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September 2011

September 30, 2011

Ford, BASF partner to deliver auto industry’s first castor oil-based foam in the 2012 Focus

Ford and BASF have teamed up to develop a sustainable, plant-sourced castor oil-based foam product for the 2012 Ford Focus instrument panel. The new castor oil-based foam is significantly more durable than the previously used material, with a 36% better tensile strength (a measure of the foam’s ability to hold its shape over time and use). Tear strength also is improved by 5% while elongation (stretch under temperature or impact stress) is reduced by almost 12%.


Castor oil is derived from the Ricinus Communis flowering spurge plant, which has widespread growth throughout tropical regions. The plant’s oil presents a sustainable interior foam solution that does not compete with food sources. Employing more than 10% renewable content, the resulting foam product passes all Ford performance requirements for interior components.


Productivity is improved and the manufacturing process is simplified by the 43% reduction in time for the castor oil-based foam product to cure. Scrap from this foam product is reduced due to improved flow and processing characteristics.

Use of the castor oil-based foam will save more than 5,000 barrels of oil for every 300,000 Ford Focus models produced in North America, according to Joel Johnson, vice president, BASF Polyurethane Systems.

Over time, Ford plans to incorporate castor oil-based foam solutions across more products in its full-line global portfolio.

Ford has consistently concentrated on increasing the use of non-metal recycled and bio-based materials whenever possible provided these materials are environmentally favorable and meet all performance and durability requirements. Examples include soy foam seat cushions and gaskets, wheat straw-filled storage bins, recycled resins for underbody systems, recycled yarns on seat covers and natural-fiber plastic for interior components.


Ford was the first automaker to demonstrate soy-based foam could be formulated to pass the stringent requirements for automotive applications, pioneering its use in seats for the 2008 Ford Mustang and in headliners for the 2010 Ford Escape.  

September 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BIO: advanced drop-in biofuels for military use on a path to commercialization

Advanced biofuels can be commercialized rapidly for military use, on military timelines, with adequate support and coordination of efforts by the US Departments of Agriculture, Defense and Energy, according to comments submitted by The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) to the Air Force’s Request for Information on the commercial status and market for advanced drop-in biofuels.

The US military and the nation as a whole face a significant national security threat from US dependence on foreign sources of energy and ongoing price volatility. The military requires access to adequate fuel supplies in strategic locations, and biorefineries producing advanced biofuels from multiple feedstocks represent perhaps the best option for meeting this military need.

Individual advanced biofuel producers have achieved milestones toward commercial development of a diverse array of feedstock and technology combinations. But full commercialization has been limited by the severely constrained market for private capital. Coordination of efforts by the USDA, DOE and DOD to address the market challenges could significantly accelerate production of the volumes necessary to meet the energy security needs of the US military. Military use of advanced biofuels could in turn validate emerging technologies and unlock private investment in future advanced biofuels production for civilian markets.

Some advanced biofuel companies already have worked with the Department of Defense (DOD) or with commercial airlines to test and certify advanced biofuel/petroleum blends, and more are poised to do so. The full range of projects located in diverse areas of the country, combining local feedstocks with tailored technology and processes, represent a robust response to the challenges, particularly for military biofuel needs.

—Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section

September 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

GE, Nissan sign R&D agreement to fast track broader adoption of electric cars

GE and Nissan have signed a two-year research collaboration to speed up the development of a reliable, robust smart charging infrastructure to fuel mass market adoption of electric cars such as the Nissan LEAF.

GE and Nissan have identified two key focus areas for the research efforts: the first relates to the integration of electric vehicles with homes and buildings; the second looks at electric vehicle charging dynamics and the future impact on the grid once millions of electric cars are on the road.

Several projects around the two focus areas already are underway. In one project, researchers from the companies are studying how electric cars like Nissan LEAF can be incorporated into GE’s overall concept for a Smart Home. Nissan engineers are developing methods to connect the vehicle to the home, making it a more integrated part of the building's energy equipment. This project will look at how the addition of an electric car impacts the cost of electricity and changes overall home electricity loads.

In another study, researchers will use aggregate usage data along with sophisticated simulation and modeling experiments, to analyze the effect millions of electric cars could have on our electrical distribution system.

For all of these projects, researchers will be seeking answers to a number of important questions, including:

  • How can smart energy management systems for homes and buildings be leveraged to support the management of EV charging?
  • How can we take advantage of energy storage and renewable power, such as home solar arrays, to reliably manage and meet the power needs of electric cars?
  • Are there innovative ways to directly link charging stations with renewable power sources?

