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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

New ICAO aircraft CO2 standard one step closer to final adoption after recommendation by CAEP

February 09, 2016

An aircraft CO2 emissions standard has made further and important headway at the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The new environmental measure was unanimously recommended by the 170 international experts on ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), paving the way for its ultimate adoption by the UN agency’s 36-State Governing Council.

Under the CAEP recommendation, the new CO2 emissions standard would not only be applicable to new aircraft type designs as of 2020, but also to new deliveries of current in-production aircraft types from 2023. A cut-off date of 2028 for production of aircraft that do not comply with the standard was also recommended. In its current form, the standard equitably acknowledges CO2 reductions arising from a range of possible technology innovations, whether structural, aerodynamic or propulsion-based.

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Continental urea sensors for efficient SCR NOx aftertreatment in diesels; measuring level, quality and temperature

February 05, 2016

Continental has begun production of urea sensors for the first time to support more efficient exhaust-gas aftertreatment in diesel engines. The sensor measures the level, quality, and temperature of the aqueous urea solution in the “AdBlue” tank used in conjunction with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) for NOx reduction.

The sensor-aided denitrification supports fulfillment of the legal requirements and reinforces drivers’ trust that their car emits no more than the maximum permissible level of nitrogen oxides.

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U Toronto study measures GDI emissions in urban near-road environment

A study of emissions from gasoline direct injection (GDI) vehicles in an urban near-road environment in Toronto over a wide range of weather conditions (February 2014 to January 2015) found that—other than for NOx and CO—the GDI engines had elevated emissions compared to the Toronto fleet.

In four campaigns over the year-long study, the team from the University of Toronto measured emissions 15 meters from the roadway, then converted the measurements to fuel-based emission factors (EFs). BC (black carbon) EFs were in the 73rd percentile; BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene-xylenes) EFs were in the 80–90th percentile; and size-resolved PN (particle number) EFs were in the 75th percentile during wintertime measurements.

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European Parliament rejects proposed veto of plan to raise diesel NOx limits temporarily for RDE deployment

February 03, 2016

Members of the European Parliament voted yesterday to reject a proposed veto of the plan to raise NOx emission limits for diesel cars temporarily by up to 110% when the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test procedure is introduced. The EU Commission promised a review clause and tabled a long-term legislative proposal to revamp the EU car approval regime, leading to the vote. (Earlier post.)

According to the European Commission, the transitional relaxation of limits is justified by the need to take account of technical uncertainties to do with the use of the new Portable Emission Measurement Systems (PEMS) device used for RDE testing, as well as “technical limits to improving the real world emission performance of currently produced diesel cars in the short-term.”

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Volkswagen Group begins EA189 diesel engine emission fixes in Europe; 2.0L Amarok first

In December 2015, the Volkswagen Group presented specific technical measures to the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) for the EA189 engines affected by the NOx issue. (Earlier post.) As agreed, the Group began implementing the measures in Germany at the end of January for 2.0L engines.

Volkswagen is starting with the Amarok (a mid-size pickup truck produced by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles), with the Passat to follow shortly. The installation of the new engine control software means that the Amarok now meets the limits required to comply with the EU5 emissions standard. Over the next few months, the measures will also be implemented on the engines with 1.2- and 1.6-liter displacements.

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FCA updating Euro 6 calibrations to improve emission performance under real driving conditions

February 02, 2016

FCA (Fiat Chrysler), as a voluntary measure, not mandated or requested by any regulatory authorities, will be updating its Euro 6 calibrations with new data sets to improve emission performance in real driving conditions. These new calibrations will be ready starting from April 2016 and will be available on all new vehicles sold on or after that date, and will be made available to all other owners of Euro 6 FCA vehicles at no charge, as part of vehicle calibration update programs that are implemented on a regular basis. This does not constitute a recall campaign, the company said.

In addition, FCA said it intends to accelerate its ongoing programs to expand application of Active Selective Catalytic Reduction (or SCR) technology that is already used in certain FCA vehicles, to make it available on other diesel engines families starting from the second quarter of 2017, well in advance of any applicable regulatory requirements.

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GM Ventures portfolio company SDCmaterials secures 1st supply agreement for cost-saving advanced catalyst products for autos

January 28, 2016

SDCmaterials, a developer of advanced catalyst products based on a novel materials fabrication and integration platform, announced a partnership and formalized a supply agreement with Car Sound, a leading manufacturer of catalysts and catalytic converters for the automotive aftermarket. Investors in SDCmaterials include the venture capital arms of General Motors, Volvo Group, and SAIC Motor as well as BASF Venture Capital.

The automotive catalytic converter, developed in the early 1970s primarily by General Motors and BASF/Engelhard and first deployed in 1975, changes exhaust pollutants into CO2, water vapor and nitrogen. The performance of existing catalyst technology degrades over time as precious metal particles agglomerate and surface area diminishes. SDC’s proprietary technology can both increase surface area of a given quantity of precious metal and reduce its agglomeration over time.

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European Commission proposing overhaul of type-approval framework to ensure strict compliance with EU requirements; centralized enforecement

The European Commission is proposing a major overhaul of the EU type-approval framework (Whole Vehicle Type-Approval System, WVTA). Under current rules, national authorities are solely responsible for certifying that a vehicle meets all requirements to be placed on the market and for policing manufacturers’ compliance with EU law. The new proposals will make vehicle testing more independent and increase surveillance of cars already in circulation, as well as give the EC itself enforcement capabilities.

The Commission was already reviewing the EU type-approval framework for motor vehicles prior to the Volkswagen revelations. It has since concluded on the need for more far-reaching reform to prevent cases of non-compliance from happening again. The proposal for a Regulation on the approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles complements efforts to introduce more robust emissions testing (Real Driving Emissions testing).

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ExxonMobil projects 25% energy demand increase between 2014-2040, 50% decline in carbon intensity; hybrids to be 40% of new car sales

January 25, 2016

Global energy demand will increase 25% between 2014 and 2040, driven by population growth and economic expansion, ExxonMobil forecasts in the 2016 edition of its annual The Outlook for Energy. At the same time, energy efficiency gains and increased use of renewable energy sources and lower carbon fuels, such as natural gas, are expected to help reduce by half the carbon intensity of the global economy.

During the period, the world’s population will increase by about 2 billion people and emerging economies will continue to expand significantly, according to the forecast. Most growth in energy demand will occur in developing nations that are not part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Per capita income in those countries is likely to increase by 135%.

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Researchers find some solid-state hydrogen storage materials could serve as less toxic solid propellants for rockets

Researchers in China have found that amine metal borohydride—a novel hydrogen-enriched boron–nitrogen–hydrogen (BNH) hydrogen storage system—has potential as a solid propellant or additive for solid and hybrid rockets.

In a paper in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they investigated the combustion properties of two newly developed ethylene diamine aluminum borohydrides (Al(BH4)3·nEDA, n = 3, 2). They found the materials have high combustion heat of 32.20 and 36.90 MJ/kg for Al(BH4)3·3EDA and Al(BH4)3·2EDA, respectively, with ignition delay times of ∼2.0 ms.

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Ricardo and GTI partner on new lower-emissions medium- and heavy-duty natural gas engine technologies for California

January 20, 2016

Ricardo will partner with Gas Technology Institute (GTI) on two major contracts to enable natural gas engines to provide a viable, fuel-efficient, and less polluting alternative to diesel power for medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles on the highways of California.

Despite California’s substantial progress in reducing emissions from heavy-duty trucks and other mobile sources, diesel trucks remain major contributors to statewide emissions of NOx, greenhouse gases (GHG), and diesel particulate matter (PM). By 2031, the South Coast Basin will exceed mandatory air quality standards unless NOx emissions are reduced 90% compared with today.

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European Parliament to vote on proposal to veto increased diesel emissions limits

January 19, 2016

The European Parliament will vote at the next plenary session on a proposal to veto a draft decision to raise diesel car emission limits for NOx by up to 110% when the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test procedure is introduced.

Parliament’s Environment Committee argues that MEPs should veto plans to relax the limits because this would undermine the enforcement of existing EU standards.

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PSA Peugeot Citroën: tests confirm environmental performance of BlueHDi SCR technology for diesel NOx control

January 15, 2016

PSA Peugeot Citroën announced that the initial results obtained by the Peugeot 208 and Peugeot 508 in tests organized by the technical committee led by the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy comply with regulations and are aligned with homologated data.

The company said that the results confirm the effectiveness of its BlueHDi after-treatment system, in which selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology is positioned upstream of the particulate filter to eliminate up to 90% of the nitrogen NOx released by diesel engines, bringing NOx emissions down to levels near those of gasoline engines. At the same time, diesel engines maintain their advantage of 15% lower CO2 emissions and 20% greater fuel efficiency.

