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September 2009

September 30, 2009

Mitsubishi to Debut Concept Plug-in Hybrid and Concept Cargo Variant of the i-MiEV at Tokyo Show

PxmievThe PX MiEV. Click to enlarge.

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) will be showing a total of 16 cars at the 41st Tokyo Motor Show later in October, including two concept cars: the Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV plug-in hybrid and the i-MiEV CARGO. MMC will also show 10 current production vehicles that qualify for eco-car tax incentives in Japan.

MMC Plug-in Hybrid. Powered by the new Mitsubishi Plug-in Hybrid System, the Mitsubishi Concept-PX (plug-in hybrid crossover) MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) returns fuel economy in excess of 50 km/liter (118 mpg US, 2.0L/100km) on the Japanese 10-15 cycle.

The Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV’s front and rear wheels are powered by two permanent magnet synchronous motors with combined maximum output of 60 kW (80 hp) and 200 N·m (148 lb-ft) of torque. The vehicle is also fitted with an 85 kW (114 hp), 125 N·m (92 lb-ft) 1.6L DOHC MIVEC gasoline engine which can power the front wheels as well as work as a 70 kW generator. The Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV also utilizes the MiEV OS (MiEV Operating System) which selects the optimum drive mode through integrated control of the EV components and the gasoline engine as well as controls optimum electrical charge and output in response to remaining battery energy through constant monitoring of the drive battery. Modes include:

  • EV mode. At low to medium speeds, the Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV’s drive battery powers the front motor using front-wheel drive. When driving on snow, in the rain or in other low surface friction situations where maximum vehicle stability is required, the system automatically switches to four-wheel drive mode by feeding power to the rear wheel motor as well when sensors detect any front wheel slip.

  • Series hybrid mode. When the remaining energy in the drive battery falls to a predetermined level the system starts the gasoline engine to generate electricity and automatically switches to the series hybrid mode using the electricity generated to power the motors. In this mode as well, the system switches to four-wheel drive by driving the rear motor depending on driving conditions.

  • Parallel hybrid mode. At higher vehicle speeds the car is supported by the gasoline engine which operates more efficiently than the electric motors at high revolutions. In this mode, the gasoline engine also helps drive the wheels. When the driver makes sudden lane changes or other manoeuvres requiring greater vehicle stability the system switches to four-wheel drive by bringing in the rear motor to drive the rear wheels, improving stability. In addition when overtaking at higher speeds or in other situations requiring faster acceleration the system switches in both front and rear motors to provide additional power and assist the gasoline engine, providing high acceleration.

  • Regenerative mode. When the vehicle is slowing or coasting down a long descending slope the system switches to regenerative mode in which kinetic energy reclaimed from the wheels is stored in the drive battery.

  • Charging mode. As with the production i-MiEV, Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV features a 3-way battery charging system using either a 100-volt or a 200-volt domestic supply or a high-power quick-charging station. The system also incorporates a Wireless Charging Program feature that allows the owner to start charging the battery or start the air conditioner at a preset time even when away from the vehicle.

  • Home power supply mode (vehicle-to-home). As a way to maximize the usefulness of the power stored in the drive battery, the Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV allows the owner to store electricity at night and then use that electricity via the normal charging connector to power home appliances during the daytime when domestic electricity consumption is highest. This allows the drive battery to be used as a power source in the event of a natural disaster. Should the electricity left in the battery fall below a predetermined level, the gasoline engine starts up and works as generator to maintain the power supply at a fixed level.

    A 100-volt AC auxiliary socket in the rear luggage compartment also allows the electricity stored in the drive battery to be used to power cooking or lighting equipment and other appliances when camping or engaged in other leisure activities.

Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV uses Mitsubishi’s S-AWC integrated vehicle handling control system which is configured around an E-4WD (Electronically-powered four-wheel drive) system that controls front and rear motor output to deliver the optimum front/rear drive torque split. Under the integrated control of the S-AWC system are E-AYC (Electric-powered Active Yaw Control), which controls left/right torque split at the rear wheels and the degree of deceleration energy recovery, ASC (Active Stability Control) and ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) components.

Unlike the AYC system on the Lancer Evolution X which uses a wet multi-plate clutch arrangement, E-AYC uses a differential motor to control rear wheel torque split. The use of the differential motor makes for a high-efficiency system with outstanding response and contributes to the on-demand handling and outstanding vehicle stability that characterizes the S-AWC system.

The Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV uses a windshield that uses heat-reflecting glass to reduce the amount of heat energy passing through and uses IR- (infrared ray) blocking glass in the door windows. The body paint also incorporates heat-reflective and insulation technology. Inside the vehicle the four seats are individually air conditioned and cabin humidity is regulated. The adoption of these heat load reducing technologies allows efficient climate control while reducing power consumption to the absolute minimum in making for a very comfortable occupant space.

The Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV also showcases several new active safety technologies. The “New Multi-around Monitor” system uses cameras located at strategic points on the body to provide the driver with a combined image of the full perimeter of the vehicle. The combined image is displayed for the driver on a monitor from an overhead view for improved safety around the perimeter of the vehicle.

The Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV is equipped for the Driving Safety Support System (DSSS (Level II)) currently being promoted by the Japanese National Police Agency. In this advanced vehicle-infrastructure safety support system, an on-board receiver picks up signals transmitted by roadside optical beacons and the system urges the driver to take extra care when other vehicles or pedestrians have been detected by roadside sensors and cameras at intersections and pedestrian crossings.

Employing a system that uses wireless technology to ascertain the position of other vehicles and warn the driver when their proximity so requires, the Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV also supports the Advanced Safety Vehicle 4 (ASV4) project being promoted by the Road Transport Bureau of the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

The vehicle is also fitted with a Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) system (5.8 GHz band two-way wireless communication channels specifically designed for automotive use), employing the road-to-vehicle communications capabilities used in Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) to determine the position of the vehicle and whether it is parked or not.

The Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV is also fitted with electronically-controlled air suspension that gives the driver the choice of three ride height modes—Auto, High, Low—for improved stability over poor surfaces or at high speeds and for easier access to and from the vehicle.

The i-MiEV CARGO. Click to enlarge.

i-MiEV CARGO. Derived from the production i-MiEV, this concept adds a generous amount of rear free space to the i-MiEV to extend the range of uses to which it can be put by corporate users and self-employed operators in particular. The rear space features space-efficient cubic dimensions to allow the user to exercise their imagination fully in adapting it for whatever use he/she chooses.

September 30, 2009 in Electric (Battery), Hybrids, Japan, Plug-ins | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

New Biomass-to-Liquids Industry Association is Formed; Urges EPA to Promote the Cleanest Renewable Fuels Compatible with Existing Fuels Infrastructure

Advanced biofuel producers have formed the Low Carbon Synthetic Fuels Association (LCSFA). Specifically, the LCSFA represents the Biomass-to-Liquids (BtL) industry, with members including TRI, Rentech Inc., Velocys, CHOREN, Flambeau River Biofuels/Johnson Timber, AP Fuels and World GTL.

BtL is produced through the gasification of renewable biomass and the subsequent conversion of the gasified biomass using the Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) synthesis process. The renewable fuels produced are predominantly synthetic diesel and jet fuel, which are nearly identical to current crude oil-derived fuels, although significantly cleaner.

The LCSFA says it formed to address existing legislative and regulatory inequities that have slowed or even hindered the development of advanced biofuels. To date, federal programs have resulted in incentives that do not necessarily promote or reward the best performing and most environmentally friendly fuels, according to the LCSFA.

This week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin considering comments on its “Changes to Renewable Fuel Standard Program” (“RFS2 Proposal”). In its comments, the LCSFA urged the EPA to promote clean, renewable advanced biofuels that improve air quality, reduce GHG emissions, and are compatible with the existing engines, equipment and fuels infrastructure. The LCSFA’s comments were endorsed by a range of partners including Auburn University, Audi America, Chemrec AB, Mercedes Benz USA, Pacific Renewable Fuels, Renewable Energy Institute International, and Volkswagen.

September 30, 2009 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Gevo Biobutanol Retrofit Plant Starts Up; Gevo Launches Development Company to Retrofit Ethanol Plants

Gevo, Inc., a biobutanol and renewable hydrocarbons company, announced the start up of its first biobutanol demonstration plant designed from retrofitting an existing demonstration scale ethanol plant to produce biobutanol. (Earlier post.) In successfully producing biobutanol at the 1 million gallon per year pilot plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, Gevo is demonstrating the viability of its technology for retrofitting existing ethanol plants to make biobutanol.

