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Evaluating Powertrain and Alternative Fuel Options for China

Preliminary Tank-to-Wheels CO2 emissions, including likely fuel options for China. Click to enlarge. Data: GM

GM has begun the process of a Well-to-Wheels evaluation of alternative powertrains and fuels for light duty vehicles in the context of the Chinese market, with an emphasis on those alternative fuels that have the potential to play a major role in the country, including: M10, M85, E10, E85, DME, and CTL.

The preliminary assessment of the Tank-to-Wheels component is complete, accounting for energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions—although not criteria pollutants— resulting from vehicle use. The Well-to-Tank component is underway.

Concerns about energy availability and climate change are becoming more prominent in China; the government  adjusted the tax structure to provide a financial disincentive for the purchase of large-displacement vehicles: a 50% sales tax on engines greater than 4.0 liters, and a 27% tax on engines between 2.2 and 4.0 liters.

The Shanghai auto show was the venue for displays of advanced powertrain concepts (including hybrids and fuel cell vehicles) from domestic as well as international automakers, including Chery, SAIC and Chang'an Automobile Group.

A full life cycle analysis of powertrain/fuel combinations could prove useful in shaping policy and product planning there (as elsewhere). GM sponsored a similar W-t-W project in Europe in 2002, and EUCAR, CONCAWE and JRC have followed up with a more detailed and current W-t-W assessment for that region.

For the China study, GM used an Opel Zafira (minivan) type vehicle that is expected to be marketed in high volumes in China in the 2010-2015 timeframe. The baseline vehicle was configured with a gasoline engine and automated manual transmission. (The Zafira was also the baseline vehicle in the GM European study.) The researchers used GM’s proprietary Hybrid Powertrain Simulation Program (HPSP).

GM included the coal-derived fuels—methanol, Fischer-Tropsch diesel and dimethyl-ether—due to their likely presence in the Chinese market. The researchers noted:

The choice of fuel has a significant impact on the fuel consumption of [internal combustion engine] vehicles. Methanol, in M100 and M85 blended fuels, has the highest impact because its heating value is about 50% less that gasoline. However, the potential to produce methanol from coal, using CTL technologies, may provide China a national security advantage compared to using petroleum-based fuels. In this case, one should keep in mind that the T-t-W emissions of methanol-fueled vehicles are associated with higher tailpipe emissions of CO, NOx, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

Fuel consumption in gallons of gasoline equivalent for the different fuels (non-hybrid, combustion-engine). Click to enlarge.

Overall, the study found that incremental technology changes in combustion engines have the potential to reduce fuel consumption by up to 20% compared to baseline vehicles. Hybridization of those platforms can lead to an additional reduction in fuel consumption of up to 21%. Fuel cell vehicles are associated with the greatest improvement, with a 58% reduction in fuel consumption of the gasoline baseline vehicle, and no on the road CO2 emissions.

On the fuels side, M10 and E10 results in an “insignificant” reduction in CO2 emissions, while M85, E85 and M100 (CTL) can produce a 2%-7% reduction.




We have a technology in Europe (and Japan) called smallcar - it is really very effective if you want low CO2/km.

It doesn't work well if you want to pull out tree stumps, but presumably most urban Chinese could pass on that.


I'm evolving.

I have become convinced that Global Warming is going to happen no matter what. It's just not possible for the tiny minority of us who understands it - and how to stop it - is going to be able to teach the vast majority.

There are just too many dupes out there that are going to allow themselves to be fooled by assholes like Rash Limburger and a bunch of other sociopathic, greedy shills.

I'm coming to understand that all of the good ways to produce alternative fuels will not even come close to meeting future demands.

Most likely we are going to Coal-to-Liquids (CTL).

If this is not done in a responsible manner, (Fat Chance!) then the poisoning of our world will increase incrementally.

It's likely that the human race will be down to a few tens of thousands of survivors within a hundred years.

It is what we are doing to our grandchildren and their grandchildren.

I doubt that their lives - short as they will be - is going to be much fun.

Prepare to be cursed by them all ...


I think it may be a lot of everything that works that will bring a solution. The transport fuel situation is on a huge scale , so it will take lots of people working together to change it.

