[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.]
GM earns EPA ENERGY STAR Award for Environmental Leadership; energy use per vehicle in manufacturing down 10% YoY
April 12, 2017
General Motors earned a 2017 EPA ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year — Sustained Excellence award for continued leadership in protecting the environment through superior energy efficiency. GM’s commitment to reducing energy intensity saved $73 million in energy costs last year and avoided 388,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to the electricity use of 57,000 US homes.
In the US, GM reduced energy use at its manufacturing facilities by 10% on a per-vehicle basis in 2016 compared to the previous year. Additional achievements include:
For Greener Manufacturing, Think IAQ
April 03, 2017
by Craig Widtfeldt, RoboVent
The next generation of cars will be cleaner and greener than ever—but a lot of the manufacturing processes that go into them are still pretty dirty. From the frame to the muffler, automotive manufacturing still involves welding, cutting, grinding and machining. These processes can create problems for indoor air quality (IAQ) and hurt your sustainability metrics.
The Problem with Particulates. Welding, cutting, grinding and machining all create particulates with varying levels of toxicity. These particulates have serious health impacts if not controlled in the factory environment. If they are vented to the outdoors, there are also environmental issues to consider. Controlling toxic particulates from manufacturing processes is one of the most important things auto manufacturers can do to improve their sustainability and protect their workers.
GWU team demonstrates one-pot process for optimized synthesis of controlled CNTs from CO2; coupling cement and C2CNT
March 27, 2017
Researchers at George Washington University led by Dr. Stuart Licht (earlier post) have developed a new process that transforms CO2 into a controlled selection of nanotubes (CNTs) via molten electrolysis; they call the process C2CNT (CO2 into carbon nanotubes). This synthesis consumes only CO2 and electricity, and is constrained only by the cost of electricity.
Controlling the electrolysis parameters opens up a wide portfolio of CNT morphologies, including hollow or solid, thick- or thin-walled and doped CNTs. Molten carbonate electrosynthesized boron-doped CNTs exhibit high electrical conductivity. The process is described in a paper published in the Journal of CO2 Utilization. In a second paper in that journal, the team reports on the uses of C2CNT to retrofit cement plants. Per ton CO2 avoided, the C2CNT cement plant consumes $50 electricity, emits no CO2, and produces $100 cement and ∼$60,000 of CNTs.
WHO attributes more than 1 in 4 deaths annually of children under 5 years to unhealthy environment
March 06, 2017
In 2015, 5.9 million children under age five died. The major causes of child deaths globally are pneumonia, prematurity, intrapartum-related complications, neonatal sepsis, congenital anomalies, diarrhea, injuries and malaria. Most of these diseases and conditions are at least partially caused by the environment, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports.
WHO estimated in 2012 that 26% of childhood deaths and 25% of the total disease burden in children under five could be prevented through the reduction of environmental risks such as air pollution, unsafe water, sanitation and inadequate hygiene or chemicals.
DOE to award up to $1.2M to project converting wastewater solids to biogas and liquid fuels; hydrothermal processing
February 11, 2017
Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) announced a pilot hydrothermal wastewater processing project has been selected by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to receive up to $1.2 million in federal funding. SoCalGas is part of a consortium conducting the pilot, which will be required to share the cost at a minimum of 50% in order to receive federal funds. The consortium is being led by the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WERF).
The project will use Genifuel hydrothermal processing technology (HTP) to convert wastewater solids into renewable natural gas as well as liquid fuels. DOE funding is expected to pay for about half of the design and planning of a pilot plant to produce these renewable fuels at a municipal wastewater treatment facility near Oakland, California. SoCalGas will help oversee the project’s design and assist in obtaining state and federal regulatory approvals and incentives.
Honda establishes Marine Science Foundation
February 08, 2017
Inspired by the Japanese concept of sato-umi—the convergence of land and sea where human and marine life can harmoniously coexist—Honda has established the Honda Marine Science Foundation, a new initiative to address marine ecosystem restoration and the impact of humans and climate change on oceans and intertidal areas. Committed to marine conservation, the foundation will support science-based programs that improve and preserve coastal areas for future generations. Its first initiative is the Southern California Native Oyster Restoration Project.
The Southern California Native Oyster Restoration Project is being conducted in partnership with the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. The goals of the project include pioneering research to educate the public about the benefits of restoring native oysters for shoreline stabilization.