Gevo’s biobutanol can be blended directly into gasoline. Gevo’s technology also enables using the biobutanol for the production of renewable hydrocarbons such as isooctene and isooctane for the gasoline market, renewable jet fuel and renewable diesel blendstocks. In addition, Gevo’s technology enables the production of a wide variety of chemicals such as isobutylene and paraxylene from renewable resources.

Biobutanol has higher energy content than ethanol and a lower Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP), which means lower volatility and evaporative emissions. Standard automobile and small engines can run on biobutanol blended into gasoline at any ratio, according to Gevo.

This is the first time that an existing ethanol operation has been successfully retrofitted to produce biobutanol instead of ethanol. ICM’s pilot plant at St. Joseph has been designed and constructed as a reduced scale replica of a dry-milled ethanol production process. The retrofit of the pilot plant was completed in less than three months. This successful retrofit also represents the first step along the route to produce cellulosic biobutanol which will be possible once biomass conversion technology becomes commercially available.

Gevo was founded in 2005 by Drs. Frances Arnold, Matthew Peters and Peter Meinhold of the California Institute of Technology. The company is focused on the development of advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals based on isobutanol and its derivatives using engineered microbes. Corporate developments over the past year have included:

  • In October 2008, Gevo and ICM, Inc. formed a strategic alliance for the commercial development of Gevo’s Integrated Fermentation Technology (GIFT) that enables the production of isobutanol and hydrocarbons from retrofitted ethanol plants. This resulted in the construction of the demonstration plant.

  • In January 2009, Gevo and Bye Energy announced a development agreement to jointly explore opportunities for the marketing and distribution of renewable aviation fuels to small and medium-sized airports. (Earlier post.)

  • In February 2009, Gevo, Inc. announced a licensing agreement with Cargill that will further enable the manufacture of renewable hydrocarbons for fuels and chemicals from cellulosic crop sources. Under the terms of this agreement, Gevo will have exclusive rights to integrate Cargill’s world class microorganisms into its GIFT process to produce butanols from cellulosic sugars that are derived from plant materials such as corn stover, switchgrass, forest residues, and other sustainable feedstocks.

  • In April 2009, oil and gas major Total invested an undisclosed amount in the series D round. (Earlier post.)

Separately, Gevo has formed Gevo Development, LLC to develop a fleet of biorefineries based on retrofitting existing ethanol plants with Gevo’s proprietary technology to produce biobutanol. Biobutanol is an advanced biofuel that can be blended directly into gasoline and be used to make renewable hydrocarbons (green gasoline), jet and diesel fuel, chemical intermediates and bio-based plastics.

The development company will enable us to secure production capacity by retrofitting existing plants to make commercial volumes to meet demand for advanced biofuels. Gevo Development’s business model is open—it will include acquisitions, joint ventures and tolling arrangements providing flexibility to existing owners and lenders.

—Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo

Gevo Development, LLC will be managed by Mike Slaney and David Black who have significant experience in the financing, acquisition and operation of ethanol facilities. Slaney and Black co-founded and raised over $430 million to capitalize ASABiofuels, the largest project financing ever completed in the ethanol industry.

September 30, 2009 in Bio-hydrocarbons, Biobutanol, Biorefinery, Biotech | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

OriginOil Announces New Algae Growth System for Use in Wastewater Facilities

OriginOil, Inc., the developer of a new extraction process for algae oil (earlier post), has developed a new production system using a type of algae that attaches itself to growth surfaces. The new system helps pursue clean water goals while generating algae for fuel and other valuable products in wastewater treatment plants.

Previous attempts at using surface-mounted algae were not very scalable. OriginOil’s Attached Growth System delivers scalability and throughput in an industrial process that delivers light more efficiently to grow algae for fuel and helps process wastewater at the same time.

—OriginOil CEO Riggs Eckelberry

The company recently filed for patent protection of the new Attached Growth System, its ninth patent application, entitled “Methods and Apparatus for Growing Algae on a Solid Surface.” OriginOil will integrate the process into the demonstration algae system now being built at its headquarters.