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California ARB rejects VW 2-liter diesel recall plan and issues Notice of Violation

January 12, 2016

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) is rejecting VW’s submitted recall plan for 2-liter diesel passenger vehicles sold in California between 2009 and 2015 which were sold with the software defeat devices. It also notified VW of violations of California air quality regulations associated with the company’s use of a defeat device in those cars.

This rejection only applies to VW’s diesel 2.0L vehicles, not 3.0L vehicles. The submission of the recall plan for 3.0L vehicles is due to ARB on 2 February 2016. ARB made public three separate official documents related to its actions: A transmittal letter signed by Executive Officer Richard W. Corey; the rejection of VW’s submitted recall plan; and the formal Notice of Violation. ARB said that VW’s recall plan fell short in a number of areas, including:

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ECS and Toyota request proposals for 2016-2017 ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship for projects in green energy technology

January 07, 2016

The Electrochemical Society (ECS), in partnership with the Toyota Research Institute of North American (TRINA), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), is requesting proposals from young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology.

The purpose of the annual ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship, established in 2014, is to encourage young professors and scholars to pursue research in green energy technology that may promote the development of next-generation vehicles capable of utilizing alternative fuels.

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US files civil complaint against Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche for alleged Clean Air Act violations

January 04, 2016

The US Department of Justice, on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency, has filed a civil complaint in federal court in Detroit, Michigan against Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations, LLC, Porsche AG, and Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (collectively referred to as Volkswagen). The complaint alleges that nearly 600,000 diesel engine vehicles had illegal defeat devices installed that impair their emission control systems and cause emissions to exceed EPA’s standards, resulting in harmful air pollution. (Earlier post.)

The complaint further alleges that Volkswagen violated the Clean Air Act by selling, introducing into commerce, or importing into the United States motor vehicles that are designed differently from what Volkswagen had stated in applications for certification to EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

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Dalian team proposes jet controlled compression ignition to control PCCI phasing in a hybrid pneumatic engine

December 30, 2015

Researchers at the Dalian University of Technology have proposed a novel method to control premixed charge compression ignition (PCCI) phasing in internal combustion engines in all load operations. High-pressure air jet controlled compression ignition (JCCI) is based on a compound thermodynamic cycle and is implemented in a hybrid pneumatic engine (HPE) as proposed by Schechter in 1999.

The application of HPE is also beneficial to the fuel consumption and emissions because of its several flexible operation modes. A paper on the use of JCCI is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

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German KBA ratifies fixes for Volkswagen 1.2, 1.6 and 2.0L diesels; implementation begins in January

December 17, 2015

After a review, the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) has fully ratified the measures proposed by Volkswagen to address the NOx emissions issues in Europe for the 1.2-liter EA189 diesels as well as the 1.6- and 2.0-liter versions. (Earlier post.) The vehicle owners will shortly be informed about the next steps. Volkswagen will begin implementation right at the start of 2016.

The 1.2-liter and 2.0-liter engines will get a software update. Labor time will be just under half an hour. The 1.6-liter engines will also get a software update. In addition, a “flow rectifier” will be fitted in front of the air mass sensor. The labor time for implementing these measures will be less than an hour.

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SwRI-led AC2AT consortium launches second year of advanced emissions research with focus on improving aftertreatment and fuel efficiency strategies

The Advanced Combustion Catalyst and Aftertreatment Technologies (AC2AT) consortium, led by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), will focus on four research projects in its second year. (Earlier post.)

During the first year of work, the consortium made progress in its understanding of the complex nature of emissions from today’s high-performance, high-efficiency gasoline and diesel engines, said Dr. Cary Henry, a manager in SwRI’s Engine, Emissions, and Vehicle Research Division who leads the AC2AT consortium. This year’s focus will be on specific projects to improve aftertreatment and fuel efficiency strategies for these engines.

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Opel to begin publishing WLTP fuel consumption numbers in Q2 2016; improving SCR for NOx reductions

December 15, 2015

Beginning in Q2 2016, and in addition to the official fuel consumption and CO2 information, Opel will start publishing fuel consumption numbers recorded under the WLTP cycle, starting with the new Astra.

In addition, Opel’s diesel engineers have recently started working on an initiative to implement NOx emission improvements on SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) diesel applications. This is a voluntary and early improvement towards the RDE (Real Driving Emissions) legislation that goes into effect in Europe in 2017. Opel said it is committed to providing the testing authorities transparency.

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Study quantifies impact of fuel composition on PM emissions from gasoline direct injection engines

December 14, 2015

Researchers from Tsinghua University and Peking University have investigated the effects of fuel properties on particulate emissions gasoline direct injection engines (GDI). The study results, reported in the journal Fuel, demonstrated that the fuel composition has a significant on particulate emissions from GDI engines.

Although turbocharged GDI engines offer the attractive combination of both increased fuel efficiency and performance due to their higher volumetric efficiencies at high load, they also tend to produce more PM than PFI engines, with PM mass levels exceeding those of diesels equipped with diesel particulate filters, as well as conventional port-fuel injected vehicles. (Storey et al., 2014).

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HeidelbergCement and Joule partnering to explore carbon-neutral fuel application in cement manufacturing

Joule, a pioneer in the production of liquid fuels from recycled CO2, and HeidelbergCement, a German multinational building material company, are partnering to explore application of Joule’s technology to mitigate carbon emissions in cement manufacturing. Cement manufacturing is highly energy and emissions intensive, currently contributing about 6% of global CO2 (Zhang et al. 2014).

As part of the agreement, emissions (or offtake gas) from various HeidelbergCement factories could provide Joule with the waste CO2 required to feed its advanced Helioculture platform that effectively recycles CO2 back into fuel.

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Volkswagen AG provides details on investigations into NOx cheating; origin and fixes; new strategic direction

December 10, 2015

At a press conference in Germany today, Volkswagen Group executives provided details on the status of its investigation—which is being coordinated by a special committee of the Supervisory Board—into the diesel emissions debacle. (Earlier post.)

Approximately 450 internal and external experts are involved in the investigations, which are being conducted in two phases. An internal review, being conducted by a task force of experts from various Group companies with a clearly defined mandate and a deadline, is focused on the mandate to Group Audit by the Supervisory Board and the Management Board to investigate relevant processes, reporting and monitoring systems, and the associated infrastructure.

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U Wisconsin team investigates RCCI and GCI in single engine using adaptive dual-fuel injector

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have investigated blending the benefits of reactivity controlled compression ignition (RCCI) and gasoline compression ignition (GCI) using QuantLogic’s novel adaptive dual-fuel injector which is capable of direct injecting both gasoline and diesel fuel in a single cycle.

Working with Deyang Hou, the founder of injection technology company QuantLogic, they reported on the computational optimizations of RCCI and GCI in a paper in the International Journal of Engine Research.

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Volkswagen: CO2 “irregularities” issue largely concluded; no unlawful changes

December 09, 2015

In early November, the Volkswagen Group announced that during the course of its internal investigation into the diesel emission cheating issue, it had uncovered “irregularities” when determining type-approval CO2 levels. (Earlier post.) Some 800,000 vehicles in Europe could be affected, the company said.

Today, Volkswagen announced that, “following extensive internal investigations and measurement checks,” almost all of those model variants do correspond to the CO2 figures originally determined.

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Researchers develop alkali- and sulfur-resistant tungsten-based catalysts for SCR NOx control

December 07, 2015

Researchers at Fudan University, with colleagues at the University of Jinan and Chongqing University, have developed alkali- and sulfur-resistant tungsten-based catalysts for SCR NOx emissions control. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Alkali metals and sulfur oxides are two kinds of the well-known poisons of catalysts used in the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) of NOx with NH3 from both stationary and mobile sources. At the 2015 AIChE Annual Meeting in Houston last month, Yasser Jangjou and William Epling presented a paper on sulfur poisoning of the SCR reaction, noting that sulfur is a common automotive catalyst poison even for the newer metal-exchanged small pore zeolite selective catalytic reduction (SCR) catalysts.

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Study: 87% of world’s population in 2013 lived in areas exceeding WHO PM2.5 guidelines

December 06, 2015

In 2013, 87% of the world’s population lived in areas exceeding the World Health Organization (WHO) Air Quality Guideline of 10 μg/m3 PM2.5 (annual average), according to a major international study published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Between 1990 and 2013, global population-weighted PM2.5 increased by 20.4%, driven by trends in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and China, according to the team’s findings. However, decreases in population-weighted mean concentrations of PM2.5 were evident in most high income countries. Additionally, the study found that the population-weighted mean concentrations of ozone increased globally by 8.9% from 1990–2013 with increases in most countries—except for modest decreases in North America, parts of Europe, and several countries in Southeast Asia.