Nissan researchers are studying the use of two-way power flow between the vehicle and the home, via its CHAdeMO quick charging port, as a method to reduce the home’s consumption from the grid during peak periods, or to utilize the vehicle for emergency backup power. GE researchers have programs under way to understand how these systems, in tandem with the utility, could be used to meet vehicle charging needs without over-stressing the grid.

GE’s work will be conducted primarily at its global research operations in Niskayuna, New York. Nissan Technical Center North America, located in Farmington Hills, Mich., will lead the automaker’s efforts, including integration of vehicle-to-home charging technology, with support from the Nissan Advanced Technology Center in Japan.

September 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Neste Oil ships operate successfully along the Arctic Northeast Passage

Two Neste Oil tankers successfully traversed the Arctic Northeast Passage between Murmansk and the Pacific Ocean in August and September this year. Only a few vessels including Neste Oil’s ships have operated along the route this year. The first Neste Oil tanker to traverse the route was the MT Stena Poseidon, which carried a customer’s cargo along the Northeast Passage and onwards to South Korea. She was followed by the MT Palva, which delivered a customer’s cargo to a port in China.

The very challenging ice conditions along the route, which follows Russia’s northern Arctic coastline, limit its use, and the route continues to be open to traffic for only a couple of months in the summer. Neste Oil says that its maritime expertise, decades of experience in navigating in ice-bound waters, and fleet of ice-strengthened ships, one of the largest in the world, give the company a clear edge in shipping along the Northeast Passage.

The Russian authorities require that all ships operating along the route are ice-classified and fitted with additional equipment, such as radios approved for use in Arctic areas and a spare propeller blade. Bunkers and provisions sufficient for 30 days at sea are also required because of the unpredictable nature of ice conditions along the route.

The approx. 6,250 nautical miles or 11,500 kilometers covered by the Stena Poseidon and Palva from Murmansk to the Pacific took around 20 days at a speed of 13 knots. The alternative route through the Suez Canal is twice as long and takes twice as long as a result. Using the much shorter Northeast Passage offers both reduced fuel consumption and reduced overall emissions.

Our journey from Murmansk to the Bering Strait took nine days, escorted by a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker and a local ice pilot. We spotted ice along the route but were able to avoid the larger floes thanks to the open water conditions that prevailed this summer. All in all, it was a unique experience.

—Jari Leino, Captain of the Stena Poseidon

September 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

California gasoline consumption down 2.8% in June, 3.6% in Q2

In California, gasoline consumption declined 2.8% in June 2011 and 3.6% in Q2 2011, according to figures from the State Board of Equalization. Diesel fuel consumption declined 3.1% in June 2011 and rose 0.9% in second quarter 2011.

In June 2011, California’s gasoline consumption decreased 2.8% to 1.22 billion gallons of gasoline compared to last year when 1.26 billion gallons of gasoline were consumed. June’s average price for a gallon of gasoline in California rose 84 cents to $3.97, a 27% increase compared to last June when the average price was $3.13 per gallon of gasoline. Nationally, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in June was up 95 cents to $3.74 per gallon, a 34% increase over the average price of a gallon of gasoline of $2.79 last year in June.

In second quarter 2011, California’s gasoline consumption declined 3.6%, with a total of 3.66 billion gallons of gasoline compared to 3.80 billion gallons of gasoline in the second quarter last year. In California, the average price of gasoline per gallon rose 99 cents to $4.13 in second quarter 2011, a 32% increase over last year’s average price of $3.14 per gallon in second quarter 2010. Nationally, the average price of gasoline rose 99 cents to $3.85 in second quarter 2011, a 35% increase over last year’s US average price of $2.86 per gallon of gasoline in second quarter 2010.

In June 2011, diesel consumption declined 3.1% for a total of 243 million gallons compared to the total of 251 million gallons of diesel in June 2010. In California, the average price of a gallon of diesel fuel was up $1.11 to $4.21 per gallon in June 2011, a 36% increase over the average price of a gallon of diesel of $3.10 in June 2010. Nationally, the average price of a gallon of diesel was up 98 cents to $3.93 in June 2011, a 33% increase over the average US price of a gallon of diesel of $2.95 in June 2010.