Growing algae in water is a challenge because as it grows, the algae thickens and stops light. One solution is OriginOil’s Helix Bioreactor which puts the lights inside the tank. (Earlier post.) Another method is to rotate the algae periodically out of the water so it can be exposed to the light. OriginOil’s Attached Growth System uses types of algae that will attach to surfaces rotating in and out of the water, exposing the algae to sunlight or artificial light. At harvest time, the algae is scraped off as a sludge, greatly decreasing the energy cost of dewatering during oil extraction.

In wastewater treatment plants, OriginOil’s Attached Growth System can be configured to encourage bacterial growth in addition to the algae. Combining algal and bacterial growth makes for better nutrient extraction than either one of them alone, contributing to clean water goals while making fuel and absorbing CO2.

September 30, 2009 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Honda to Show Hybrid and Battery-Electric Vehicle Concepts at Tokyo Motor Show; CR-Z Concept 2009

The CR-Z Concept 2009. Click to enlarge.

Honda will reveal the CR-Z Concept 2009, the most recent prototype of a compact sports car using Honda’s IMA technology, at October’s Tokyo Motor Show. Honda introduced the first version of the CR-Z concept at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2007. When the production version goes on sale in 2010, it will be the first series-production sports hybrid car from a major OEM, and the first gasoline-electric vehicle to employ a 6-speed manual transmission.

Honda will also reveal two more concepts at the show. The EV-N is a small, 4-seater battery electric vehicle, inspired by the N360, Honda’s 360cc micro car launched in the 1960s. It features solar panels in the roof, which could be used to help to charge the on-board battery. The EV-N is purely a design study and there are no plans for production.

The EV-N. Click to enlarge.

The show will also mark the debut of the Skydeck concept, a 6-seater hybrid MPV. This is still a design study, but Honda is positioning it as an example of how the IMA technology can be placed in a range of different cars for different needs.

To give the Skydeck the practicality of a conventional MPV, many of the hybrid system components—including the high power battery—are housed in the car’s center tunnel (rather than behind the rear seats or under the floor, as with previous production hybrids). This allows for greater cabin space, and the room for three rows of two seats. It also gives a lower center of gravity.

The SKYDECK. Click to enlarge.

A special display zone named “HELLO!” (for Honda Electric mobility Loop) will feature a display of electricity-based products, including products that supply electricity, vehicles that run on electricity and products with innovative electronic technologies. As well as the EV-N, this area will display FCX CLARITY, a fuel cell electric vehicle that runs on the electricity it produces from hydrogen; a new EV-Cub electric motorcycle; the new U3-X, a one wheel personal mobility device that uses balance control technology developed through the ASIMO robot project (earlier post); and LOOP, a portable communication tool that allows people and mobility devices to communicate with each other.

The EVE-neo. Click to enlarge.

Honda’s motorcycle display will share the same stand area as four-wheeler, with features from larger-displacement sports bikes to compact commuter models powered by electricity. Advanced models that address environmental elements include the PCX, an idle stop function-equipped global scooter; and the EVE-neo, an electric scooter. The new Dual Clutch Transmission technology for larger-displacement and sportier bikes will also be showcased. (Earlier post.)

September 30, 2009 in Electric (Battery), Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

BASF and CSM Announce Joint Production Development of Bio-based Succinic Acid

BASF Future Business GmbH and PURAC, subsidiaries of BASF SE and CSM nv, respectively, are cooperating for the joint production development of bio-based succinic acid. Both partners have been working on the development of the industrial fermentation and down-stream processing of bio-based succinic acid and will start production of commercial quality and volumes in the second quarter of 2010.

Succinic acid, a four carbon dicarboxylic acid, has the potential to be a key building block for deriving both commodity and specialty chemicals, according to a US Department of Energy 2004 assessment of top value-added chemicals that could be derived from biomass. The basic chemistry of succinic acid is similar to that of the petrochemically derived maleic acid/anhydride.

The major technical hurdles for the development of succinic acid as a building block, the DOE report concluded, included the development of very low-cost fermentation routes. At the time of the report, there were two organisms under active development for the fermentation of sugars (both C6 and C5) to produce succinic acid. Based on the available information in the literature regarding these two organisms, significant improvement in the fermentation was still needed to be competitive with petrochemical routes, the report said.

Using a fully equipped fermentation and downstream purification plant, the BASF and PURAC will demonstrate the economical production of succinic acid on industrial scale using an innovative pathway on the basis of renewable substrate. CO2 will be used as a raw material and fixed during the highly efficient fermentation process, contributing further to sustainable development.