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ICCT-led test of 73 Euro 6 diesels finds large difference in NOx results under NEDC and more realistic WLTC

December 02, 2015

A team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) with colleagues from the US, China and Germany tested 73 Euro 6 diesel passenger cars on a chassis dynamometer over both the European type-approval cycle (NEDC, cold engine start) and the more realistic Worldwide harmonized light-duty test cycle (WLTC version 2.0, hot start) between 2012 and 2015. The cars featured three different types of NOx control technologies (8 EGR only, 40 LNT, and 25 SCR).

In a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they reported that while most vehicles met the Euro 6 legislative limit of 0.08 g/km of NOx over NEDC, the average emission factors rose significantly over WLTC. The findings, the team said, illustrate how diesel NOx emissions are not properly controlled under the current, NEDC-based homologation framework.

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Dearman begins on-vehicle testing of Gen 2 transport refrigeration system powered by liquid air engine; lighter, more efficient

November 28, 2015

Dearman has begun on-vehicle testing of the Generation 2 zero-emission transport refrigeration system. The system is powered by an innovative, liquid nitrogen Dearman engine, which replaces the standard diesel engine. (Earlier post.) As a result, the Dearman system is zero-emission, producing no harmful NOx or particulates, and it helps to significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

Dearman began testing a Generation 1 transport refrigeration system on a truck in early 2015. Since then the Dearman engine has been re-designed and it is already proving to be 30% lighter, 30% smaller, and 30% more efficient than its predecessor.

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VW’s relatively simple technical fixes for cheating 1.6 and 2.0L diesels accepted by KBA; 1.2L fix coming by end of month

November 25, 2015

The Volkswagen Group has proposed the specific technical fixes for the non-compliant 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter diesel EA 189 engines equipped with the software defeat device resulting in excessive NOxemissions to the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (Kraftfahrtbundesamt, KBA). Following an examination, these measures have been ratified by the KBA. (The remedies announced by Volkswagen AG apply only to affected TDI vehicles in Europe, and not to affected TDI vehicles in the United States and Canada.)

For the 1.6-liter diesel, a “flow transformer” will be fitted directly in front of the air mass sensor. This mesh will calm the swirled air flow in front of the air mass sensor and thus improving the measuring accuracy of the air mass sensor. The air mass sensor determines the current air mass throughput—a very important parameter for the engine management for an optimum combustion process.

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DUH charges that Renault Espace diesel emits 13-25 times Euro 6 NOx limit; Renault disputes

The 1.6-liter Renault Espace diesel is the latest vehicle to come in the emissions crosshairs of German environmental NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH). DUH published results of emissions testing by the University of Bern showing that NOx emissions from New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) driven tests with a warm engine exceed the applicable limit for Euro 6 vehicles 13- to 25-fold.

Renault immediately issued a statement disputing the Umwelthilfe findings, and asserted that Espace complies with applicable regulations, just as do all Renault vehicles.

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Achates Power wins $9M from ARPA-E to develop gasoline compression ignition medium-duty multi-cylinder opposed-piston engine

November 24, 2015

Achates Power, the developer of a family of two-stroke compression-ignition opposed-piston engines (earlier post), has been selected by APRA-E under its OPEN 2015 solicitation (earlier post) for an award of more than $9 million to develop a multi-cylinder opposed piston engine operating with compression ignition that uses gasoline as the fuel.

The unthrottled nature of the compression ignition process provides high engine efficiency while achieving compliant exhaust emissions with conventional, low-cost aftertreatment. This—in addition to the opposed engine architecture—could increase fuel efficiency by 40-50% over the comparable spark-ignited gasoline engine, Achates said.

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Audi to revise auxiliary emission control devices for US V6 TDI 3L diesel, resubmit to EPA and ARB; mid-double-digit million euro cost

November 23, 2015

Audi will revise, document in detail, and resubmit for US approval certain parameters of the engine-management software used in the US version of the V6 TDI 3 liter diesel engine.

The action plan is the result of the discussions held between a delegation from Audi AG and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in response to the 2 November EPA notice of violation (NOV) in which Audi was informed that AECDs (Auxiliary Emission Control Devices) were not sufficiently described and declared in the application for US type approval. That will now be done with the updated software and the documentation. (Earlier post.)

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Study finds substantial increase in nanoparticles in air as it crosses the Baltic Sea; shipping emissions responsible for about half

A study by a team of international researchers has found that air crossing over the main basin of the heavily ship-trafficked Baltic Sea shows a “substantial” increase in the number of 50–400 nm particles (50–400N). An open-access paper on their work is published in the journal Oceanologia.

The researchers evaluated 10 months worth of data (September 2009 to June 2010) of atmospheric aerosol particle number size distribution at three atmospheric observation stations along the Baltic Sea coast: Vavihill (upwind, Sweden); Utö (upwind, Finland); and Preila (downwind, Lithuania).

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Volkswagen submits recall plan for 2-liter diesel cars to California Air Resources Board; ARB to respond

November 21, 2015

The Volkswagen Group of America (VW) submitted a recall plan to the California Air Resources Board (ARB) on Friday, responding to the violations described in ARB’s 18 September 2015 letter to VW concerning illegal defeat devices in 2-liter diesel-powered vehicles, model years 2009-2015. (Earlier post.)

The submission of the plan triggers a review by ARB of up to 20 business days of all elements of the plan. Based on ARB’s review, VW may be required to revise and resubmit all, or specific elements of the recall plan. ARB will also consult with US EPA during this process to develop a national recall plan.

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Propel Fuels reports strong consumer adoption of renewable diesel in SoCal; retail sales up 300% over biodiesel

November 18, 2015

Propel launched Diesel HPR across Southern California in August 2015, and consumer adoption of the fuel has risen 300% compared to its former biodiesel product (B20). (Earlier post.) Utilizing Neste’s NEXBTL renewable diesel, Propel’s Diesel HPR is a low-carbon, drop-in renewable fuel that meets the ASTM D-976 petroleum diesel specifications for use in diesel engines, while offering drivers better performance and lower emissions.

Performance features include a 75 cetane rating, 40 percent higher than regular diesel. Diesel HPR provides cleaner and more efficient combustion for more power and a smoother ride at a cost similar to or lower than petroleum diesel.

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Study finds EV deployment in China to increase Environmental Justice challenge there

November 16, 2015

A new study by a team from the University of Tennessee, Tsinghua University and the University of Minnesota has found that the wide-scale deployment of electric vehicles in China can increase the Environmental Justice (EJ) challenge in that country.

According to their findings, published in a paper in the ACS journalEnvironmental Science & Technology, most (∼77%, range: 41–96%) emission inhalation attributable to urban EVs use—i.e., from the shifting of transportation’s air pollution from urban tailpipes to rural power plants—is distributed to predominately rural communities the incomes of which are on average lower than the cities in which the EVs are used.

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VW: 430,046 MY 2016 vehicles in Europe affected by “CO2 issue”

November 14, 2015

On 3 November, Volkswagen AG announced that during the course of its internal investigation into the diesel emission cheating issue, it had uncovered “irregularities” when determining type-approval CO2 levels, affecting around 800,000 vehicles from the Group. (Earlier post.)

Volkswagen AG has now announced that of those affected vehicles, 430,046 units are MY 2016 vehicles from the Volkswagen (281,617 units, 65.5%); Škoda (83,262 units, 19.4%); SEAT (32,161 units, 7.5%); VW Commercial (17,253 units, 4%); and Audi (15,733 units, 3.7%) brands.

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Aramco opens R&D center in Detroit area; fuels research with focus on novel fuels/engines systems for reduced CO2

The Aramco Research Center-Detroit was inaugurated as one of three US-based research and development (R&D) centers aimed at expanding the global research capabilities of Saudi Aramco, the leading global integrated energy and chemicals company. The new facility, located in Novi, Mich., and owned and operated by US subsidiary Aramco Services Company, further strengthens the company’s global fuels research program.

Aramco’s fuels technology program is focused on reducing the overall environmental impact, cost and complexity of both current and future fuel-engine systems. With a global refining presence, Aramco brings a perspective into how fuels can be designed and matched to engines for higher performance and lower emissions. A planned outcome of Aramco’s research is to generate vehicle and fleet demonstrations to showcase the benefits of novel fuel/engine systems.

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Report finds road transportation sector in Canada likely to fall far short of 2050 GHG emissions reduction target

November 12, 2015

A new Conference Board of Canada report finds that Canada is unlikely to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. Even when taking into account reduced distances traveled per vehicle, improvements in fuel efficiency, and greater market penetration of alternative technology vehicles, Canada falls short of the 80-by-50 target.

Despite voluntary and regulatory initiatives that have improved the emissions efficiency of passenger and freight transportation, emissions from road transportation are increasing due to growing number of cars on the road and Canadians’ changing preference for light trucks. Canada’s road transport emissions were 40% higher in 2013 than in 1990. Between 1990 and 2013, transportation emissions accounted for nearly half of the growth of Canada’s total emissions levels, with road transport accounting for the largest share of transportation emissions.