In the second quarter 2011, diesel consumption increased 0.9% to 667 million gallons compared to 661 million gallons in the second quarter 2010. In California, the average price of diesel fuel in second quarter 2011 increased $1.16 to $4.33, a 37% increase compared to $3.17 price per gallon of diesel in second quarter 2010. Nationally, the average price of diesel fuel in second quarter 2011 was up 98 cents to $4.01, a 32% increase over second quarter 2010’s average US price of $3.03 per gallon of diesel.

Gasoline and diesel fuel figures are net consumption that includes the State Board of Equalization’s audit assessments, refunds, amended and late tax returns and the State Controller’s Office refunds.

The State Board of Equalization is able to monitor gallons through tax receipts paid by fuel distributors in California. Figures for July 2011 are scheduled to be available at the end of October 2011. Figures for third quarter 2011 will be available at the end of December 2011.

September 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Michelin first major technical partner for Project 56 DeltaWing Prototype; 50% of the weight, power, aerodynamic drag, and fuel and tire usage for Le Mans racer

The DeltaWing. Click to enlarge.

Michelin will be the first major technical partner to support the Project 56 DeltaWing prototype car in the 2012 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Michelin has developed a tire solution that pushes the performance envelope and matches the innovative DeltaWing strategy to reduce by half the weight, power, aerodynamic drag, and fuel and tire usage of a Le Mans prototype race car, while delivering the same speed and performance.

The front tires on the ultra-narrow front track DeltaWing are only four inches wide; both front and rear tires will be fitted to 15-inch rims (compared to 18 inches on traditional LMP1 sports cars). The Michelin tire sizes for the DeltaWing project are: 10/58-15 (front) and 31/62-15 (rear).

Tires are a critical part of the DeltaWing design and Michelin relied heavily on its own history of winning endurance races while developing these tires. The four-wheeled DeltaWing features a virtual three-point layout with narrow front track, wide rear track and significantly reduced aerodynamic drag. With this unique chassis layout, the tire solution presented distinct challenges.

During the development process, Michelin engineers worked side-by-side with the DeltaWing team in order to understand the speed, load and stresses that the tires might experience.

The announcement of the DeltaWing project at Le Mans this year drew enormous interest around the world, and not just from race fans. The car is very different. People look at this car and say ‘How will it turn?’ and they recognize that there are some very interesting ideas at work. We look forward to being part of the answers.

—Nick Shorrock, director of competition, Michelin

Michelin has significantly extended the wear rate of its tires and reduced the number of tires used by its technical partner teams at Le Mans by more than 20 percent in the past three years. Michelin also has extensive experience in running multiple stints—two, three, four or even five—on the same set of tires in endurance racing.

DeltaWing. The Project 56 consortium features Dayton’s Highcroft Racing running the test and race program, Ben Bowlby and DeltaWing Racing Cars designing the unique entry, Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers building the initial prototype and American Le Mans Series founder Don Panoz providing the unique lightweight R.E.A.M.S. bodywork material and acting as a key advisor.

As spec’d for the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2012, the car features a liquid-cooled 4-cylinder 1600cc intercooled turbocharged engine that will produce approximately 300 hp (224 kW) at 8,000 rpm and weigh 70kg. The transmission is a 5-speed plus reverse longitudinal design with an electrical sequential paddle shift actuation. The differential features an efficient variable torque steer/differential speed-controlled planetary final drive reduction layout; the entire transmission weighs only 33kg.

Vehicle weight distribution is necessarily more rearward than traditionally seen with 72.5% of the mass on the larger rear tires. 76% of the aerodynamic downforce acts on the rear of the car which has an lift to drag ratio of >5.0.

Rear wheel drive coupled with the rearward weight and aerodynamic distributions greatly enhances inline acceleration capability.

Unique amongst today’s racing cars, more than 50% of the vehicle’s braking force is generated behind the center of gravity giving a dynamically stable response. Locking propensity of the un-laden front wheel at corner entry is greatly reduced due to virtually no front lateral load transfer with the narrow track and wide rear track layout. Steered wheel “scrub drag” moment is virtually zero, greatly increasing tire utilization and reducing mid-turn understeer.

The “56th entry” at Le Mans is a special invitation extended by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, the organizers of the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans race, to encourage innovation and the introduction of new technologies. The 56th entry may race outside the standard technical classifications. The 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be June 16-17, 2012, at the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, approximately 90 miles southwest of Paris.

The DeltaWing concept was unveiled today at Road Atlanta as the teams prepared for the final round of the 2011 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón—the 10-hour/1,000-mile Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda.