Bio-based succinic acid will be applied as a monomeric building block in a variety of biopolymers, e.g. biodegradable polyesters. Furthermore, low cost succinic acid has high potential as a platform chemical and its downstream products. Both companies will work together in order to achieve manufacturing cost levels making bio-based succinic acid competitive for a wide variety of novel applications.

BASF is a global leader in intermediates, chemical building blocks and polymers; PURAC is the world leading producer of lactic acid and lactides from renewable feedstocks.


September 30, 2009 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

US Geothermal Power Could Top 10 Gigawatts, New Industry Report Says

A new report by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) shows strong growth in new geothermal power projects continuing through 2009. US Geothermal Power Production and Development Update, September 2009 identifies 144 new geothermal projects under development in fourteen states that could represent as much as 7,100 MW of new baseload power capacity. When added to the 3,100 MW of existing capacity, 10 gigawatts of geothermal power appears to be feasible.

Geothermal projects under development
State# of projectsPotential MW
Alaska 6 70-115
Arizona 1 2-20
California 37 1,841.8-2,435.8
Colorado 1 10
Florida 1 0.2-1
Hawaii 2 8
Idaho 5 238-326
Louisiana 1 .05
Mississippi 1 .05
Nevada 64 1,876.4-3,473.4
New Mexico 1 20
Oregon 13 317.2-368.2
Utah 10 272.4-332.4
Washington 1 unspecified

The report found a total of 144 projects under development that could add between 4,699.9 and 7,109.9 MW of power to the US geothermal energy output. At the high end, that would be enough baseload power to supply about 20% of California's total electric power in 2008—or enough generating capacity to supply the power needs of about 7.2 million people.

The number of states with geothermal projects under development also increased, from 12 to 14 over the past six months, with the addition of two oil-field co-production projects in Louisiana and Mississippi.

While the report shows generally good news, it also shows a decline in projects currently listed as under construction. According to the GEA this was due to 4 new geothermal power projects moving to completion, but also reflects difficulty obtaining final permits and difficulty obtaining financing. The recession, as the report confirms, is having an impact on the industry, according to the GEA.

Financing is expensive and scarce, and available lenders are requiring much more work be done before they will finance projects. We hope the tax, loan guarantee, and DOE spending provisions of the stimulus bill will help turn this around, but there have been delays implementing these initiatives by the federal agencies.

It also appears that some projects seeking final construction permits are having difficulty acquiring them because of the tremendous demands being placed on federal, state, and local agencies by a wave of renewable energy project applications. These geothermal projects would otherwise be ready to go bringing new jobs and spurring economic growth, so it’s important that federal and state agencies don’t neglect the needs of geothermal projects.

— Karl Gawell, Executive Director of GEA

September 30, 2009 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Powertrains for the New Opel Astra

The 1.3-liter diesel CDTI for the Astra. Click to enlarge.

Opel introduced the new Astra at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) earlier this month. (Earlier post.) The new Astra is launching with a complete line-up of eight gasoline and diesel engines ranging from 70 kW/95 hp to 132 kW/180 hp. The new Astra has grown slightly to provide a roomier interior and, at the same time, it has benefited from engineering enhancements that allow it to improve fuel efficiency and performance.

The Astra’s line-up of powertrains with manual transmission cuts fuel consumption and CO2 emissions overall by more than 12% compared with the current generation. The average fuel consumption of the four diesel engines ranging from 70 kW/95 hp to 118 kW/160 hp, which are expected to represent almost half of the new Astra cars sold in Europe at launch, is 4.6 L/100 km (51 mpg US).

The CDTI turbo diesel line-up includes 1.3, 1.7 and 2.0-liter units, each featuring common-rail with multiple fuel injection equipped with particulate filters. The top-of-the-line 2.0 CDTI with 118 kW/160 hp requires 4.9 L/100 km (48 mpg US) on average and emits no more than 129 g/km CO2. A new diesel 1.3 CDTI ecoFLEX generation with CO2 emissions of 109 g/km and an average fuel consumption of 4.2 L/100 km (56 mpg US) will be added to the range in spring 2010.