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Mazda’s new Aqua-tech Paint System receives Prime Minister’s Award; lower VOCs than Three Layer Wet

November 09, 2015

Mazda Motor Corporation’s new paint system—the Aqua-tech Paint System—has received the Prime Minister’s Award (Manufacturing and Production Process Category) at the 6th Monodzukuri Nippon Grand Award ceremony. The Aqua-tech Paint System reduces emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) compared to Mazda’s previous oil-based paint systems without increasing energy consumption (and associated CO2 emissions).

Mazda had already achieved world-class low CO2 emission levels with the implementation of the Three Layer Wet Paint System. The company’s follow-on goal was to further reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions to world-class levels.

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Frost & Sullivan forecasts Gasoline Particulate Filters to climb from 50,335 units now to 4.2-4.6 million units by 2020

November 08, 2015

Gasoline direct injection (GDI) is a strategy to improve fuel efficiency that is rapidly gaining market acceptance. However, unlike conventional gasoline engines, gasoline direct injection engines produce particulate matter, as do diesels, and emission controls will become an issue the technology must address as standards for particle mass tighten, and also as standards for particle numbers emerge.

In a 2013 study, a team from Ford’s Research and Advanced Engineering group in Dearborn noted that because the efficiency advantage of homogeneous GDI is not as large as with diesel engines, the use of gasoline particulate filters (GPF) is a less practical solution to PM emissions aftertreatment. Accordingly, there are significant research efforts—including Ford’s own—aimed at understanding how PM emissions can be reduced by engine design (e.g., fuel injection timing, number of injections, fuel pressure, injector placement, etc.) and fuel properties. (Earlier post.) Nevertheless, Frost & Sullivan projects the number of engines equipped with GPFs will climb from 50,335 units today to 4.2–4.6 million units by 2020. (“Analysis of the GPF Market for Passenger Cars in Europe and North America”)

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EPA issues a second notice of violation to Volkswagen alleging emissions cheating in MY 2014-2016 3.0L diesels (Updated with VW response)

November 02, 2015

EPA issued a second notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., alleging emissions cheating. This NOV is also being issued to Porsche AG and Porsche Cars North America. In response, VW AG in Germany issued a statement asserting that “no software has been installed in the 3-liter V6 diesel power units to alter emissions characteristics in a forbidden manner.” Volkswagen said it will cooperate fully with the EPA to “clarify this matter in its entirety.”

The NOV alleges that the VW Group companies developed and installed a software defeat device—specifically, code in the electronic control module (ECM)—in certain VW, Audi and Porsche light duty diesel vehicles equipped with 6-cylinder, 3.0-liter engines for model years (MY) 2014 through 2016 that results in increased NOx emissions of up to nine times EPA’s standard. The vehicles covered by the new NOV are the diesel versions of the 2014 VW Touareg, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne, and the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L, and Q5.

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DUH charges Zafira diesel emits up to 17x more NOx than permitted under certain conditions; Opel rebuts with its own testing

October 23, 2015

German environmental NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) (earlier post) has charged that an Opel Zafira 1.6 CDTi diesel (Euro 6b) emits up to 17 times more NOx under certain driving situations than permitted by the Euro 6 limit value. Dynamometer testing for DUH was conducted at the Bern University of Applied Sciences (Berner Fachhochschule).

In three tests under the NEDC cycle with rotating rear wheels, the Zafira emitted between 2 to 4 times more NOx than allowed, according to the test report released by DUH. In three additional tests under normal test conditions—and thus with non-rotating rear wheels—however, the NOx values were below the legal value limit of 80 mg/km in each case.

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Volkswagen confirms EA288 diesel engines designed for EU5 and EU6 not affected by defeat device software

Volkswagen confirmed on Thursday that no software constituting an improper emissions control defeat device as defined in law is installed in vehicles with EA 288 EU5- or EU6-engines in the European Union. Consequently, new vehicles of the Volkswagen Group offered within the European Union with those engines comply with legal requirements and environmental standards.

Volkswagen Group had earlier confirmed that new EU6-compliant vehicles offered within the European Union fulfill all legal requirements and environmental standards. (Earlier post.)

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Rice University study of lung cells suggests anthropogenic carbon nanotubes are common pollutants

October 21, 2015

Rice University scientists, working with colleagues in France, have detected the presence of anthropogenic carbon nanotubes (CBTs) in cells extracted from the airways of Parisian children under routine treatment for asthma. These nanostructures are similar to those present in dusts and vehicle exhausts collected in Paris, as well as to those previously observed in ambient air in the USA, in spider webs in India, and in ice cores, the researchers found. These results suggest that humans are routinely exposed to CNTs.

The research, published in an open-access paper in the journal EBioMedicine, in no way ascribes the children’s conditions to the nanotubes, said Rice chemist Lon Wilson, a corresponding author of the new paper. But the nanotubes’ apparent ubiquity should be the focus of further investigation, he said.

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Mercedes-Benz to begin equipping top models with CO2 air conditioning systems starting in 2017; adapting other models for R1234yf

October 20, 2015

From 2017, Mercedes-Benz will offer in Europe the S- and E-Class as the first production passenger cars equipped with CO2 air conditioning systems. These completely newly developed systems are based on the DIN specifications defined by the automotive standards committee of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA).

Due to especially quickly available and high cooling performance, CO2 air conditioning systems swiftly provide for a pleasant feel-good climate inside vehicles even in very hot weather, the company said, while at the same time complying with legal requirements for low global warming potential refrigerants and avoiding the use of R1234yf, which Mercedes has found problematic. (Earlier post.)

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SwRI to launch 7th clean diesel engine consortium

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is launching Clean High-Efficiency Diesel Engine VII (CHEDE-VII), the seventh phase of the industry’s longest-running diesel research consortium. The kick-off meeting for the four-year, multi-client cooperative research program, which is open to potential new members, will be 5 November at SwRI headquarters in San Antonio.

Consortium members will select research topics related to low-emission, high-efficiency diesel engine technology. Building on more than 24 years of experience, CHEDE-VII will develop pre-competitive diesel engine technology initiatives to address the needs of industry five to 10 years into the future.

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New efficient hybrid optimization control method for diesel engine emissions and performance

October 19, 2015

Researchers at Iowa State have developed a new hybrid optimization control method to improve diesel engine emissions and performance. As reported in a paper in the International Journal of Engine Research, the hybrid method, which combines both particle swarm optimization (PSO) and genetic algorithm (GA) methods was able to locate a narrow window of operation which showed 27% lower NOx emissions and 60% lower particulate matter emissions than a standard PSO method.

The hybrid method was also able to locate the improvements using similar dynamometer time, indicating that the hybrid method is more efficient and more effective, the researchers said.

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Sandia CRF team provides experimental confirmation of oxidation scheme of lower emissions diesel alternative DME; new intermediates

October 17, 2015

An international team of researchers led by a group from the Combustion Research Facility (CRF) at Sandia National Laboratories recently provided experimental confirmation of the generally accepted low-temperature oxidation scheme of dimethyl ether (DME)—a lower soot and emissions alternative to diesel—at low temperatures (~540 K, 267˚C). Their paper was published in the ACS Journal of Physical Chemistry A.

Especially significant, they said, was detecting and identifying keto-hydroperoxide (hydroperoxymethylformate, HPMF, HOOCH2OCHO)—a previously undiscovered partially oxidized intermediate—thereby providing critical information needed to improve models.

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Volkswagen: reorienting diesel strategy, new Modular Electric Toolkit, MQB push on PHEVs, electric Phaeton

October 13, 2015

The newly-formed Volkswagen Brand Board of Management has made a number of major strategic product decisions, including a reorientation of the diesel strategy to use the most advanced emission aftertreatment technologies; the development of a standardized electric architecture (Modular Electric Toolkit, MEB) for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles; and an electric next-generation Phaeton.

Further, Volkswagen will accelerate its efficiency program and cut spending by some €1 billion per year.

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Argonne study finds lightweight material substitution increases vehicle-cycle GHGs, but results in total life-cycle benefit

October 12, 2015

A team at Argonne National Laboratory has taken a closer look at vehicle-cycle (all processes related to vehicle manufacturing) and vehicle total life-cycle (vehicle-cycle plus fuel cycle—i.e., the use phase) impacts of substituting lightweight materials into vehicles.

In a study published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they reported that while material substitution can reduce vehicle weight, it often increases vehicle-cycle greenhouse gas emissions GHGs—for example, replacing steel with wrought aluminum, carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CRFP), or magnesium increases the vehicle-cycle GHGs. However, lifetime fuel economy benefits often outweigh the vehicle-cycle, resulting in a net total life-cycle GHG benefit, they found. This is the case for steel replaced by wrought aluminum in all assumed cases, and for CFRP and magnesium except for high substitution ratio and low fuel reduction value.

