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December 2010

December 31, 2010

Bombardier Recreational Products and Government of Canada funding C$11.3M project to develop plug-in hybrid Can-Am Spyder roadster with target of 50% reduction in fuel consumption

Maquette of the Can-Am plug-in Hybrid Spyder. Click to enlarge.

The Centre de technologies avancées BRP at the Université de Sherbrooke (CTA) is receiving C$11.3 million (US$11.3 million) in financial support to develop a plug-in hybrid version of BRP’s (Bombardier Recreational Products) Can-Am Spyder roadster. The government’s Automotive Partnership Canada program is contributing $6.2 million and BRP is contributing $5.1 million over a four-year period.

Target features for the hybrid roadster include a 600 cc internal combustion engine and 20 kW continuous power electric motor powered by a Li-ion battery pack that delivers similar acceleration to the Spyder 990 RS roadster. Target range in electric mode is 30 km (20 mi), and total range is targeted to be 600 km (375 mi).

Launched in 2007, the Can-Am Spyder roadster features a distinctive Y-architecture and is he only mass-production, on-road vehicle that is entirely designed and manufactured in Canada.

Our goal is to develop completely new electric hybrid technology for a three-wheel vehicle that uses 50% less fuel and reduces CO2 emissions by 50% while maintaining its speed, power and performance.

—Mihai Rasidescu, president and general manager of the CTA

The project’s research team is led by Professor Alain Desrochers from the Université de Sherbrooke’s Mechanical Engineering Department and includes about 30 people from the University and BRP. The roadster’s compact size poses major challenges, they note; rather than modifying existing hybrid technology, the researchers will design an entirely new propulsion system.

Creating a three-wheel vehicle as opposed to a hybrid car poses significant design challenges that require a very high degree of innovation. These challenges include the lack of space to accommodate hybrid motorization, cooling problems, aerodynamics, vehicle weight, and noise. Everything must be studied and modified.

—Professor Desrochers

Over the next four years the CTA will produce three generations of prototypes and their components. The final product must pass the test in terms of performance, reliability, durability, and economic mass production. Any technological innovations will be potentially transferable to other types of vehicles and products.

The Centre de technologies avancées BRP – Université de Sherbrooke (CTA) is the result of a partnership between BRP and the Université de Sherbrooke. Its mandate is to develop advanced technologies in the field of motorized recreational vehicles. Since it opened in 2006, the CTA has developed two technologies that have been integrated into BRP products: a technology used in manufacturing the hulls of the new generation of Sea-Doo watercraft; and the five-speed semi-automatic transmission available on Can-Am Spyder roadsters. The CTA currently employs more than 70 researchers and students, and expects to become self-financing as of 2011.

The project is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

Announced by Minister Clement in April 2009, APC is a five-year, $145-million initiative to support collaborative R&D to drive the Canadian automotive industry to greater levels of innovation.

Industrial partners provide both financial support and essential in-kind contributions to ensure the success of the research projects. Other recently funded APC research projects focus on addressing the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, developing natural gas and diesel engine technologies, and creating on-board storage and reusing waste thermal energy.

December 31, 2010 in Canada, Hybrids, Plug-ins | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Wärtsilä introduces more powerful version of Wärtsilä 32 engine

Wärtsilä has introduced a more powerful version for marine applications of its popular medium-speed Wärtsilä 32 engine. First introduced in the 1980s, the Wärtsilä 32 has sold more than 4,000 units sold to the marine industry alone.

The Wärtsilä 32 engine is sold into both the marine and land-based power plants markets. In the marine industry the engine is used for both main engine and auxiliary engine applications. It is typically selected to power different types of tankers, container vessels, and offshore support and drilling vessels, while in the cruise and ferry sector, the Wärtsilä 32 is the most favoured engine of its size. In auxiliary electric production, the Wärtsilä 32 is widely utilized in all vessel categories where high auxiliary load is needed.

The new and upgraded version is available with an increased power output of 580 kW per cylinder at 750 RPM (50 Hz version). This represents a 15% increase in power output over the earlier 32 engine, despite having the same external dimensions. This increased output means that the Wärtsilä 32 now covers a power range from 3 MW to 9.3 MW. One area where this new power output is of particular interest is in the offshore drillship market. It is felt that in combination with Wärtsilä’s Low Loss Concept, the new engine can offer a powerful yet compact package for diesel electric propulsion.