It sounds to me like the conservative position is "don't be too hasty, we should not make major changes if we do not have to." I guess you could say that is a conservative position.

I find it ironic that conservatives are against conservation.


The fact that China and India are in the process of outfitting their massive populations with exponential increases in motor vehicles when they should have decided to manage a sustainable transition to modernization means they we are more than likely doomed regardless of what technologies we come up with. Population and attendant consumerization of these societies will destroy us all.

This is not to say that this exempts the U.S. and other industrializaed nations; it just means that all nations must move to a position where the automobile is deemphasized and largely phased out for most uses. We need several planets to support the current level of consumption, not even considering projected future levels of consumption.

California has extremely ambitious goals to cut energy use, which is a good thing. The problem is that they are taking baby steps to get there, all the while trying to offend and inconvenience as few people are possible. Massive carbon taxes are an essential part of the solution; I don't see this included in this regulatory approach.

China, without a doubt, will need coal to liquids to fuel their automobiles. There simply aren't enough biofuels or oil to fuel their future, which will be very dark and black, not even considering global warming. This is bad enough, but massive amounts of this pollution is and will end up on the west coast of the United States and Canada.

The United States, without a revolutionary commitment to downsizing our consumption patterns, is not in a position to pressure China to take a different path. We have advertised this as the one and only path to happiness, higher and higher levels of consumption, that is. As long as that is the dominant American paradigm, the Chinese will follow suit in order to reach consumer nirvahna.

And then the dieoff will begin.


Uh gm makes and sells small cars in china this is about how to fuel them all.
As for global warming and xlimate change... it already happened before we were born its just that it takestime to see what already IS.

Stan Peterson


Since you are so certain the die-off will begin, I invite you to give us all a good example.

Do It!

Do It Now!!

Avoid the Rush, DO IT!!!!


Tom, in order to downsize or eliminate the need for automobiles would, in itself, be a very energy-intensive activity. We are talking population movements on a massive scale, and extremely dense population centers with massive high rise apartment buildings and equally massive redevelopment of urban centers to accommodate all the new people.

I'm sorry, but not everybody wants to live like that. And forcing them to is simply not an option.

Downsizing... downsizing. Bad choice of words, really. When the economy gets "downsized", those in power, no matter what party they belong to, get tossed out on their ears.

But I suppose that if you really think that we're all doomed, Doomed, DOOMED as a few people here seem to think, then radical action is called for. However, I ask that you keep in mind that the solutions you advocate will result in massive economic disruptions that will prevent further progress--no economy, no money to invest in alternative energy.

But you will find it very hard to get enough voters on your side by advocating a hair-shirt style of environmentalism.

John Baldwin

CNG + hybrid is the way to go,

The Chinese will do this as the Germans are.....

Great news

Harvey D.

The end of fossil fuel is not the end of the world but the begining of a cleaner world.

Switching from one source of energy to another does not mean energy consumption reduction or the end of automobiles or a major economic depression.

We went from horses and buggies to ICE vehicles in about 25 years. We can go from ICE vehicles to clean electric (or electric dominant) vehicles in the next quarter or half century.

Electrification of the current ICE vehicles represents a major economic opportunity. This new business will bring new riches and work for the millions who will participate in the transition.

Concurrently, development of additional cleaner electric power plants and robust integrated distribution networks will benefit those involved. Plasma torch plants will turn waste and garbagge into clean electricity and useful by-products.

The next half century will be very interesting and will produce a cleaner place to live.

Will we learn to eat less?

He who discovers to transform live human excess fat into electricity could make $$ millions.


Fact is china knew exactly what it was doing when it started mass buildup of roads and freeways.
Its the only system capable of handling what china is becoming.

We arnt doomrd er just are in very VERY interesting times and as often comes with such times noy all of us are invited to the new world after...



I agree that CNG Hybrids are the way to go. This can be done now at a reasonable cost, reducing oil consumption and cleaning the air. You can refuel your car in your garage and we can create SNG from biomass. Something we can do right now to make genuine large scale improvements in our transportation situation.