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California ARB holding informational meeting on feasibility of measuring LEV III PM mass standards

October 10, 2015

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) will conduct a public meeting on 22 October to hear an update from ARB staff on the feasibility of measurement of LEV III particulate matter (PM) standards. The meeting is informational only, with no Board action anticipated.

PM emissions from light- and medium-duty vehicles are regulated by California’s Low-Emission Vehicle (LEV) regulations. LEV III (3rd generation) regulations were approved by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) in January 2012 as part of the Advanced Clean Cars (ACC) program. (Earlier post.) LEV III tightens the PM standard for light-duty vehicles (cars and trucks) and medium-duty passenger vehicles in two phases.

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DLR wrapping up ECLIF in-flight study of emissions from alternative aviation fuels; potential for improved fuel design

October 09, 2015

In a three-week series of flight tests lasting until 9 October 2015, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has been investigating how to reduce the impact of air transport on the climate by using alternative fuels. The testing is part of DLR’s Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels (ECLIF) project.

ECLIF is analyzing the emissions produced by alternative fuels using the full range of methods available at DLR—from combustion analysis in the laboratories of the DLR Institute of Combustion Technology and tests in the combustion chamber test facilities at the DLR Institute of Propulsion Technology, through to the exhaust gas measurements conducted by the DLR Institute of Atmospheric Physics now taking place during the flight trials.

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Dearman and Hubbard Products form technology partnership for zero-emission transport refrigeration

Dearman, the developer of the liquid air Dearman Engine—an innovative heat engine that uses liquid air (or liquid nitrogen) as a “fuel” and emits cold air as exhaust(earlier post)—has formed a technology partnership with Hubbard Products, Europe’s leading designer, manufacturer and supplier of commercial cooling equipment.

Both companies work together to further develop and bring to market a highly efficient and cost-effective zero-emission transport refrigeration system based around the Dearman engine. In September, Dearman presented an analysis showing that the 1 million transport refrigeration units currently on European streets have the equivalent impact on air pollution as up to 56 million diesel cars.

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Global MRV introduces first permanently embedded Micro PEMS for continuous onboard emissions analysis

October 08, 2015

Global MRV, a provider of portable emissions measurement systems (PEMS), has introduced the first on-board permanently embedded Micro PEMS that reports all regulated vehicle emissions and performance system data all the time. Called Firefly, the PEMS provides continuous analysis of diesel or internal combustion engine emissions. The patented Firefly unit is 11-inches long by 11-inches wide and 3-inches high, and weighs seven pounds (3.2 kg).

Global MRV is deploying Firefly technology to measure, report and verify the operations of light- and heavy-duty vehicles operating in normal driving conditions. Firefly collects and allows for the combined analysis of engine, GPS and emissions data; the unit is currently being tested in on-road vehicles and will be available to the market at the end of 2016.

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CPT and Eminox to collaborate on development of retrofit electric supercharging and aftertreatment solutions for heavy-duty vehicles

Controlled Power Technologies (CPT), a British developer of advanced automotive technology focused on the electrification of internal combustion engines, and Eminox, also based in the UK and a leading European manufacturer of exhaust gas control systems for heavy duty diesel vehicles, will collaborate to bring their technologies for reduced fuel consumption and emissions to the heavy duty vehicle retrofit market.

By combining CPT’s Cobra electric supercharger with Eminox’s SCRT technology, which itself combines CRT (continuously regenerating trap) and SCR (selective catalytic reduction) technology to reduce emissions of vehicles already in service, the companies plan to demonstrate a solution that can achieve Euro VI emissions standards and fuel economy improvements.

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Volkswagen of America temporarily withdraws application for US certification of MY 2016 vehicles; AECDs

October 07, 2015

In his prepared testimony for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing tomorrow (earlier post), Michael Horn, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, says that in discussions with EPA and the California ARB, Volkswagen said that its emissions control strategy also included a software feature that should be disclosed to and approved by the agencies as an auxiliary emissions control device (“AECD”) in connection with the certification process.

AECDs are allowed by the EPA, but they must be disclosed. As a result, Horn says, Volkswagen has withdrawn the application for certification of its model year 2016 vehicles. The company is working with the agencies to continue the certification process, he adds.

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New VW Group CEO: “swift and relentless clarification” of emissions scandal; technical solution to be presented to authorities

October 06, 2015

Speaking at a plant meeting in Wolfsburg, Matthias Müller, the new CEO of Volkswagen AG, promised employees “swift and relentless clarification” of the emissions scandal. He said that what had happened went against everything the Group and its people stand for and that there was no excuse.

Müller said that the company will shortly be presenting the technical solutions to the responsible authorities—in particular the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA)—for approval. Müller said that while in many instances a software update will be sufficient, some vehicles will also require hardware modifications. “We will keep our customers constantly informed about the measures and arrange workshop appointments.

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CWI ISL G Near Zero natural gas engine certified to near zero NOx; 90% below current standard

Cummins Westport Inc. (CWI) announced that its new ISL G Near Zero (NZ) natural gas engine is the first mid-range engine in North America to receive emission certifications from both US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Air Resources Board (ARB) in California that meet the 0.02 g/bhp-hr optional Near Zero NOx Emissions standards for medium-duty truck, urban bus, school bus and refuse applications.

Cummins Westport ISL G NZ exhaust emissions will be 90% lower than the current EPA NOx limit of 0.2 g/bhp-hr and also meet the 2017 EPA greenhouse gas emission requirements. CWI natural gas engines have met the 2010 EPA standard for particulate matter (0.01 g/bhp-hr) since 2001.

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Freudenberg-NOK wins first regular-production order for dry gas-lubricated frictionless engine seals

October 05, 2015

Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies (Freudenberg-NOK) has won its first major order for its new generation of dry gas-lubricated automotive seals—a first in the automotive market. The frictionless Levitex seals, a subject of the company’s research for years, will go into an engine for a global platform in 2017. The new seals function with a cushion of air, reducing both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. CO2 reductions can be as high as 1 gram per kilometer driven.

Freudenberg-NOK initially will produce Levitex seals in Europe, although the company plans to expand product into North America in the future as customer demand grows.

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ARB posts discussion draft of new proposed mobile-source emissions reduction strategy through 2030; Advanced Clean Cars 2 regulation

October 02, 2015

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has published a discussion draft of a proposed strategy for further regulation and reduction of mobile source—cars, trucks, and off-road equipment—emissions. The approach described is designed to meet simultaneously federal air quality standards; achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction targets; reduce petroleum consumption; and decrease health risk from transportation sources through 2030.

ARB staff developed this strategy using a multi-pollutant scenario planning tool (Vision 2.0) that quantifies changes in ozone and PM2.5 precursor emissions; GHG emissions; petroleum usage; and diesel toxics emissions as various technologies become widespread in vehicle and equipment fleets.

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VW says complete investigation of emissions scandal will take several months; suspending General Meeting in November; report on solutions next week

In a statement issued following its meeting on 30 September the Executive Committee of Volkswagen AG’s Supervisory Board said that it has concluded that the completion of investigations into the emissions testing scandal will take at least several months.

For this reason, the Executive Committee will propose to the Supervisory Board that the Extraordinary General Meeting scheduled for 9 November should not be held. The Executive Committee Members all agreed that, in view of the time available and the matters to be considered, it would not be realistic to provide well-founded answers which would fulfill the shareholder’s justified expectations.

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Volkswagen of America CEO to testify before House Subcommittee next week on emissions affair; request for all related documents

As part of its ongoing investigation into Volkswagen’s emissions issues, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has scheduled a hearing for Thursday, 8 October. The hearing is entitled, “Volkswagen’s Emissions Cheating Allegations: Initial Questions.”

Volkswagen Group of America President and CEO Michael Horn and the Environmental Protection Agency are scheduled to testify as the subcommittee investigates Volkswagen’s alleged efforts to circumvent emissions requirements for certain models of diesel engine passenger vehicles. Members are working to understand the facts and circumstances surrounding Volkswagen’s reported Clean Air Act violations and what they mean for consumers and the general public.

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EPA tightens ground-level ozone standard to 70 ppb

October 01, 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final rule revising the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone to 70 parts per billion (ppb) from 75 ppb to protect public health. Ground-level ozone forms when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the air.

EPA examined nearly 2,300 studies in this review of the ozone standards including more than 1,000 new studies published since the last review of the standards in 2008. Scientific evidence shows that ozone can cause a number of harmful effects on the respiratory system, including difficulty breathing and inflammation of the airways. EPA estimates that the public health benefits of the updated standards will range from $2.9 to $5.9 billion annually in 2025 (outside of California), outweighing the estimated annual costs of $1.4 billion.