Researchers call for integration of materials sustainability into battery research; the need for in situ monitoring
January 18, 2017
In a review paper in the journal Nature Materials, Jean-Marie Tarascon (Professor at College de France and Director of RS2E, French Network on Electrochemical Energy Storage) and Clare Gray (Professor at the University of Cambridge), call for integrating the sustainability of battery materials into the R&D efforts to improve rechargeable batteries. The pair argue for the selection of chemistries that have a minimum footprint in nature and that are more readily recycled or integrated into a full circular economy.
Concerns over sustainability as well as cost directs that battery lifetimes must be greatly improved, and second-life applications considered during the development phase. As part of this, Gray and Tarascon suggest, the state of health of batteries must be monitored continuously during operation to minimize their degradation. This requirement, in turn, pushed the boundaries of operando techniques to monitor increasingly complex processes.
Toyota to collaborate in research for the creation of H2-based society in the United Arab Emirates
January 17, 2017
Toyota Motor Corporation has agreed to collaborate with Masdar, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), Air Liquide, and Toyota distributor Al-Futtaim Motors in a joint research program to explore the potential of hydrogen energy use in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the creation of a sustainable, low-carbon society. As part of the program, Toyota will begin driving and refueling demonstration tests of the Mirai fuel cell vehicle (FCV) in the UAE from May 2017.
The agreement was announced at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), which was held at the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi. The program partners will jointly research on key issues involving the establishment of a hydrogen-based society, including hydrogen production, logistics, scalability, and business feasibility. The research is expected to take place in part at Masdar Institute, an Abu Dhabi-based independent graduate research university, which has been part of the discussions on the scope of hydrogen research.
U of Birmingham scientists launch project to tackle global clean cold challenge
January 16, 2017
Scientists from the University of Birmingham launched a major research project to investigate how “clean cold” could help to achieve almost all of the United Nations’ (UN) global Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 Global Goals include abolishing poverty and hunger; providing good healthcare and education; raising peoples’ quality of life; and cleaning up the environment, while promoting economic growth.
Clean cooling technologies, which can support environmentally sustainable cold chains, include Dearman’s zero-emission transport refrigeration system (earlier post); solar-driven cooling for pack-houses; and even small transportable ammonia-water absorption refrigeration which can be used to transport medicine.
Coal-tar-based pavement sealant a major source of PAH contamination in Milwaukee streams
December 29, 2016
Runoff from pavement with coal-tar-based sealant is the primary source of toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to streambed sediments in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to a US Geological Survey and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District open-access study published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
Pavement sealant is a black, shiny liquid sprayed or painted on asphalt parking lots, driveways and playgrounds to improve appearance and protect the underlying asphalt. Pavement sealants that contain coal tar, a known human carcinogen, have extremely high levels of PAHs. Some PAHs are toxic to fish and other aquatic life and several are probable human carcinogens.
Saint Jean Carbon building a high performance lithium-ion battery with recycled/upcycled material
November 25, 2016
Saint Jean Carbon Inc., a carbon science company engaged in the design and build of energy storage carbon materials, and a battery manufacturing partner will build a high-powered full-scale lithium-ion battery with recycled/upcycled material from an electric car power pack and upcycled anode material from Saint Jean Carbon.
Saint John said that this project—a first—is intended to provide results showing that the battery materials can be re-used over and over again, greatly reducing the demand for continued mining and helping the environment significantly. The project will take a three-stage approach:
Harvard study finds human health risks from Canadian hydroelectric projects
November 10, 2016
In a new study, Harvard University researchers found more than 90% of potential new Canadian hydroelectric projects are likely to increase concentrations of the neurotoxin methylmercury (MeHg) in food webs near indigenous communities. The research is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The research forecasts potential human health impacts of hydroelectric projects and identifies areas where mitigation efforts, such as removing the top layer of soil before flooding, would be most helpful. The works uses factors such as soil carbon and reservoir design to forecast methylmercury increases for 22 hydroelectric reservoirs under consideration or construction in Canada.
Roskill forecasts demand for neodymium for magnets to result in supply deficit; substitutions by 2021
November 08, 2016
In its new rare earths market report with forecasts out to 2026, Roskill, a leader in international metals and minerals research, observes that the permanent magnet and catalyst sectors will continue to provide the largest markets for rare earths in the next ten years to 2026. Catalysts will continue to drive growth in the light rare earth elements lanthanum and cerium, while permanent magnets will lead growth in neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium.
However, Roskill also projects that, driven by rapidly increasing demand for neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets (used in traction motors among other applications), neodymium will fall into deficit in 2016, although demand will initially be met by the drawdown of stocks. Roskill forecasts that the deficit will increase to 2021, making continued growth of NdFeB magnets unsustainable, despite efforts by rare earth producers to increase neodymium supply.