I would add one thing, dual fuel for those long trips. Make is a flex fuel car and your can go away on trips and refuel anywhere.

Roger Pham

For all the prophets of doom, please be reminded that solar energy, in the form of BEV or H2-V will be the ultimate long-term answer, supplemented by wind energy. Coal to liquid is the interim solution until massive solar farms will be erected in time. The earth will be more polluted and global warming will be here to stay with us...many millions and even billions will die...but leaving behind those who will be stronger and more capable of adapting to higher level of pollutants, carcinogens, and temperature extremes. Survival of the fittest, folks!

Even if billions of people in the world will die, leaving only 500 millions of the strongest ones to survive, the world will do just fine. A few hundred years ago, the entire world had but 500 millions people, no antibiotics, no health insurance, no cars ... (but more whales, birds, elephants, lions, bears, etc). What a clean and unpolluted world it has been.


"the government adjusted the tax structure to provide a financial disincentive for the purchase of large-displacement vehicles: a 50% sales tax on engines greater than 4.0 liters, and a 27% tax on engines between 2.2 and 4.0 liters."

I seems that their government will do what ours will not. This kind of tax would never be done here, they would be voted out of office. However, they also have to accept the consequences for such an action. Since their government does not care about being reelected, I do not think what would matter to them either.


Here is an article about alternate fueled cars at a Chinese auto show.


It says that small Chinese auto companies are starting to design these kinds of cars. Maybe they will beat the large auto makers to it. Business TV seems to think that Ford and GM are well positioned in China, but that is with conventional cars.


Its the same old chant; "we can't add more taxes to the tax load. We pay too much already!"

Here's an idea, instead of adding a new carbon tax to what we pay let's convert old taxes into carbon taxes. So that if you do nothing you get no benefit but if you go green you pay less. Who doesn't want to pay less taxes?

Here's one way to do this; In the US there is an organization called Green Seal, it certifies companies that have gone green. A company that gets a green seal can put a sticker on its products as an advertizement for those comsumers for whom this is important. If we convert the sales tax into a carbon tax we could set it up so any product that passes through the scanner at the checkout with a green seal sticker on it gets its sales tax nulled.

Can you think of any other ways this could be done?


To those doomsayers:

If you’re trapped in a room that filling with water do you A: say "I'm doomed" give up and die, or do you B: try what ever you can to get out!

Sure global warming and peak oil look grim but does that mean we should give up? There is always hope, if we try hard enough HOPEfully a combinations of Solar/wind/biofuels/Coal-Gasification/Nuclear/Fusion(?) will save our @$$es! HOPEfully the masses of morons will be forces to change, and will survive change rather then total collapse. We have to try, giving up is guaranteed doom!



I like the idea of rewarding those that do what is right with lower taxes. They help eliminate the "externalized" costs of many of the pollution, shortage and global warming problems, so why not.

If I use a resource like coal generated electricity and the sulfur, mercury and particulate matter causes property damage and health problems, I should pay the costs of that.

If I find cleaner ways and do not use that polluting resource, I should not have to pay those costs (taxes). You can do both carrot and stick to create incentives.


The problem is people don't like higher taxes, unless it's for something they want. The answer is to indentify green infrastructure they want, like a light rail system, and add a tax for that only. People are only now saying they want a carbon tax.

My idea for rewards is that lowering taxes is an easy sell. Of course you still need overall taxes to be high enough to pay for everything, otherwise you go into deficit spending. So what you might try is a slow climb of general taxes [basicly you nickel and dime the people so they gripe a lot but don't revolt] and then make a big show of rewarding them for being green with lower taxes before an election. This will keep you in power long enough to get the real job done.


That seems to define leadership in a democratic society. Those that can convince others of the proper course of action, even though it is not in their immediate self interest. Not an easy thing to do and a skill in short supply these days.


Heh someone asked a question very like that trapped in a flooding room question of me long ago in colledge. I told the professor.. ok first I grab you by the belt and hair then Ibatter a hole in the wall using you as the mallet.. rgen I cart your unconsious body out to safty... U got an a;/

IF they replaced income rax with consumption tax that would help push things along nicely.

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