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Ricardo demonstrates processes for evaluating light-duty diesel emissions under coming Real Driving Emissions (RDE) regs

Despite the continuing and significant reductions in the legislated limits of light-duty diesel vehicle NOx emissions under the European Euro 1 through 5 regulations of recent years, many studies have demonstrated that real-world NOx emissions appear not to have been reduced as significantly. The Volkswagen emissions scandal has certainly spotlighted this issue, but more by the intentionality of the cause rather than by the effect.

This divergence between type-approval limits and real world emissions was one of the primary drivers for the proposed introduction of Real Driving Emissions (RDE) (earlier post)—put forward in the European Commission’s CARS 2020 Action Plan (earlier post)—in European Euro 6c legislation as early as 2017. The objective of this proposed regulation is that future vehicles certified to a given type approval threshold for NOx output will, subject an incremental Conformity Factor to be defined in the regulation, not exceed this level in normal on-road driving conditions.

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Volkswagen AG to refit diesel vehicles with EA 189 EU5 engines; solution to be presented by end of October

September 29, 2015

Volkswagen AG announced that it will retrofit the some 11 million vehicles equipped with the 2.0-liter EA 189 Euro 5 diesel tainted by the software emissions defeat device. (Earlier post.) New vehicles with EU6 engines currently available are not affected by the cheat, Volkswagen said.

The scope of the retrofit is not yet clear—e.g., software only, or software and new hardware—but Volkswagen and the other Group brands whose vehicles are affected will present the technical solutions and measures to the responsible authorities in October.

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Norwegian/Finnish studies find Euro 6 cars exceeding NOx and CO2 type limits in real-world conditions; below on PM

Emission measurements conducted by Institute of Transport Economics in Norway, in collaboration with VTT in Finland, show that new Euro 6 cars with diesel engines are struggling with NOx emissions well in excess of regulatory type limits when in real traffic.

Since 2011, TØI and VTT have conducted emission measurements of 12 heavy vehicles with Euro VI engines, and seven Euro 6 diesel cars. In addition, they measured emissions from several gasoline vehicles (Euro 5 and 6) and Euro 5 diesel vehicles. All vehicles were tested in laboratory under conditions that as far as possible should correspond to the actual use of the vehicles.

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Lux: VW “actually in a strong position to innovate their way out of this mess”

September 28, 2015

Reflecting on the implications of the still evolving Volkswagen emissions testing scandal (“a vehicle emissions scandal of unprecedented proportions”), analysts at Lux Research suggest that one outcome of the crisis could be an aggressive push by Volkswagen to accelerate the push towards plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.

VW was slowly moving beyond conventional gasoline and diesel engines anyway, Lux noted, with plans of putting out 20 more plug-in vehicles by 2020 (earlier post)—such as the production version of the Audi e-tron quattro. (Earlier post.) Volkswagen has also invested in next-generation batteries, including lithium-sulfur and solid-state. (Earlier post.)

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Study uncovers role of longer-chain unburned hydrocarbon emissions from diesels in London air pollution; calls for regulatory shift

September 27, 2015

Researchers at the University of York (UK) have found that longer-chain unburned hydrocarbons released from diesel—which are not currently explicitly considered as part of air quality control strategies—represent only 20–30% of the total atmospheric hydrocarbon mixing ratio but contribute more than 50% of the total atmospheric hydrocarbon mass and are a dominant local source of secondary organic aerosols (SOA) in London—and by extension to other developed megacities.

The study found that 60% of the winter primary hydrocarbon hydroxyl radical reactivity in London is from those diesel-related hydrocarbons; the authors predicted that the longer-chain HCs contribute up to 50 % of the ozone production potential in London. The results, they said in an open access paper published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, suggest the need for a shift in policy focus onto gas-phase hydrocarbons released from diesels as this vehicle type continues to displace gasoline world-wide.

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VW: ~5M VW vehicles affected by emissions scandal; working on technical solution; suspension of some employees starting

September 25, 2015

Volkswagen said that an internal assessment following the revelation of cheating on emissions testing in EA 189 2.0L diesels (earlier post) has concluded that approximately five million Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand vehicles are affected worldwide. In the heat of the initial discovery of the emissions testing cheating, Volkswagen had said that up to 11 million vehicles worldwide could be affected. (Earlier post.)

Certain models and model years of these vehicles (such as the sixth generation Volkswagen Golf, the seventh generation Volkswagen Passat and the first generation Volkswagen Tiguan) are equipped exclusively with type EA 189 diesel engines. Also as previously announced, all new Volkswagen Passenger Car brand vehicles that fulfill the EU6 norm valid throughout Europe are not affected. This therefore also includes the current Golf, Passat and Touran models.

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California ARB to begin enhanced testing of modern light-duty diesel engines to detect emissions cheating (updated)

The California Air Resources Board sent a letter to automobile manufacturers notifying them that ARB will begin using enhanced testing procedures for modern light-duty diesel vehicles to determine compliance with emission levels to which they were originally certified.

ARB developed its enhanced screening techniques as it dug into the anomalous emission results from Volkswagen’s 2.0L diesel engine; Volkswagen subsequently admitted its use of the software defeat device on emissions testing, triggering that emission control scandal that erupted exactly one week ago. (Earlier post.)

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VW Group restructuring in response to emissions testing scandal; greater focus on the modular toolkits; Klinger out, Horn stays

Following its appointment of Matthias Müller as the new CEO of the Group (earlier post), the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen AG approved a new management structure for the Group and the brands as well as for the North America region. The changes follow in the wake of the diesel emissions testing scandal that led to the resignation of former CEO Martin Winterkorn.

The interim Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Berthold Huber, said that the new structure strengthens the brands and regions; gives the Group Board of Management the necessary leeway for strategy and steering within the company; and lays a focus on the targeted development of future-oriented fields.

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Porsche boss Müller appointed CEO of the Volkswagen Group; also remains Chairman of Porsche AG until a successor is found

At its meeting in Wolfsburg today, the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen AG appointed Matthias Müller, currently Chairman of Porsche, the new CEO of Volkswagen AG with immediate effect. (Porsche is a Volkswagen Group company.)

Former CEO Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn resigned on Wednesday in light of the Volkswagen diesel emissions testing scandal. (Earlier post.) Müller will continue as Chairman of Porsche until a successor has been found.

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Honda launches new “Green Path” initiatives for manufacturing and operations; new $210M paint line at Marysville with new 4C2B process

Honda has announced several initiatives under its new “Green Path” approach to reducing the total life-cycle environmental impact of its products and operations in North America. Among these is a $210-million investment in a new, more environmentally responsible auto-body painting facility and innovative paint process at its Marysville, Ohio auto plant (MAP), the largest of Honda’s eight auto plants in North America. MAP produces the Honda Accord Sedan and Coupe along with the Acura TLX and ILX for customers in more than 100 countries.

Honda has established a voluntary goal to reduce its total GHG emissions—including customer use-phase—by 50% by the year 2050, compared to 2000 levels; this works out to a reduction of 90% per unit sales—a difficult task, noted Ryan Harty, a former Honda R&D engineer who now manages Honda’s new Environmental Business Development Office.

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BMW: “We don’t cheat”; diesel is needed to hit CO2 targets; call for WLTP and RDE

As the Volkswagen emission testing scandal threatens to spill over onto other automakers, BMW yesterday issued a sharp statement in response to a report in Auto Bild suggesting emissions from an X3 test were out of the norm.

The BMW Group does not manipulate or rig any emissions tests. We observe the legal requirements in each country and fulfill all local testing requirements. In other words, our exhaust treatment systems are active whether rolling on the test bench or driving on the road. Clear, binding specifications and processes are in place through all phases of development at the BMW Group in order to avoid wrongdoing.”

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VW CEO Winterkorn resigns over crisis; “further personnel consequences” coming; Exec. Committee filing criminal complaint

September 23, 2015

Volkswagen Group CEO Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn resigned today, taking upon himself responsibility for the emissions cheating scandal that has quickly engulfed the company. In a statement, the Executive Committee of Volkswagen AG’s Supervisory Board noted that Dr. Winterkorn had no knowledge of the manipulation of emissions data, and thanked Dr. Winterkorn “for towering contributions in the past decades and for his willingness to take responsibility in this critical phase for the company. This attitude is illustrious.”

The Executive Committee also said it was adamant on taking the necessary steps to ensure a new beginning for the tarnished company. As part of that, it is expecting “further personnel consequences” in the coming days. The company is also voluntarily submitting a complaint to the State Prosecutors’ office in Brunswick. The Executive Committee believes that criminal proceedings may be relevant due to the irregularities. Volkswagen will support the investigations of the State Prosecutor “in all forms.

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New ORNL non-precious metal catalyst shows promise as low-cost component for low-temperature exhaust aftertreatment

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed a ternary mixed oxide catalyst composed of copper oxide, cobalt oxide, and ceria (dubbed “CCC”) that outperforms synthesized and commercial platinum group metal (PGM) catalysts for CO oxidation in simulated exhaust streams while showing no signs of inhibition—i.e., the clogging of the catalyst by NOx, CO and HC.