Aqua Metals produces first AquaRefined lead at first AquaRefinery; tests 99.99% pure
November 01, 2016
Aqua Metals has produced the first AquaRefined lead at its AquaRefinery in McCarran, Nevada. AquaRefining is a water-based, room-temperature process that is the only clean lead recycling method for lead-acid batteries (LAB). (Earlier post.)
Through its own on-site assay, Aqua Metals has verified that the lead produced in the AquaRefining module is more than 99.99% pure. The company will send its initial production samples to several US battery manufacturing companies—which collectively represent more than 50% of US battery production—to allow them to conduct their own assays.
Inaugural meeting of Volkswagen Sustainability Council; Group makes €20M available for projects
October 25, 2016
Recently appointed by The Volkswagen Group’s Sustainability Council, recently appointed and comprising nine members from several nations—including Margo Oge, former director of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Transportation Air Quality—set the agenda for its work at its inaugural meeting on Monday. The Council elected Georg Kell, Founding Director UN Global Compact, as its chair. The first areas of focus in 2017 for the body will be the challenges of global CO2 emissions and the corresponding regulations post-2025, plus the company’s transformation process.
The Volkswagen Group is proactively making €20 million (US$21.75 million) available for the first two years for the proposal and funding of projects.
New Audi paintshop at Ingolstadt; heating energy & water per car down by 20%, CO2 by 30%, VOCs by 90%; bell-bell
September 22, 2016
Audi has put a new topcoat paint shop into operation at its plant in Ingolstadt. The new paint shop incorporates technologies such as air recirculation, dry separation and exhaust air cleaning that enable a significant reduction in the use of resources. Heating energy and water consumption per car are reduced by 20%. Air recirculation also helps to reduce CO₂‑emissions per painted car by 30%, while the cleaning of exhaust air reduces emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 90%.
The new topcoat point line‑in the north of the plant site also introduces state‑of‑the‑art painting technology at Audi: paint‑application equipment with robot technology and electrostatic high‑speed rotation spray guns carry out the “bell‑bell” painting process fully automatically.
Cooper Tire and BRDI consortium partners report significant progress on grant to develop guayule polymer for tires
September 20, 2016
At its recent annual meeting in Albany, Calif., the public-private consortium behind the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) grant, “Securing the Future of Natural Rubber—an American Tire and Bioenergy Platform from Guayule,” reported several key advancements emerging from the group’s work over the past year.
Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, working as the lead agency in the grant, announced that its scientists have reached a key milestone toward the goal of producing, by mid-2017, a concept tire in which all of the natural and synthetic rubber is replaced by guayule-based polymers. Guayule is a shrub that is grown primarily in the southwestern United States and contains rubber that can be processed for use in tires. (Earlier post.)
GM commits to 100% renewable energy by 2050
September 15, 2016
General Motors plans to generate or source all electrical power for its 350 operations in 59 countries with 100% renewable energy—such as wind, sun and landfill gas—by 2050.
This new renewable energy goal, along with the pursuit of electrified vehicles and efficient manufacturing, is part of the company’s overall approach to strengthening its business, improving communities and addressing climate change. GM is also joining RE100, a global collaborative initiative of businesses committed to 100 percent renewable electricity, working to increase demand for clean power.
LanzaTech produces 1,500 gallons of alcohol-to-jet fuel from waste gases for Virgin Atlantic
September 14, 2016
In a milestone for the low-carbon fuel project, LanzaTech has produced 1,500 gallons of jet fuel from waste industrial gases from steel mills via a fermentation process for Virgin Atlantic. Virgin Atlantic and LanzaTech have been working together on the project since 2011. HSBC joined the partnership in 2014.
The “Lanzanol” was produced in China at the RSB (Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials) certified Shougang demonstration facility. The innovative alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) process was developed in collaboration with Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) with support from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and with the help of funding from HSBC.
New approach for synthetic rubber for degradable tires: converting cyclopentene to polypentenamers
August 22, 2016
A team from the Texas A&M University campus in Qatar (TAMU-Qatar) and Caltech has developed a new way to make synthetic rubber; once this material is discarded, it can be easily degraded back to its chemical building blocks and reused in new tires and other products. The researchers will present their work today at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Philadelphia.
According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, nearly 270 million tires were discarded in the US in 2013—more than one tire per adult living in the country. Many of the non-degradable scrap tires get stockpiled in landfills. More than half go on to become tire-derived fuel—shredded scrap tires that get mixed with coal and other materials to help power cement kilns, pulp and paper mills and other plants. But environmentalists are concerned that the emissions from this practice could be adding harmful pollutants to the air.