September 30, 2011 in Fuel Efficiency, Motorsport, Tires | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Researchers from MIT and Sun Catalytix develop an artificial leaf for solar water splitting to produce hydrogen and oxygen

(A) Plot of the efficiency vs. time for a wired configuration under AM 1.5 illumination. The traces are for solar cells of 7.7% PV efficiency. The cells were operated in a two-electrode cell configuration. (B) MS signal and SFE values for a wireless configuration. The cell was illuminated over the 2 h of the experiment. Reece et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers led by MIT professor Daniel Nocera have produced an “artificial leaf”—a solar water-splitting cell producing hydrogen and oxygen that operates in near-neutral pH conditions, both with and without connecting wires. (Earlier post.)

In a paper published in the journal Science, they report that the cells carry out the solar-driven water splitting reaction at direct solar-to-fuels efficiencies of 2.5% (wireless configuration) and 4.7% (wired configuration) when driven by a solar cell of 6.2% and 7.7% light-to-electricity efficiency, respectively, and when illuminated with 1 sun of AM 1.5 simulated sunlight. The cells consist of a triple junction, amorphous silicon photovoltaic interfaced to hydrogen and oxygen evolving catalysts made from an alloy of earth-abundant metals and a cobalt-borate catalyst, respectively.

By constructing a simple, stand-alone device composed of silicon-based light absorbers and earth-abundant catalysts, the results described herein provide a first step down a path aligned with the low-cost systems engineering and manufacturing that is required for inexpensive direct solar-to-fuels systems.

—Reece et al.

Placed in a container of water and exposed to sunlight, the device quickly begins to generate oxygen from one side and hydrogen bubbles from the other. If placed in a container that has a barrier to separate the two sides, the two streams of bubbles can be collected and stored, and used later to deliver power: for example, by feeding them into a fuel cell that combines them once again into water while delivering an electric current.

Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy and professor of chemistry at MIT, is the senior author of the paper, which was co-authored by his former student Steven Reece PhD ’07 (who now works at Sun Catalytix, a company started by Nocera to commercialize his solar-energy inventions), along with five other researchers from Sun Catalytix and MIT.

We show that water-splitting catalysts comprising earth- abundant materials can be integrated with amorphous silicon with minimal engineering to enable direct solar-to-fuels conversion based on water splitting. For the O2 evolving catalyst, we use a cobalt catalyst, Co-OEC, that self-assembles upon oxidation of Co2+, self-heals, and that can operate in buffered electrolyte with pure or natural water at room temperature. These attributes are similar to those of the OEC found in photosynthetic organisms.

The H2 evolving catalyst is a ternary alloy, NiMoZn. These catalysts have been interfaced directly with a commercial triple junction amorphous silicon (3jn-a-Si) solar cell (Xunlight Corp.) in wired and wireless configurations. For either, the cell uses stacked amorphous silicon and amorphous silicon-germanium alloy junctions deposited on a stainless steel substrate and coated with a 70 nm layer of Indium Tin Oxide (ITO). While the abundance of Ge may be a source of debate, the use of a silicon-based light absorber represents a major step towards a device composed of all earth-abundant materials for solar water splitting. Co-OEC is deposited directly onto the ITO layer (the illuminated side of the cell).

The NiMoZn alloy H2 catalyst was used in two configurations: (i) deposited on a Ni mesh substrate that is wired to the 3jn-a-Si solar cell and (ii) deposited directly on the opposing stainless steel surface of the 3jn-a-Si solar cell as a wireless device. The devices, which have not been optimized for performance may operate out of an open container of water containing borate electrolyte and with overall . The overall conversion efficiency of the wired cell indicates that a majority of the current from the solar cell can be converted directly to solar fuels and that a simply engineered functional artificial leaf comprising earth-abundant materials may be realized.

—Reece et al.

The new device is not yet ready for commercial production, since systems to collect, store and use the gases remain to be developed. Ultimately, Nocera sees a future in which individual homes could be equipped with solar-collection systems based on this principle: Panels on the roof could use sunlight to produce hydrogen and oxygen that would be stored in tanks, and then fed to a fuel cell whenever electricity is needed.

Such systems, Nocera hopes, could be made simple and inexpensive enough so that they could be widely adopted throughout the world, including many areas that do not presently have access to reliable sources of electricity.

Professor James Barber, a biochemist from Imperial College London who was not involved in this research, says Nocera’s 2008 finding of the cobalt-based catalyst was a “major discovery,” and these latest findings “are equally as important, since now the water-splitting reaction is powered entirely by visible light using tightly coupled systems comparable with that used in natural photosynthesis. This is a major achievement, which is one more step toward developing cheap and robust technology to harvest solar energy as chemical fuel.