PGM catalysts are the current standard for emissions aftertreatment in automotive exhaust streams. However, in addition to their high cost, PGM catalysts struggle with CO oxidation at low temperatures (<200 °C) due to inhibition by hydrocarbons in exhaust streams. The new ORNL catalyst shows great potential as a low-cost component for the low temperature exhaust streams that are expected to be a characteristic of future automotive systems, the researchers noted in their paper in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

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Volkswagen: new EU 6 diesels clear of software cheat, but up to 11M EA189 diesels worldwide affected

September 22, 2015

In a statement issued this morning, Volkswagen AG said that new vehicles from the Volkswagen Group with EU 6 diesel engines currently available in the European Union comply with legal requirements and environmental standards. The engine control software in those vehicles does not affect handling, consumption or emissions, the company said.

Although the engine management software that enabled the cheating on NOx targets (earlier post) is installed in other Volkswagen Group vehicles with diesel engines, the company added, for the majority of those engines the software does not have any effect. However, the software “discrepancies” do relate to vehicles with the Type EA189 2.0-liter diesel engines—involving some eleven million vehicles worldwide. (Earlier post.)

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Study links California regulations, significant declines in cancer risk from exposure to air toxics

A study by a team from the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has found that the collective cancer risk from exposure to seven toxic air contaminant (TACs) has declined 76% during the period from 1990 to 2012, and linked that result from air quality regulations targeting these TACs. The study appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Of the seven TACs, diesel particulate matter (DPM) is the most important; DPM is emitted mainly from trucks and buses and is responsible for most of the airborne cancer risk in California, according to ARB. However, in the study DPM is not measured directly. Based on a novel surrogate method, DPM concentrations declined 68% during the period, even though the state’s population increased 31%; diesel vehicle-miles-traveled increased 81%; and the gross state product (GSP) increased 74%.

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Volkswagen of America debuts 2016 Passat; 38 mpg highway from the 1.8 TSI

Although the timing arguably could have been better, Volkswagen of America proceeded with the planned debut of the restyled 2016 Volkswagen Passat in New York on Monday. The midsize sedan, built in Volkswagen’s LEED Platinum-certified factory in Chattanooga, will offer three engine options—1.8-liter TSI gasoline; 2.0-liter diesel TDI; and 3.6-liter gasoline VR6—as well as a strong suite of new connectivity and driver assistance features. (The European market Passat GTE plug-in hybrid (earlier post) is not slated to come to the US yet.)

Although the emissions control calibration of the applications of the 2.0 TDI in earlier models in the US is at the core of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)/California Air Resources Board (ARB) charges against Volkswagen (earlier post), both agencies are now testing all the 2016 model year Passat models for certificates of conformity, Volkswagen said.

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Background on the 2.0L diesel engines at the core of the Volkswagen emissions testing debacle

September 21, 2015

Last Friday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (ARB) charged that Volkswagen (Jetta, Beetle, Golf, Passat) and Audi (A3) passenger cars equipped with 2.0-liter diesels in the US have used a software defeat device to cheat on the results of NOx testing, and thus have violated the US Clean Air Act. According to the charges, the software, when it detected regulatory testing on a dyno, ran a different, more emissions-stringent engine calibration to meet test requirements than when it detected regular use. (Earlier post.) As a result, real-world NOx emissions increased by a factor of 10 to 40 times above the EPA compliant levels, depending on the drive cycle.

According to the charges, Volkswagen admitted to the software device. Both agencies have launched investigations; Volkswagen—which in addition to recall costs for the approximately 500,000 vehicles affected faces civil penalties and injunctive relief—says that it will fully cooperate and has launched its own external investigation; eager lawyers are ramping up for class action suits against the automaker; Volkswagen AG lost almost one-fifth of its market value on Monday; and some Volkswagen suppliers are also feeling a crunch.

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EPRI-NRDC report finds widespread vehicle electrification and a cleaner grid could lead to substantial cuts in GHG by 2050

Widespread adoption of electric transportation, including electrification in the off-road sector, could lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and could modestly improve air quality, according to a new analysis released by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report, “Environmental Assessment of a Full Electric Transportation Portfolio”, is based on a projection that by 2050 electricity replaces traditional fuels for approximately half of light- and medium-duty transportation and a significant portion of non-road equipment. This study builds on the 2007 Environmental Assessment of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles by EPRI and NRDC (earlier post), which showed that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could contribute to reductions in national greenhouse gas emissions, while also leading to improved air quality. As with the earlier assessment, this study consists of two separate, but related, analyses: greenhouse gas emissions from 2015-2050, and air quality impacts in 2030.

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Volkswagen Group orders external investigation of emissions testing violations, pledges full support to EPA and ARB

September 20, 2015

On Friday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (ARB) charged that, based on ARB testing, Volkswagen and Audi passenger cars equipped with 2.0L diesels have used a software defeat device to cheat on the results of NOx testing, and thus have violated the US Clean Air Act. (Earlier post.)

On Sunday, Volkswagen Group CEO Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn said that Volkswagen does “not and will not tolerate violations of any kind of our internal rules or of the law”, and said that the company “will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case.” Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation as well.

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EPA and California ARB charge Volkswagen with using software defeat device to circumvent NOx testing in 4-cylinder 2.0L diesels

September 18, 2015

EPA has issued a notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (collectively referred to here as Volkswagen). The NOV alleges that Volkswagen and Audi cars from model years 2009-2015 equipped with 2.0-liter, four-cylinder diesels include software (a “defeat device”) that circumvents EPA emissions standards for NOx. California is separately issuing an In-Use Compliance letter to Volkswagen, and EPA and the California Air Resources Board (ARB) have both initiated investigations based on Volkswagen’s alleged actions.

In response, Volkswagen said that it is cooperating with the investigation, and is unable to comment further at this time. VW may be liable for civil penalties and injunctive relief for the violations alleged in the NOV. The allegations cover roughly 482,000 diesel passenger cars sold in the United States since 2008. Affected diesel models include:

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NRC Canada team investigates effect of gasoline particulate filter on PM from light-duty GDI engine

September 17, 2015

A team led by researchers from the National Research Council Canada has investigated the effect of the use of a gasoline particulate filter on the size and morphology of PM emitted from a light-duty gasoline-direct-injection (GDI) vehicle over the FTP-75 and US06 transient drive cycles.

Using transmission-electron-microscope (TEM) image analysis, they compared PM from a 2012 Ford Focus powered by a 2.0-liter wall-guided GDI engine, operating under globally stoichiometric condition, to the results for the same vehicle equipped with a catalyzed gasoline particulate filter (GPF). A paper describing their results is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Air pollution could claim 6.6 million lives per year by 2050, double current rate; small domestic fires and ag the worst offenders

If air pollution emissions continue to rise at the current rate, some 6.6 million people could prematurely die annually by 2050, double the current rate of 3.3 million people per year, according to a study carried out by a team led by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz. The largest sources of air pollution are not industry and transport but small domestic fires and agriculture. Results of the study are published in the journal Nature.

Exposure to air pollution is particularly acute in Asia, especially in China and India, where three-quarters of the world’s pollution-related deaths occur. The team headed by Johannes Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, reported that 1.4 million people per year in China and 650,000 people in India die every year as a consequence of air pollution. In the EU exposure to fine particles and ozone claims 180,000 lives a year, including 35,000 in Germany. In many countries, air pollution accounts for roughly ten-times more deaths than road accidents.

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Bosch leading Direct4Gas consortium to develop direct injection for monovalent natural gas engines

September 11, 2015

Bosch is leading a consortium in a German government-funded project to develop a direct injection system for monovalent natural gas engines—i.e., engines that run exclusively on CNG. Compared with present systems that use manifold gas injection, a direct injection system for natural gas could deliver as much as 60% more torque at low rpm, and offer the prospect of an even more dynamic driving experience in the CNG cars of the future.

Today’s CNG vehicles are generally bivalent, running on gasoline and CNG with engines designed for gasoline direct injection. For CNG operation, they are fitted with an additional manifold injection system for methane. However, because methane behaves differently from gasoline when injected directly, it is important to optimize the combustion process for methane.

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Achates Power proposes EPA/NHTSA medium- and heavy-duty engine standard require 15% decrease in fuel consumption and emissions

September 10, 2015

Achates Power, Inc., the developer of a family of efficient compression-ignition opposed-piston two-stroke (OP2S) engines (earlier post), proposed more stringent engine fuel efficiency and emission standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles at a recent public hearing held by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles – Phase 2”.