Aqua Metals opens first AquaRefining center for low-pollution lead-acid battery recycling
August 08, 2016
Aqua Metals, Inc. recently held an open house at its first AquaRefinery at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center (TRIC) in McCarran, Nevada. The company says that its proprietary AquaRefining is first environmentally friendly process to recycle lead-acid batteries (LABs).
The AquaRefining technology extracts lead from LABs with a room temperature, closed-loop, water-based process that results in significant reductions of hazardous waste and direct human contact with the lead itself. The process produces lead that is as pure as—or purer than—mined lead, requiring no secondary processing.
Ford’s new Dagenham Diesel EcoBlue engine production line reduces energy and water use by more than 50%
August 04, 2016
The new Ford EcoBlue diesel engine production line at Dagenham Engine Plant will reduce water and energy consumption by more than 50%. Dagenham Engine Plant is Ford’s largest diesel engine production facility globally, and produced the first EcoBlue diesel engine (earlier post) in April this year. Water usage per engine will be among the lowest at any Ford manufacturing facility worldwide, delivering an anticipated annual saving of 17.5 million liters of water compared with 2011—enough to fill seven Olympic-size swimming pools.
The reduction in the volume of coolant pumped around the facility also helps to significantly reduce energy usage. Three smaller coolant systems require around 70% less energy, and contribute to reducing energy use per engine from 188 kWh in 2011 to 92 kWh in 2016—the energy saved is roughly enough to power an average house for a week.
UPS hits target of 1 billion alternative-fueled miles one year early
August 02, 2016
UPS has achieved its goal of driving 1 billion miles in its alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet one year earlier than planned, and marked more than 10 years of learning from its “Rolling Laboratory” of now more than 7,200 alternative fuel vehicles.
UPS’ long-term commitment to sustainability is transforming commercial transportation and logistics, spurring growth in the clean fuels market and enabling critical engineering advances. The company’s wider sustainability progress is detailed in the newly released 14th annual Sustainability Report.
California releases Sustainable Freight Action Plan to transform freight system; 25% more efficient by 2030
July 30, 2016
In response to an Executive Order issued last year by California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., state agency leaders on Friday released the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan, a comprehensive document that serves as a blueprint for transforming the state’s multi-billion dollar freight transport system into one that is environmentally cleaner, more efficient, and more economically competitive than it is today.
The revised document is similar to the draft version issued in May 2016, but reflects new input provided by industry, labor, regional and local government, and community and environmental group stakeholders, who submitted more than 85 comments on the draft plan.
Ford, Jose Cuervo team up to make car parts with bioplastic reinforced with blue agave fibers
July 20, 2016
Ford Motor Company is teaming up with Jose Cuervo to explore the use of the tequila producer’s blue agave plant fiber byproduct to develop more sustainable bioplastics to employ in Ford vehicles.
Ford and Jose Cuervo are testing the agave-fiber-reinforced bioplastic for use in vehicle interior and exterior components such as wiring harnesses, HVAC units and storage bins. Initial assessments suggest the material holds great promise due to its durability and aesthetic qualities. Success in developing a sustainable composite could reduce vehicle weight and lower energy consumption, while paring the use of petrochemicals and the impact of vehicle production on the environment.
Volkswagen brand says it has met 2018 Think Blue. Factory. environmental targets; environmental compatibility of car production improved by 25%
July 09, 2016
The Volkswagen brand announced that it has reached the self-defined sustainability target for production set out in Think Blue. Factory. for 2018. (Earlier post.) At the brand’s production facilities throughout the world, vehicles and components are now manufactured in a way which is 25% more environmentally compatible than five years ago.
Taking the average of the five agreed environmental indicators for the Volkswagen brand, environmental impact has been reduced by 25.3%, with energy consumption down by 24.7%; CO2 emissions by 29.1%, waste production by as much as 46.5%; water consumption by 18.2%; and solvent emissions by 8.2% between 2010 and the end of 2015. These figures are determined per vehicle or component produced.
DOE to award up to $70M for Manufacturing Institute focused on reuse, recycling and remanufacturing
June 27, 2016
The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $70 million for a new Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute focused on improving technologies and processes to achieve cost parity of recycled and waste materials with primary feedstocks, while improving material efficiency in manufacturing processes.
The new funding opportunity—(DE-FOA-0001594) “Reducing EMbodied energy And Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) in Materials Manufacturing— will support the REMADE in America Institute. The REMADE institute will enable the development and widespread deployment of key industrial platform technologies that will significantly reduce life-cycle energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with industrial-scale materials production and processing by creating new technologies for reuse, recycling, and remanufacturing of materials.