The Wärtsilä 32 engine is fully equipped with all essential ancillaries, and has a thoroughly planned interface for the plant or ship’s control system.

The engine is able to operate efficiently and economically on low sulphur fuels (<0.1% S), making it suitable for operation in emission-controlled areas. It can also be equipped with a SCR catalyst, such as the Wärtsilä NOR (nitrogen oxide reducer), which can reduce NOx emissions by as much as 95%. This means that, already today, the machinery is IMO Tier III compliant. The standard Wärtsilä 32 entirely fulfils IMO Tier II regulations.

December 31, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 30, 2010

California gasoline consumption rose 0.8% in 3Q 2010, diesel up 2.3%

California gasoline consumption increased 1.5% in September and increased 0.8% in the third quarter of 2010, according to figures from the Board of Equalization (BOE). Diesel consumption increased 0.2% in September compared to last year and 2.3% in the third quarter.

Californians consumed 3.80 billion gallons of gasoline in the third quarter compared to the 3.77 billion gallons of gasoline used in the third quarter 2009. The average price of gasoline at the pump in California during the third quarter of 2010 was $3.14, a 3.0% increase over the third quarter 2009’s average price of $3.05 per gallon.

In September 2010, gasoline consumption increased 1.5% when Californians used 1.24 billion gallons of gasoline compared to 1.22 billion gallons consumed in September 2009. The average price of gasoline at the pump in California in September 2010 was $3.06 per gallon, a 3.5% decrease compared to the gasoline price per gallon of $3.17 in September 2009.

Diesel consumption increased 2.3% in the third quarter of 2010 when Californians consumed 669 million gallons of diesel compared to 654 million gallons of diesel fuel consumed in the third quarter of 2009. However, there was a 9.6 million gallon refund in July 2009 and a 19.3 million gallon credit in August 2009 which means the 2.3% quarterly gains would become a 2.0 percent quarterly loss without the credit/refund.

The average price of diesel fuel in California during the third quarter 2010 was $3.14, an 11.7% increase compared to the third quarter of 2009 when the price per gallon of diesel fuel in California was $2.81.

Diesel sold in California during September 2010 totaled 245 million gallons compared to the September 2009 total of 244 million gallons, which is a 0.2% increase. California diesel prices were $3.14 per gallon in September 2010, which is a 10.6% increase compared to September 2009’s average price of $2.84 per gallon of diesel.

The BOE is able to monitor gallons through tax receipts paid by fuel distributors. The figures reported monthly are net consumption that includes BOE audit assessments, refunds, amended and late tax returns, and State Controller’s Office refunds. Figures for October 2010 are scheduled to be available at the end of January 2011.

December 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

E10 coming to pumps in Germany 1 January

Deutsche Welle. Super E10 (10% ethanol-gasoline blend) will become available at the more than 14,000 service stations in Germany as of 1 January 2011. Previously, biofuel in Germany had only 5% ethanol content.

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) estimates that around 90 percent of existing German cars will be E10-compatible. Those vehicles unable to run on E10 can keep using the five percent variety until it is phased out in 2013.

According to the BMU, the higher ethanol gasoline will have a decreased impact on the environment in terms of carbon emissions and will reduce consumer reliance on diminishing oil reserves. The initiative is also designed to bring Germany into compliance with a European Commission directive seeking an EU-wide greenhouse gas emission savings of 60 percent from 2018 onwards.

December 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Massachusetts sets state GHG emissions limit for 2020 at 25% below 1990 levels, releases plan with additional measures, including Pay As You Drive auto insurance

Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles has set the statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limit for 2020 required by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 at 25% below 1990 levels, the maximum authorized by the Act, saying that measures already in place will get Massachusetts much of the way toward that goal.

A targeted portfolio of additional policies, chosen because they promise overall cost savings, will allow the state to reach the most ambitious target for GHG reduction of any state in the country, Secretary Bowles said. Included among these is a pilot program for Pay As You Drive auto insurance, intended to incent reduction in vehicle miles travelled (VMT).

The Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), signed by Governor Deval Patrick in August 2008, mandates the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, and requires the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to set a legally enforceable GHG emissions limit for 2020 of between 10% and 25% below 1990 levels by 1 January 2011, and to issue a plan for achieving those reductions while growing the clean energy economy.

Secretary Bowles set the limit today at the statutory maximum of 25 percent and released the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020, which contains a portfolio of policies designed to meet the limit.

