECC (Dept for Energy and Climate Change and MoD (Ministry of Defence). The Met Office, in collaboration with the University of East Anglia, maintains a global temperature record which is used in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Each January the Met Office, in conjunction with the University of East Anglia, issues a forecast of the global surface temperature for the coming year. The forecast takes into account known contributing factors, such as El Niño and La Niña, increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, the cooling influences of industrial aerosol particles, solar effects and natural variations of the oceans.

Over the nine years, 2000-2008, since the Met Office has issued forecasts of annual global temperature the mean value of the forecast error is 0.06 °C.

December 31, 2008 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

NASA Study Links Severe Storm Increases and Global Warming

The frequency of extremely high clouds in Earth’s tropics—the type associated with severe storms and rainfall—is increasing as a result of global warming, according to a study by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Extremely high clouds, known as deep convective clouds, are typically associated with severe storms and rainfall. In this AIRS image of Hurricane Katrina, taken 28 August 2005, the day before Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, the eye of the storm was surrounded by a super cluster of 528 deep convective clouds (depicted in dark blue). The temperatures of the tops of such clouds are colder than 210 degrees Kelvin (-82 °F, -63 °C). Image credit: NASA/JPL Click to enlarge.

In a presentation at fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, JPL Senior Research Scientist Hartmut Aumann outlined the results of a study based on five years of data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua spacecraft. The AIRS data were used to observe certain types of tropical clouds linked with severe storms, torrential rain and hail. The instrument typically detects about 6,000 of these clouds each day. Aumann and his team found a strong correlation between the frequency of these clouds and seasonal variations in the average sea surface temperature of the tropical oceans.

For every degree Centigrade (1.8 °F) increase in average ocean surface temperature, the team observed a 45% increase in the frequency of the very high clouds. At the present rate of global warming of 0.13 degrees Celsius (0.23 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade, the team inferred the frequency of these storms can be expected to increase by six percent per decade.

Climate modelers have long speculated that the frequency and intensity of severe storms may or may not increase with global warming. Aumann said results of the study will help improve their models.

Clouds and rain have been the weakest link in climate prediction. The interaction between the daytime warming of the sea surface under clear-sky conditions and increases in the formation of low clouds, high clouds and, ultimately, rain is very complicated. The high clouds in our observations—typically at altitudes of 20 kilometers (12 miles) and higher—present the greatest difficulties for current climate models, which aren’t able to resolve cloud structures smaller than about 250 kilometers (155 miles) in size.

—Hartmut Aumann

Aumann said the results of his study, published recently in Geophysical Research Letters, are consistent with another NASA-funded study by Frank Wentz and colleagues in 2005. That study found an increase in the global rain rate of 1.5 percent per decade over 18 years, a value that is about five times higher than the value estimated by climate models that were used in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


  • Aumann, H. H., A. Ruzmaikin, and J. Teixeira (2008), Frequency of severe storms and global warming, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L19805, doi: 10.1029/2008GL034562

December 31, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

California Rolls Out New Vehicle Labeling Scheme to Show Environmental Impact

Beginning 1 January, every 2009 model year and newer car sold in California will be required to carry a label that clearly ranks the vehicle’s environmental impact.

Sample of the new label. Click to enlarge.

The label will show the simple ranking system that is intended to provide consumers practical information that can help them choose the most environmentally friendly vehicle that still meets their transportation needs.

The environmental performance label will have two scores on a scale of 1-10: a Smog Score and a Global Warming Score. The average new car will score five on both scales. The higher the score the more environmentally friendly the car is.

The California Air Resources Board also hosts a consumer web site, www.DriveClean.ca.gov, that provides information on the cleanest, most efficient cars on the market.

December 31, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

December 30, 2008

GMAC to Resume Financing With Relaxed Credit Restrictions

On the heels of its approval as a bank holding company (earlier post) and a $5-billion infusion from the US Treasury (earlier post), GMAC Financial Services will immediately resume auto financing for a broader spectrum of US customers as a result of the expanded access to funding as a bank holding company.

The company will modify its credit criteria to include retail financing for customers with a credit bureau score of 621 or above, a significant expansion of credit compared to the 700 minimum score put in place two months ago.

At this time, GMAC will not finance higher risk transactions characterized by a credit bureau score of 620 or below. The company will utilize both GMAC Bank and funding from other sources to resume its traditional spectrum of prime-based credit, appropriately pricing for risk and requiring down payments where necessary.