The gasoline range comprises naturally-aspirated and turbocharged 1.4 and 1.6-liter engines, giving a power bandwidth from 74 kW/100 hp to 132 kW/180 hp. The average fuel consumption of the four gasoline engine line-up is 6.1 L/100 km (38.6 mpg US).

The 74 kW/100 hp entry-level version in the gasoline line-up consumes 5.5 L/100 km (43 mpg US)and does not emit more than 129 g/km CO2. This makes it the most fuel-efficient gasoline compact on the market, according to Opel. Continuing Opel’s strategy of downsizing, a new 103 kW/140hp 1.4 Turbo gasoline engine replaces the current 1.8 liter variant, improving fuel efficiency by nearly 18%.

Four naturally aspirated or turbocharged 1.4 and 1.6 gasoline engines. Four naturally-aspirated and turbocharged 1.4 and 1.6-liter engines compose a line-up of 74 kW/100 hp to 132 kW/180 hp.

All engines are transversely-mounted four-cylinder units with aluminum cylinder heads carrying dual overhead camshafts that operate four valves per cylinder. Cylinder blocks are in cast iron for strength and reduced noise resonance, with a hollow frame design for minimized weight. A die cast, structural aluminum oil pan adds further stiffness and provides further noise reduction.

Continuously variable valve timing is featured in all engines on both inlet and exhaust sides, except the 1.6-liter turbo. The camshafts have hydraulically operated vane-type phasers which vary the angle of each camshaft relative to the crankshaft by up to 60 degrees on the inlet side and 45 degrees on the exhaust side.

Cam phasing allows the engine control module to adjust the timing of the opening and closing of the valves according to varying conditions, such as engine speed and engine load. Among the benefits are a broader spread of torque, higher maximum power and improved fuel consumption. Cam phasing is also an effective tool for controlling exhaust emissions, managing valve overlap at optimum levels to eliminate the need for a separate exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system. The coolant thermostat and the oil pump are electronically controlled to improve engine heat up.

The entry-level 1.4-liter, naturally-aspirated engine develops 74kW/100 hp at 6000 rpm, with a specific power output of 52.8 kW/71.4 hp per liter. It focuses on excellent fuel economy and returns 5.5 L/100 km over the combined cycle, the best figure for a gasoline engine in the compact segment.

The camshafts are chain-driven for maintenance-free operation and automatic hydraulic lash adjustment. Further refinements include the use of hollow camshafts, which reduce weight and lower reciprocating mass, and a torsional vibration damper that improves running refinement. The fuel injection system also features port deactivation under part load for improved exhaust gas recirculation, giving lower emissions and improved fuel consumption.

The 1.6-liter naturally-aspirated engine develops 85 kW/115 hp at 6,000 rpm and has an even higher specific power output (72.5 hp) per liter than its 1.4-liter, naturally-aspirated cousin. Maximum torque of 155 N·m (114 lb-ft) is generated at 4,000 rpm, with more than 90% of this value available from 3,000 rpm. The combined cycle fuel consumption is 6.3 L/100 km (37.3 mpg US).

A two-stage variable intake manifold is fitted to this engine. For increased torque at engine speeds below 4,000 rpm, the fuel/air intake charge passes through 620 mm long inlet tracts. Above 4,000 rpm, the engine management system transmits a signal to channel the air along shorter 288 mm tracts, which has the effect of increasing top-end engine power.

The engine’s cylinder barrels are laser-etched for an extremely smooth finish. This results in minimal piston friction and wear characteristics, while also benefiting oil and fuel consumption. Under-skirt piston oil cooling is a further addition.

The new, downsized 103 kW/140 hp 1.4-liter turbo engine that replaces a naturally-aspirated 1.8 engine of similar output is focused on strong performance with high elasticity, enabled by 200 N·m (148 lb-ft) of torque available between 1,850 and 4,900 rpm. Compared to the 140 hp/175 N·m 1.8 engine from the current range it replaces, it delivers 14% more torque with fuel consumption of 5.9 L/100km (39.9 mpg US)—an improvement of nearly 18%. These power characteristics translate to a zero to 100 km/h acceleration in 9.7 seconds, and a transition from 80 to 120 km/h in fifth gear in 13.3 seconds.

The water-cooled turbocharger, spinning at up to 240,000 rpm, is integrated into the exhaust manifold close to the engine for a fast throttle response. Air-to-air inter-cooling increases the intake charge density.