Earlier this year, NHTSA and EPA jointly announced the proposed Phase 2 standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. (Earlier post.) While these vehicles as a whole will have to curb fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by up to 24% between the 2018 and 2027 model years, the agencies are proposing separate engine standards requiring only a 4% decrease.

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Crowdsourcing air pollution measurements: iSPEX-EU 2015

September 06, 2015

A collaboration led by researchers at Leiden University in The Netherlands has launched a Europe-wide citizen campaign—iSPEX-EU 2015—to use a smartphone add-on and app to measure atmospheric aerosols (tiny particles), resulting in a broad-based data set with high spatio-temporal resolution.

Atmospheric aerosols play an important but as-yet poorly understood role in climate and air quality, with significant impacts on the environment, health, and air traffic. Satellite-based aerosol monitoring is, despite its global coverage, limited in spatial and temporal resolution (with global coverage up to once a day with a ground resolution of a few kilometers only), and lacks sufficient information on aerosol particle characteristics. Therefore, the researchers say, a different strategy is needed to overcome these current limitations.

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UCL, BP team study on combustion and emissions characteristics of a range of fuel molecules from lignocellulosic biomass

September 01, 2015

A team from University College London and BP’s Fuels and Lubricants Research group has investigated the combustion and emissions characteristics of a range of fuel molecules which can be produced from lignocellulosic biomass through a variety of processing routes.

The researchers suggested that their results can be used to aid in selecting at what stage lignocellulose should be chemically modified so as to produce a viable biofuel molecule with optimal combustion characteristics and exhaust gas emissions. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

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Air pollution associated with increased heart attack risk despite “safe” levels

August 31, 2015

Particulate matter and NO2 air pollution are associated with increased risk of severe heart attacks despite being within European recommended levels, according to research presented at ESC Congress by Dr. Jean-Francois Argacha, a cardiologist at University Hospital Brussels (UZ Brussel-Vrije Universiteit Brussel), in Belgium.

The study investigated the effect of short term exposure to air pollution on the risk of ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI)—a deadly type of heart attack that is caused by a prolonged blockage of blood supply in the heart. This type of myocardial infarction has the worst prognosis and is caused by thrombotic occlusion of a coronary artery that damages the heart.

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Renault Trucks and partners launch EDIT project to cut distribution vehicles’ fuel consumption by 13%

August 27, 2015

After Optifuel Lab 2 (earlier post), the laboratory vehicle which brought together technological innovations designed to reduce long-distance trucks’ fuel consumption, Renault Trucks is extending its research to distribution vehicles.

Renault Trucks and six partners—Valeo, Lamberet, Michelin, BeNomad, INSA de Lyon (LamCoS) and IFSTTAR (LICIT)—have launched the EDIT (Efficient Distribution Truck) project, which aims to reduce distribution vehicles’ fuel consumption by 13% compared with a current production vehicle.

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Health Effects Institute to release Executive Summary of ACES new-technology diesel results this fall

August 21, 2015

The Health Effects Institute (HEI) it will publish an Executive Summary of the Advanced Collaborative Emissions Study (ACES) this fall. The Summary will be the synopsis and final publication from the program to characterize the emissions and assess the health effects of new-technology diesel exhaust (NTDE) from heavy-duty diesel engines that meet the 2007 and 2010 regulations enacted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (Earlier post.) HEI is an independent, non-profit research institute funded jointly by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the worldwide motor vehicle industry.

To meet new emissions limits, diesel-engine manufacturers developed new exhaust aftertreatment systems and the petroleum industry introduced new ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel needed to allow the new emissions controls to work. HEI—in collaboration with the Coordinating Research Council, a nonprofit organization with extensive expertise in emissions characterization—launched ACES in response to requests to characterize the emissions and health effects of NTDE.

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GWU team develops low-cost, high-yield one-pot synthesis of carbon nanofibers from atmospheric CO2

A team led by Dr. Stuart Licht at The George Washington University in Washington, DC has developed a low-cost, high-yield and scalable process for the electrolytic conversion of atmospheric CO2 dissolved in molten carbonates into carbon nanofibers (CNFs.) The conversion of CO2 → CCNF + O2 can be driven by efficient solar, as well as conventional, energy at inexpensive steel or nickel electrodes.

The structure is tuned by controlling the electrolysis conditions, such as the addition of trace transition metals to act as CNF nucleation sites; the addition of zinc as an initiator; and the control of current density. An open access paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters; the work was also presented at ACS’ 250th National Meeting & Exposition this week in Boston.

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CMU analysis finds BEVs powered with natural gas-based electricity have about 40% of the lifecycle GHGs of a conventional gasoline vehicle

According to a new lifecycle analysis by a team at Carnegie Mellon University, a battery electric vehicle (BEV) powered with natural gas-based electricity achieves around an average 40% lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction when compared to a conventional gasoline vehicle. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), either with a 30- or 60-km range, when powered by natural gas electricity, have the second lowest average emissions. Both BEVs and PHEVs provide large (more than 20%) emissions reductions compared to conventional gasoline, but none of them is a dominant strategy when compared to gasoline hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), the team found.

Gaseous hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles have comparable life cycle emissions with conventional gasoline, offering limited reductions with 100-year global warming potential (GWP) yet leading to increases with 20-year GWP. Other liquid fuel pathways using natural gas—methanol, ethanol, and Fischer–Tropsch liquids—have larger GHG emissions than conventional gasoline even when carbon capture and storage technologies are available. The study is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

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UC Riverside team characterizes impact on PM of fuels with varying aromatics and octane rating; benefit of increased ethanol fraction

August 18, 2015

Researchers at the University of California-Riverside have characterized the effect of decreased aromatic content fuels combusted in advanced vehicle technologies on emissions of particulate matter (PM). In a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they present the changes in PM emissions for different fuels, engine technologies, and operating conditions. Among their findings is that an increased ethanol fraction in gasoline could help reduce PM mass and black carbon (BC) from gasoline direct injection engines (GDI).

Typical commercial gasoline comprises varying concentrations of aromatic hydrocarbons and octane ratings; the impacts on PM such as black carbon (BC) and water-soluble and insoluble particle compositions of these differences are not well-defined. The UC Riverside study tested seven 2012 model year vehicles, including one port fuel injection (PFI) configured hybrid vehicle; one PFI vehicle; and six GDI vehicles.

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Berkeley Earth study calculates that air pollution contributes to 1.6M deaths per year in China

August 14, 2015

In an analysis of hourly air pollution data (PM2.5,PM10, SO2, NO2, O3 and CO) from more than 1500 sites in China, Berkeley Earth has calculated that the observed air pollution contributes to ~1.6 million deaths/year in China [0.7–2.2 million deaths/year at 95% confidence]—roughly 17% of all deaths in China. The calculated mortality is somewhat higher than the 1.2 million deaths/year previously estimated from a Huai River study using Chinese air pollution measurements and mortality data. A paper on the analysis has been accepted for publication in the journal PLoS ONE.

In the study, the independent non-profit applied Kriging interpolation (a geostatistical interpolation technique) to four months of data to derive pollution maps for eastern China. Consistent with prior findings, the greatest pollution occurs in the east; however, significant levels are widespread across northern and central China and are not limited to major cities or geologic basins. Sources of pollution are widespread, but are particularly intense in a northeast corridor that extends from near Shanghai to north of Beijing.

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JRC: Increased use of renewables results in growing GHG emission savings in the EU; transport contribution only 5%

August 07, 2015

Greenhouse gasses (GHG) emission savings due to final renewable energy consumption in electricity; cooling/heating; and transport sectors rose at a compound annual growth rate of 8.8% from 2009 to 2012, confirming renewables’ potential in climate change mitigation, according to a new report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s in-house science service. Nearly two thirds of the total savings came from renewable energy development in Germany, Sweden, France, Italy and Spain.

The report assesses data on the use of renewable energy, submitted by EU Member States every two years, as required by EU legislation on renewable energy. The report estimates that in 2012, when total GHG emissions reached the equivalent of 4546 Mt CO₂, the deployment of all renewables in the EU avoided the equivalent of 716 Mt CO₂ emissions. According to the report, the highest contribution by renewables in climate change mitigation in the EU in 2012 came from renewable electricity, which covered 64% of the savings, due to high penetration of wind and solar power, followed by renewable heating and cooling (31%) and renewable transport (5%).

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EPA releases final Clean Power Plan; 32% reduction in CO2 from power plants by 2030

August 03, 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the final Clean Power Plan (CPP). The rules establish the first national standards to limit CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants, with a target of a 32% reduction against a 2005 baseline by 2030. The 32% reduction target is 9% more aggressive than in the draft proposal of the CPP released in 2014. (Earlier post.)

The 2030 target is in alignment with the Administration’s earlier economy-wide emissions targets, including the goal of reducing emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Under the Clean Power Plan, by 2030, renewables will account for 28% of national capacity, up from 22% in the proposed rule.

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