GMAC’s expanded financing policy and improved retail financing rates will apply to both new and certified used vehicles. Dealer wholesale financing remains a priority for GMAC, and is unchanged.

The actions of the federal government to support GMAC are having an immediate and meaningful effect on our ability to provide credit to automotive customers. We will continue to employ responsible credit standards, but will be able to relax the constraints we put in place a few months ago due to the credit crisis. We will immediately put our renewed access to capital to use to facilitate the purchase of cars and trucks in the US.

The majority of GMAC’s auto financing has been in the prime arena. Therefore, opening access to credit for those with CB scores of 621 or better will allow us to return to more normal levels of financing volume, and should help in efforts to stabilize the US auto industry.

—GMAC President Bill Muir

December 30, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Study Finds Biodiesel Blends with Marine Fuel Can Improve Thermal Efficiency and Reduce CO Emissions; NOx and CO2 Emissions Increase

Brake thermal efficiency (top) and fuel consumption (bottom) of 100% biodiesel, 100% marine fuel, and three biodiesel-marine fuel blends. Click to enlarge. Adopted from Gökalp (2008), Credit: ACS

Blending biodiesel with marine fuel can improve the brake thermal efficiency (BTE) of a diesel engine and reduce CO emissions, although it increases fuel consumption, according to a study by researchers at Sakarya University and Kocaeli University in Turkey. Use of biodiesel increased NOx emissions and slightly increased CO2 emissions (measuring actual CO2 out, not factoring in the renewable character of the fuel) in the study.

The results were among the findings of a larger study on the effects on emissions characteristics and first- and second-law efficiencies of pure soy biodiesel and three different biodiesel blends with standard No. 2 diesel and marine fuels in a diesel engine. A paper on the work was published online 24 December in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

Physical characteristics of test fuels
Fuel propertyASTM
Diesel SME Marine
Density [kg/m3, 15 °C] D1298 850 881 830
Viscosity [cSt, 40 °C] D445 2.8 4.173 3.7
LHV [kJ/kg] D4809 42,640 37,388 44,308
Cetane number D976 54   45
D613   50  
Sulfur [wt %] D4294 0.38   0.29
Flash point [°C] D93 74 105 75
Cloud point [°C] D97 -4   -6
D2500   -3  
Particulate matter [mg/L] D5452 2   3

The team used a four-cylinder, four-stroke, direct-injection “TZDK Basak” diesel engine that was originally designed for No. 2 diesel. The 3.14L engine has a maximum power output of 40 kW (54 hp) with a compression ratio of 16.8:1. They first tested the engine with 100% diesel (D2), 100% marine fuel (MF) and 100% soybean oil methyl ester (SME). They then tested the engine with 5%, 20% and 50% blends of SME with D2 and 5%, 20% and 50% blends of SME with MF.

NOx (top), CO (middle) and CO2 (bottom) results with 100% marine fuel, 100% SME, and three blends. Click to enlarge. Adopted from Gökalp (2008), Credit: ACS

All tests were performed under steady-state conditions. The brake-specific fuel consumption (BSFC), brake thermal efficiency (BTE), mechanical efficiency (ME), exhaust gas temperature, and NOx CO, and CO2 emissions were investigated.

Among the findings for the marine fuel and marine-biodiesel blend testing were:

  • Running neat (100%) SME biodiesel yielded maximum values for BTE (the ratio of the power output to the fuel energy input). For all fuels, maximum thermal efficiency is obtained at 1,600 rpm, where the mean fuel consumption is at a minimum.

  • Because the heating value of SME is lower than both that of diesel and marine fuel, its use increases fuel consumption.

  • Use of biodiesel at any blend level, increased NOx emissions. The higher the percentage of biodiesel, the greater the NOx.

  • CO emissions decreased with an increasing SME percentage in marine fuel. Biodiesel fuels contain about 11% oxygen by weight, aiding more complete combustion, and causing the formation of CO2 rather than CO.

  • Actual CO2 emissions for biodiesel blends were slightly higher than those from pure marine diesel.


  • Burak Gökalp, Hakan S. Soyhan, Halil İ. Saraç, Dilek Bostan and Yonca Şengün (2008) Biodiesel Addition to Standard Diesel Fuels and Marine Fuels Used in a Diesel Engine: Effects on Emission Characteristics and First- and Second-Law Efficiencies. Energy Fuels Article ASAP doi: 10.1021/ef800392q

December 30, 2008 in Biodiesel, Ports and Marine | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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