There will be much work required to optimize the system, particularly in relation to the basic problem of efficiently using protons generated from the water-splitting reaction for hydrogen production. But there is no doubt that their achievement is a major breakthrough which will have a significant impact on the work of others dedicated to constructing light-driven catalytic systems to produce hydrogen and other solar fuels from water. This technology will advance side by side with new initiatives to improve and lower the cost of photovoltaics.

—James Barber

Nocera’s ongoing research with the artificial leaf is directed toward driving costs lower and looking at ways of improving the system’s efficiency.


  • Steven Y. Reece, Jonathan A. Hamel, Kimberly Sung, Thomas D. Jarvi, Arthur J. Esswein, Joep J. H. Pijpers, and Daniel G. Nocera (2011) Wireless Solar Water Splitting Using Silicon-Based Semiconductors and Earth-Abundant Catalysts. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1209816

September 30, 2011 in Hydrogen Production, Solar, Solar fuels | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

DOE finalizes $132M loan guarantee to support the Abengoa cellulosic ethanol project

The US Department of ENergy (DOE) finalized a $132.4 million loan guarantee to Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas, LLC (ABBK) to support the development of a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant.

The project is expected to convert approximately 300,000 tons of agricultural crop residues, including corn stover (stalks and leaves), into approximately 23 million gallons of ethanol per year using an enzymatic hydrolysis process. The project maximizes the use of agricultural crop residues that would otherwise not be utilized and uses feedstock that does not compete with feed grains.

Annually, the project is expected to displace over 15.5 million gallons of gasoline, which will avoid over 139,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The facility will be self sufficient, using unconverted biomass to generate 20 megawatts of electricity to power the cellulosic ethanol plant. ABBK expects more than 90% of the project’s sourced components to be produced in the US.

September 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BMW ActiveHybrid 5 to arrive in US showrooms in March 2012

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5. Click to enlarge.

BMW’s newest hybrid, the BMW ActiveHybrid 5, will arrive in US showrooms in March 2012. BMW unveiled the Concept version of the 5 Series ActiveHybrid at the Geneva Motor Show in 2010. (Earlier post.)

Based on the BMW 535i Sedan, the ActiveHybrid 5 brings together BMW’s 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline six-cylinder engine, an electric drive system and an eight-speed automatic transmission for the first time. The latest generation of BMW ActiveHybrid technology also adds controlled energy management to the mix. The drive system generates combined output of 335 hp (DIN) (250 kW) a with maximum torque of 330 lb-ft (447 N·m); allows the car to be driven on electric power alone up to 37 mph (60 km/h); and accelerates the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds (preliminary).

Under the hood. Click to enlarge.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5 delivers a double-digit percentage improvement in fuel economy over the BMW 535i based on preliminary results. (At the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, BMW said the Concept version would reduce fuel consumption 10%.)

This is the first time BMW has mated an inline six to a BMW ActiveHybrid system. The 3.0-liter engine, which develops 300 hp (224 kW) and peak torque of 300 lb-ft (407 N·m), has won the international Engine of the Year Award two years running. The BMW TwinPower Turbo technology of the six-cylinder engine combines a twin-scroll turbocharger, High Precision Direct Injection, Double VANOS variable valve timing and VALVETRONIC intake control.

The synchronous electric motor of the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is integrated into the housing of the eight-speed automatic transmission, saving space. The interplay between the electric motor and gearbox is controlled by a clutch. The motor’s operating temperature is regulated by the combustion engine’s cooling system.

The electric drive system develops 55 hp (41 kW) and makes 155 lb-ft (210 N·m) of torque available from rest. The motor is supplied with energy by a high-performance lithium-ion battery, specially developed for the BMW ActiveHybrid 5. The high-voltage battery is encased in a special high-strength housing and positioned between the wheel arches in the trunk, providing it with optimum protection. It consists of 96 cells, has its own cooling system and offers usable energy capacity of 675 Wh.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5 has both a conventional 14-volt power supply and a high-voltage supply with an operating voltage of 317 volts. They are linked by a voltage transformer which ensures that maximum electric energy can be used to enhance driving dynamics and comfort in any operating phase. Like the electric motor, the air conditioning compressor is also fed with power from the lithium-ion battery exclusively via the high-voltage supply. In addition, the stationary climate control function can be used to cool the interior before the engine is started.