The adoption of a reinforced crankshaft, reinforced pistons and con-rods allows the use of relatively high 9.5:1 compression ratio, despite higher stresses and loads. Under-skirt piston oil cooling jets, an oil cooler and exhaust valves filled with sodium are further features ensuring durability under higher internal temperatures.

The most powerful gasoline engine is the 1.6-liter turbocharged which exceeds 110 hp per liter in delivering a maximum power of 132 kW/180 hp. Developed for customers focusing on dynamic driving characteristics, it is the most powerful production engine in its displacement class.

Great performance is matched by an impressively wide plateau of torque, with 230 N·m (170 lb-ft) available all the way from 2,200 rpm to 5,400 rpm. For quick and safe overtaking maneuvers, an overboost function can briefly unleash even more torque, raising it to 266 Nm for up to five seconds.

With this engine, the new Astra achieves zero to 100 km/h acceleration in 8.5 seconds, and makes the 80 to 120 km/h transition in fifth gear in 10.5 seconds.

Like the 1.6 naturally-aspirated engine, the cylinder barrels are laser-etched for minimal piston friction. To withstand higher operating temperatures, the exhaust valves are filled with sodium and under-skirt piston cooling with oil jets is used. A map-based thermostat control raises the coolant temperature at low engine speeds or under light loads to help reduce internal lubricant friction and improve fuel consumption.

Three diesel engines in four output variants require less than 5.0 liter/100 km. The CDTI turbo diesel line-up includes 1.3, 1.7 and 2.0-liter units—all common-rail with multiple fuel injection and standard particulate filter—which range in power from 70 kW/95 hp to 118 kW/160 hp. All benefited from the latest developments and refinements in engine management calibration, which allowed a 14.5% improvement in fuel efficiency across the range compared to the current Astra diesel line-up.

The four engines require less than 5.0 liter/100 km on average (47 mpg US)—with CO2 emissions that do not exceed 129 g/km even for the 118 kW/160 hp 2.0 CDTI. A first ecoFLEX generation powered by the 70 kW/95 hp 1.3 CDTI engine with CO2 emissions of 109 g/km and average fuel consumption of only 4.2 l/100 km will be added to the range in spring 2010.

All CDTI engines in the Astra are fitted with 16-valve, dual overhead camshafts, a weight-saving aluminum cylinder head, specially shaped intake ports for exceptional swirl and burn characteristics, oil-jet-cooled pistons, a dual-mass flywheel and a maintenance-free particulate filter. The main technical features include:

  • Common Rail, Multiple Fuel Injection. Operating at high pressures up to 1,800 bar (1,800 bar for the 1.7-liter; 1,600 bar for the 1.3- and 2.0-liter engines), this fuel delivery system ensures extremely fine atomization in the combustion chamber and enables up to five injection pulses per cycle to extract as much energy as possible from a given amount of fuel. This results in low fuel consumption and exhaust emissions, as well as reduced engine noise. Multiple injections help iron out the strong vibrations associated with compression ignition. For example, a pre-injection during the warm-up period reduces cold-start knock to a barely perceptible level.

  • Variable Geometry Turbocharger (VGT). The pitch of the vanes on the turbine wheel is continuously varied according to engine load and speed, giving an excellent throttle response, particularly during pick up from low speeds.

  • Improved Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR). The electronically-controlled EGR system has an additional cooling function. Electro-pneumatically operated bypass flaps controlled by the engine management system ensure that the exhaust gas reaches a temperature suitable for combustion on its way back into the cylinder. This contributes to increased power as well as reduced emissions.

The 70 kW/95 hp, 1.3-liter CDTI in the new Astra ecoFLEX offers fuel economy of just 4.2 l/100 km over the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of only 109 g/km, with strong torque of 190 N·m (140 lb-ft) between 1,750 and 3,250 rpm.

The 1.7-liter CDTI comes in two states of tune, providing 81 kW/110 hp and 260 N·m, or 92 kW/125 hp and 280 N·m of torque. Combined cycle fuel consumption in both cases is 4.7 L/100 km (50 mpg US).