Columbus, Ohio wins $40M DOT Smart City Challenge; $10M more from Vulcan, $90M from private partners
June 24, 2016
US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that Columbus, OH has been selected as the winner of the US Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. (Earlier post.) As winner of the Challenge, Columbus will receive up to $40 million from US DOT and up to $10 million from Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. to supplement the $90 million that the city has already raised from other private partners to carry out its plan.
Using these resources, Columbus will work to reshape its transportation system to become part of a fully-integrated city that harnesses the power and potential of data, technology, and creativity to reimagine how people and goods move throughout their city.
Ford Sustainability Report details pilot program in South Africa to deliver health care, education
June 15, 2016
A new Ford Motor Company pilot program aims to enhance mobility health services in rural areas of South Africa and Nigeria.
Ford Project Better World brings together multiple organizations such as World Vision South Africa, and social entrepreneurs to deliver health education, medication, nutrition and basic services to thousands of underserved people in remote areas. The services will be accessed using enhanced mobility and connectivity technologies from Ford vehicles. Ford Project Better World is detailed in the automaker’s 17th annual Sustainability Report, released today.
NIST, partners create new international standard to improve sustainable manufacturing
May 27, 2016
A public-private team led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has created a new international standard that can “map” the critically important environmental aspects of manufacturing processes, leading to significant improvements in sustainability while keeping a product’s life cycle low cost and efficient.
ASTM member Kevin Lyons, group leader, National Institute of Standards and Technology, notes that the new standard (ASTM E3012-16, Guide for Characterizing Environmental Aspects of Manufacturing Process) provides structure and formalism to ensure consistency in characterizing sustainable manufacturing processes. From there, computers can provide information and analytics on production and performance. Lyons explains that using the standard will help business transition into science-based modeling, decision-making, and production.
Ford first automaker to use captured CO2 to develop foam and plastic for vehicles
May 16, 2016
Ford Motor Company is the first automaker to formulate and test new foam and plastic components using carbon dioxide as feedstock. Researchers expect to see the new biomaterials in Ford production vehicles within five years.
Formulated with up to 50% CO2-based polyols, the foam is showing promise as it meets rigorous automotive test standards. It could be employed in seating and underhood applications, potentially reducing petroleum use by more than 600 million pounds annually. CO2-derived foam will further reduce the use of fossil fuels in Ford vehicles and increase the presence of sustainable foam in the automaker’s global lineup.
Continental showcases car tires and engine mounts with rubber made from dandelion roots; targeting series production in 5-10 years
April 25, 2016
Continental has developed and tested car tires and engine mounts with rubber made from dandelion roots. In 2014, Continental brought onto the road the first sample of a premium winter tire featuring tread made from dandelion rubber. (Earlier post.) At the end of 2015, ContiTech tested the new renewable resource, named TARAXAGUM, in engine mounts. The company is striving for series production in five to ten years.
Continental says that the plant has the potential to become an alternative, environmentally friendly resource and could further reduce dependency on traditionally produced natural rubber. Not only this, but because it grows under moderate climatic conditions, it can also generate savings in CO2 emissions and transport costs.
Toyota to pioneer use of biosynthetic rubber in engine and drive system hoses
April 21, 2016
Next month, Toyota will become the first automaker to use biohydrin, a newly-developed biosynthetic rubber product, in engine and drive system hoses.
Jointly developed by Toyota, Zeon Corporation, and Sumitomo Riko Co., Ltd., biohydrin rubber is manufactured using plant-derived bio-materials instead of epichlorohydrin, a commonly-used epoxy compound. Since plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere during their lifespan, such bio-materials achieve an estimated 20% reduction in material lifecycle carbon emissions in comparison to conventional petroleum-based hydrin rubber.
Ford launches 10-year project to transform Dearborn campus; sustainability in the built environment; Living Building Challenge
April 12, 2016
Ford Motor Company unveiled its plans to transform its Dearborn facilities into a modern, green and high-tech campus to foster innovation and help drive the company’s transition to an auto and a mobility company. The 10-year transformation of the company’s more than 60-year-old Dearborn facilities will colocate 30,000 employees from 70 buildings today into primarily two locations—a product campus and a world headquarters campus. More than 7.5 million square feet of work space will be rebuilt and upgraded into even more technology-enabled and connected facilities.
The transformation will integrate sustainability and innovation throughout the built environment, including a new Sustainability Showcase building on the product campus, which will aim to meet Living Building Challenge standards, the highest level of sustainability certification today. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy. Among the key criteria is that 100% of the building’s energy needs on a net annual basis must be supplied by on-site renewable energy. No combustion is allowed.