In his formal determination of the 2020 emissions limit, Secretary Bowles noted that “established state policies to promote energy conservation and cleaner energy sources are expected to produce GHG reductions of 18% below 1990 levels by 2020,” and that the remaining question before him in making the determination was “where in the remaining statutory range of 18 to 25% reduction it is practical and appropriate to set the 2020 limit. Central to that question is what additional actions of policy, regulation, and legislation could be pursued that would achieve additional emissions reduction by 2020 and beyond.

Though he considered “a wide range of measures,” Secretary Bowles included in the implementation plan for 2020 “only those additional measures that provide significant energy cost savings and create clean energy jobs,” but those he found sufficient to support the maximum emissions reduction requirement of 25 percent.

The 136-page Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 contains a portfolio of established and new measures that reduce energy waste, save money, and stimulate the adoption of clean energy technologies, thereby creating jobs at the same time that they reduce GHG emissions.

Transportation. The state is targeting a 7.6% reduction below 1990 levels for the transportation sector. Existing policies contributing to this include:

  • Federal and California light duty vehicle standards (2.6% reduction);
  • Federal emissions and fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (0.3% reduction);
  • Federal renewable fuel standard and regional low carbon fuel standard (1.6% reduction);
  • Sustainable development principles (0.1%)

New policies outlined in the report include:

  • Clean Car Consumer Incentives. Incentives for consumers to shift their vehicle purchases to more fuel-efficient (or lower GHG) models. This includes varying the rates on new car sales taxes, annual auto excise (property) taxes, and registration fees, with rates raised on low-MPG vehicles and reduced on high-MPG ones. The change could be designed to be revenue-neutral to consumers as a whole and to the state. EEA and MassDOT will conduct a study to examine critical implementation challenges and possible regulatory or legislative paths for this policy. (0.5% reduction)

  • Pay As You Drive (PAYD) Auto Insurance Pilot. PAYD would convert a large fixed annual premium into a variable cost based on miles traveled, creating a major incentive to reduce discretionary driving, while cutting the overall cost of insurance due to fewer accidents. Miles driven would fall substantially, according to state estimates, along with CO2 emissions and costs for gasoline, accidents, and congestion. The Commonwealth plans to conduct a PAYD pilot program initially, and, depending on results, work with the insurance industry to make this payment method more widely available. (1.1% reduction)

  • GreenDOT. GreenDOT is MassDOT’s sustainability initiative, announced through a Policy Directive by the Secretary of Transportation in June 2010. GreenDOT is focused on three related goals: reducing GHG emissions; promoting the healthy transportation modes of walking, bicycling, and public transit; and supporting smart growth development. (1.2% reduction)

  • Smart Growth Policy Package (Expanded Policy) Additional smart growth would make it easier for households and businesses to decrease the number and distance of vehicle trips, reducing VMT and related emissions. Massachusetts already has several policies promoting smart growth, but new, complementary policies are necessary to achieve the smart growth targets. Such policies would focus on influencing infrastructure investments by state agencies and planning decisions made by local governments. (0.4% reduction)

Outside of the transport sector, existing policies include the Green Communities Act requirement of capturing all cost-effective energy efficiency, projected to yield $6 billion in customer savings from $2 billion of investment over three years. Continuation of these energy efficiency efforts, plus additional building-related measures such as deep-energy improvements in buildings; advanced, flexible building energy codes; and a new energy rating and labeling system that will be the equivalent of miles-per-gallon auto fuel efficiency ratings for buildings, beginning as a pilot program in western Massachusetts will reduce GHG emissions statewide nearly 10% by 2020.

In electricity supply, established programs like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Renewable Portfolio Standard will be supplemented by efforts to obtain additional clean energy imports such as Canadian hydropower and a proposed Clean Energy Performance Standard, which would require electricity suppliers to favor lower- and no-emissions sources in the mix of electricity delivered to their customers, will reduce emissions 7.7% by 2020.

In non-energy related sources of emissions, new and expanded programs will address leaking refrigerants that are more powerful greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide, for additional reductions of 2%.


December 30, 2010 in Climate Change, Emissions, Policy | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Report: US to test Japan’s CHAdeMO quick charging system for EVs

The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that the US will incorporate 310 quick charges using Japan’s standardized CHAdeMO system (earlier post) in its large scale EV tests being held in Arizona, California, Texas, Tennessee, Oregon and Washington State.

This will be the first time a large number of quick chargers using the CHAdeMO Method are used overseas and is seen as an initial step toward the Japan system becoming the world standard.