The 2.0-liter CDTI which debuted in the Insignia packs 118 kW/160 hp with torque of 350 N·m (258 lb-ft) from just 1,750 rpm. With the overboost function, 380 N·m can be reached for up to 15 seconds, giving the driver extra power when needed. The result is zero to 100 km/h achieved in 9.0 seconds together with combined cycle fuel consumption of 4.9 L/100 km (48 mpg US).

Transmissions. Six-speed manual gearboxes offering a wide spread of ratios and a long, fuel-saving top gear are a standard fit across the range, with the exception of the 1.4/1.6-liter naturally-aspirated and the 1.3-liter turbo diesel engines which have five-speed gearboxes. Such five-speed, two-shaft units are preferred due to their advantages in efficiency and mass balance, optimizing fuel economy. All gearboxes feature triple cone synchronization in the first and second gears for easy engagement.

An all-new, six-speed automatic transmission with an ActiveSelect function is available as an option with all gasoline engines except the 1.4-liter naturally-aspirated unit which is manual only.

The on-axis design allows more compact packaging, resulting in enhanced crumple zone performance, increased interior space, and a lower hood line than with a conventional off-axis design. Instead of the transmission being folded around the end of a transversely-mounted engine, the gear sets are now on the same axis as the engine crankshaft centerline, which makes the entire powertrain unit much shorter fore-to-aft. Shifts are accomplished by applying and disengaging clutches simultaneously, which provides increased functionality and a more direct feel for the driver compared to freewheeling gear change mechanisms.

On the road, a wide selection of shift patterns is adapted to the styles and habits of the driver, anticipating when maximum acceleration or maximum efficiency is required. The electronic control also adapts to the prevailing road conditions, reducing gear shifting when climbing or descending and using engine braking assistance during down shifts.

ActiveSelect allows sequential driver gear selection via the shift lever. The driver also benefits from neutral gear disengagement at idle, which reduces vibration and contributes to improved fuel consumption.

Hydraulically-damped mountings for smoother operation. All powertrains are bolted in position via hydraulically-damped mountings that minimize vibration through the body structure. Adaptor plates enable the same four fixing points to be used for all applications, two on the front sub-frame and one on each longitudinal beam.

The fuel supply system uses an electric pump and filter mounted in the 56-liter fuel tank, which is located low under the rear seat for optimal weight distribution and crash impact protection.

September 30, 2009 in Engines | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Univ. of Alberta and Helmholtz Association Partner to Develop Oil Sands Technologies to Address Environmental Issues

The University of Alberta and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres signed a memorandum of understanding that will create a five-year agreement, the Helmholtz Alberta Initiative (HAI). The goal of the initiative is to transform oil sands production processes by developing technologies that address sustainability challenges.

The University of Alberta, recognized as a global leader in oil sands research, will work with the Helmholtz Association, a collection of 16 science and technology centers across Germany. The association, with its staff of 28,000 and its experience with coal industry hydrocarbons, will add capacity to the near 50 individual oil sands research projects currently underway on campus.

The partnership will seek to transform oil sands production processes by developing technologies that address the following issues:

  • Managing (e.g. capturing and storing) the carbon dioxide produced as a result of current oil sands production processes;

  • Replacing natural gas with geothermal energy sources as the fuel for oil sands production processes; and

  • Developing recycling technology for fresh water and reclamation of lands disturbed by oil sands mining and lands taken over by tailings ponds.

Because of the similarity of key issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, surface mining disturbances and water usage, HAI research and development can also be adopted for coal industry operations in both Alberta and Germany, the partners say.

This is a project that is much larger than the sum of its two parts. This is also a partnership between government and industry that we hope to build upon in the years to come.

—Lorne Babiuk, U of A vice-president, research

September 30, 2009 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

China Lowers Gasoline, Diesel Prices

Xinhua. China will lower gasoline and diesel prices by 190 yuan (US$27.8) per tonne from Wednesday, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced Tuesday.

The benchmark price of gasoline will be 6,620 yuan a tonne, and for diesel 5,880 yuan a tonne, according to the NDRC. The retail price of gasoline will drop by 0.14 yuan [US$0.02] per liter and that of diesel will decrease by 0.16 yuan [US$0.23] per liter.

Under a new pricing mechanism which took effect on 1 January, the NDRC will consider changing the benchmark retail prices of oil products when the international crude price changes more than 4% over 22 straight working days. The price cut was in accordance with the international price changes, the NDRC said.

September 30, 2009 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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