The high-performance lithium-ion battery is charged when the car is coasting or braking. The electric motor acts as a generator feeding energy into the high-voltage battery; under acceleration, the electric motor takes on a boost function. Here, it assists the inline six by generating an extra burst of power.

Integrated into the standard Driving Dynamics Control is an ECO PRO mode. It tailors the driving systems for maximum efficiency, including making more frequent use of all-electric mode. In ECO PRO mode, the combustion engine can be switched off and fully decoupled while coasting at speeds of up to 100 mph (160 km/h). In coasting mode, as with all-electric mode for urban driving, all safety and comfort functions remain fully operational. To avoid periods with the engine running at idle, the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is equipped with a hybrid start-stop function.

Further, the power electronics in the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 are linked up with the standard navigation system, enabling proactive analysis of driving conditions based on the selected route. This enables the drive components to be primed to deliver maximum efficiency (the effect may vary according to the quality of the available navigation data). All the hybrid-specific components of the drive technology and energy management systems have been developed specially for use in the BMW ActiveHybrid 5.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5 can operate in all-electric mode up to a speed of 37 mph (60 km/h), for zero emissions in town. The lithium-ion high-voltage battery can store sufficient energy to give an all-electric driving range of up to approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) at an average speed of 22 mph (35 km/h).

The operating status of the powertrain components is shown in displays, unique to the ActiveHybrid 5, in the instrument cluster and in the Control Display. As well as the energy flow and energy recuperation display, these include an additional gauge next to the tachometer which shows the boost effect being provided by the electric motor during acceleration. A display in the iDrive interface provides a variety of information – for example on the battery’s current charge level and the power-sharing between the internal combustion engine and the electric motor during the course of a journey.

The chassis specifications of the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 include double-wishbone front and integral rear suspensions, Servotronic speed-sensitive power steering, a high-performance brake system and 18-inch alloy wheels. Dynamic Damper Control, featuring electronically controlled shock absorbers, is available as an option. The Dynamic Stability Control system, which stabilizes the vehicle by individually applying the brakes and reducing engine power, also incorporates functions such as Dynamic Traction Control, the Anti-lock Braking System, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Brake Assist, Brake Fade Compensation, Brake Drying and Start-Off Assistant.

The hybrid-specific safety features, which protect the high-voltage lithium-ion battery and the power electronics, are integrated into the BMW 5 Series’ existing active and passive safety systems. In a collision, high-strength structural components and large deformation zones help to keep impact forces away from the passenger cell and also from the hybrid drive components.

In the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 the standard Driving Dynamics Control switch offers not only Sport+, Sport and Comfort set-ups (as well as Comfort+ mode if the optional Dynamic Damper Control is specified), but also the ECO PRO mode. As an alternative to the standard 8-speed automatic transmission, an 8-speed sport automatic with faster shift times is available.

A number of BMW ConnectedDrive features are available for the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 including Park Distance Control, a rear-view camera, Surround View, High-Beam Assistant, Parking Assistant, Active Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning, BMW Night Vision with pedestrian recognition and Head-Up Display. The BMW Apps option offers integration of the Apple iPhone.

September 30, 2011 in Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama marks start of 4-cylinder engine production

Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama, Inc. (TMMAL), an engine-production subsidiary of Japan-based Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), held a line-off ceremony to mark the beginning of four-cylinder engine production. The 10-year old plant now has the capacity to produce approximately 216,000 4-cylinder engines, 146,000 V6 engines, and 144,000 V8 engines per year.

TMMAL-produced 2.5-liter and 2.7-liter four-cylinder engines will go into the all-new 2012 Camry, Highlander, Sienna and Venza. Toyota subsidiary Bodine Aluminum, Inc. (Bodine Aluminum), which produces the cylinder heads and blocks for the four-cylinder engines, has increased its production capacity accordingly at its plants in Troy, Missouri and Jackson, Tennessee.

At TMMAL, the production represents an additional investment of approximately US$147 million and at Bodine Aluminum, US$25 million.

TMMAL was established in 2001 as TMC’s first outside-Japan V8 engine plant for trucks and SUVs. After starting production in 2003, it added V6 engines to its lineup in 2005, and, in January 2008, reached a cumulative engine production of one million units. The introduction of four-cylinder engine production is intended to meet expected steady market demand for vehicles equipped with such engines and to increase the autonomy of TMC’s operations in North America.

September 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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