...While competition is intensifying worldwide over how to standardize charger systems, Japan’s CHAdeMo quick charger system is likely to be the global standard if it becomes widespread in the United States, observers said.

In March, 158 companies, including Nissan Motor Co., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and TEPCO, set up the CHAdeMO Association to unify standards in Japan. The association has begun full-scale efforts to spread the system overseas.

December 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

DOE issues RFI on algae biomass supplies for advanced biofuels RD&D efforts

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking input from industry, academia, and other biofuels stakeholders regarding supply systems and services for the production, handling, storage, transport and delivery of algae via a new Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0000466). DOE may use the information in support of program planning and may determine to issue a formal Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for this area.

Fuels derived from algal biomass qualify as advanced biofuels. Although algal biofuels have tremendous potential, no commercial entity today can yet produce algal biofuels at a cost that is competitive with petroleum-derived fuels, DOE notes. DOE’s National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap report, released publicly in June 2010, highlights some of the commercialization opportunities and challenges for algae. (Earlier post.)

DOE intends to address barriers highlighted in the roadmap that can directly impact the cost and sustainability of producing algal biofuels at commercial scale. Toward this end, the Program is investing in various algal biomass and biofuels production research, development, and demonstration projects (RD&D). Reliable and readily available supplies of sufficient volumes and varieties of algae biomass and metabolites are currently lacking and are needed to support current and anticipated RD&D program efforts, DOE says.

The DOE Office of Biomass Program is interested in responses that address one or more of the following parts:

  • Near-term Production and Supply of Algal Biomass. This section of the RFI is focused on obtaining information on the approaches, facilities, equipment, and processes that could be used to enable the near-term establishment of algal biomass production and supply services.

  • Downstream Algal Biomass Requirements. This section of the RFI is focused on obtaining information on requirements for algal biomass supplies to support downstream operations such as dewatering, extraction, separation, conversion and/or end-use (e.g., refineries, animal/aquaculture feed producers) facilities.

  • Non-Destructive Production of Advanced Biofuels or Intermediate Metabolites. Algae may also be developed, grown, and maintained in culture systems capable of operating in a manner that allows for the extracellular secretion, or non-destructive extraction (milking) and separation of metabolite from the cells and supporting culture media. Such metabolites may be advanced biofuels, or may be in the form of intermediates that can easily be converted to advanced biofuels with further processing.

    R DOE is seeking responses from technology developers who operate or wish to operate this form of non-destructive production and separation of algal metabolites for advanced biofuels, and/or who wish to process the metabolites into finished fuels. DOE is not seeking responses from technology developers of artificial photosynthetic routes to fuels (even if the photocomplexes were bio-derived or biomimetic) which are outside of the scope of the current RFI.

December 30, 2010 in Algae, Algal Fuels | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

U Michigan team boosting efficiency of thermoelectric materials; potential of reaching 15-20% efficiency could result in practical applications

Example of the structure of a partially filled CoSb skutterudite. Source: C. Uher. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology are working to improve the thermoelectric (TE) capabilities of filled skutterudites to the point that they could improve the performance of thermoelectric materials from about 5% efficiency to about 15 or 20%, according to Massoud Kaviany, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and co-author of a paper on the work published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

At that level of efficiency, TE materials become useful in practical applications such as waste heat recovery in vehicles, Kaviany noted. Earlier this year, the Directorate for Engineering at the National Science Foundation in partnership with the US Department of Energy Vehicle Technologies Program issued a solicitation for proposals for thermoelectric waste heat recovery devices for automotive applications. (Earlier post.)

Skutterudites are one of several promising novel thermoelectrics—materials that convert a heat differential to electricity—that have been developed and pursued for more than a decade, notes Ctirad Uher, co-author of the PRL paper and author of a chapter on Skutterudite-based thermoelectrics in the 2006 Thermoelectrics Handbook. The basic skutterudite is a cubic structure of the formula MX3, where M=CO, Rh, Ir and X=P, As, Sb. Skutterudites are some of the highest mobility semiconductors, and have outstanding electronic properties. However, for thermoelectrics, their thermal conductivity is too high, Uher notes.

Efficient thermoelectric materials want to conduct electricity well, and conduct heat poorly. Filling the skutterudite voids with the right material can dramatically reduce the thermal conductivity, and optimize the thermoelectric properties.

In their work, the team showed that the phonon conductivity of filled skutterudites is greatly influenced by the topology of the filler species. (Basically, scattering phonons lowers thermal conductivity, earlier post.) The team identified certain configurations of barium that drastically increase the skutterudites’ thermoelectric efficiency.

We predict (ab initio) the phase diagram of BaxCo4Sb12 and find several stable configurations of Ba ordering over the intrinsic voids. The phonon conductivity predicted using molecular dynamics shows a minimum in the two-phase mixture regime, dominated by significantly reduced long-range acoustic phonon transport.

—Kim et al.

We knew that skutterudites are promising materials. But we did not know what features we could manipulate to maximize the conversion of heat into electricity. In this paper, we propose that certain configurations of the filler element barium will be very effective in lowering the materials’ thermal conductivity and thus increasing their conversion efficiency.

This is an important advancement in the sense that it provides guidance for the experimentalists to focus as they try to synthesize highly efficient thermoelectric materials.

—Ctirad Uher

Car companies are extremely interested in this technology, Uher said. The ideal environments for these materials are spots where large differences in temperatures exist. One such place is the pipe system of a car between the motor and the catalytic converter.

The research is funded by the University of Michigan’s Center for Solar and Thermal Energy Conversion, which is funded by the US Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

We explained the physics of these materials for the first time. This will help to advance the development of these materials. If you are designing them based on fundamental physics and materials and not just by trial and error, then you need to know how they work so you can avoid haphazard experimentation.


  • Hyoungchul Kim, Massoud Kaviany, John C. Thomas, Anton Van der Ven, Ctirad Uher, and Baoling Huang (2010) Structural Order-Disorder Transitions and Phonon Conductivity of Partially Filled Skutterudites. Phys. Rev. Lett. 105, 265901 doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.105.265901

  • Ctirad Uher, Recent Progress in the Development of N-type Skutterudites, 2009 DoE Thermoelectrics Applications Workshop

  • Chapter 34. Skutterudite-Based Thermoelectrics Ctirad Uher, Thermoelectrics Handbook Macro to Nano; Edited by D. M. Rowe CRC Press 2006. Pages 34-1–34-17 doi: 10.1201/9781420038903.ch34

December 30, 2010 in Thermoelectrics, Waste Heat Recovery | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

TravelCenters of America LLC planning to install 50 on-island DEF dispensers in 2011

TravelCenters of America LLC confirmed its on-island DEF (diesel exhaust fluid for use with selective catalytic reduction exhaust aftertreatment systems) dispenser roll-out. TA expects to install about 50 on-island DEF dispensers at locations across the country in 2011.

DEF is a nontoxic solution of 67.5% purified water and 32.5% urea. Installations will utilize new dispenser and POS systems that will make purchasing DEF quicker, more efficient and customer friendly.

Sites will feature dedicated DEF dispensers at the fueling islands, while large storage tanks will be installed away from the fuel island.

All TA and Petro branded locations currently offer 2.5 gallon containers of DEF at all 228 of its locations, available at the fuel desk, travel store or truck maintenance counters and all of the company’s RoadSquad emergency roadside vehicles carry a supply of DEF.

TA’s on-island DEF dispenser installations will further add to current capacity; the first five locations are the TravelCenters of America in Lodi, OH and Nashville, TN (reopening February 2011) and the Petro Stopping Centers locations in Spokane, WA, Kingman, AZ and El Paso, TX. TA and Petro were the first national chains to offer DEF at all locations. Further, because nearly all TA and Petro locations offer extensive truck maintenance services, TA expects to offer DEF top-off services as part of routine preventive maintenance, or PM service to vehicles that use DEF.

December 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 29, 2010

Report: Fuji Heavy Industries may suspend production of Stella EV with end of minivehicle production

Kyodo News reports that Fuji Heavy Industries may suspend production of its electric minivehicle, the Stella EV (earlier post). While details including the timing of the suspension have not been decided, the maker of Subaru brand cars may suspend production of the EV when it stops manufacturing the Stella minivehicle, according to unidentified sources.

Fuji Heavy plans to withdraw completely from minivehicle production sometime around 2012. Fuji Heavy began selling the plug-in Stella electric vehicle to corporate customers and local governments in July 2009 with a sales target of 400 units by the end of March 2011.

Fuji Heavy is seeking to launch a plug-in gasoline electric hybrid vehicle, which can be recharged using a household electrical outlet, in the mid-2010s. The automaker is seeking support from its top shareholder, Toyota Motor Corp.

December 29, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

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