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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Honda, Toyota, Volvo, GM developing hybrid clean fuel vehicle

New Clean Fuel vehicles article from

The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (10/30/05) | Mike Millikin


Sales of the new Honda Civic Hybrid are off to a good start in Japan, with some 700 pre-sale orders over a one-month period. That compares with an average monthly sales target of 500 units for the life of the model, and actual domestic sales of 36 units a month for the previous Civic hybrid model during 2004. The car goes on sale 22 November. (GCC)

Honda also suggested this week that it was making significant progress in its development of an HCCI engine (Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition)—an advanced combustion regime that can result in cleaner, more efficient engines, and that is the subject of a great deal of research and development for both cars and trucks. Pairing that engine with a hybrid drivetrain could result in a Hybrid Civic that delivers as much as 65 mpg—some 30% better than the just-introduced model. Honda said that it might show a prototype of the engine next year. (GCC)

Toyota is apparently encountering some challenges in designing a hybrid drivetrain for its full-size Tundra pickup truck. (GCC)

PECO, the Philadelphia electric and gas utility, has been awarded a federal Clean Cities grant for more than $83,000 to support the production and testing of a prototype diesel hybrid bucket truck in the Philadelphia region. PECO is one of six recipients in the mid-Atlantic region. (GCC)

HyNor, the Norwegian hydrogen highway project, is looking for users for a small number of 15 Toyota Prius hybrids with their engines converted to run on hydrogen fuel. (GCC) HyNor also hopes to include Think Nordicís new hydrogen plug-in hybrid, TH!NK hydrogen, scheduled to become available in 2006. (GCC.)

Volvo Powertrain will build four second-generation heavy-duty diesel-electric full hybrid vehicles for the US Air Force. The new vehicles will include two garbage trucks and two other trucks, possibly dump trucks. The first generation of the hybrid—a mild hybrid configuration with motor assist but no all-electric mode—has estimated fuel savings of 11%. The upcoming second generation—a full hybrid application with an all-electric launch capability—is targeted to save 44%. (GCC)

The San Diego office of FlexCar has doubled its fleet to more than 20 with the addition of a set of new Honda Civic hybrids. (GCC)

Australia is pitching for a piece of the hybrid future, asking Toyota to expand production of hybrids to its plant in Victoria. (GCC)

India is also pitching, but to Ford. Ford CEO Ford, in India to introduce the new Fiesta, met with the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Selvi J Jayalalithaa to discuss expansion of Ford’s Indian operation, which might include hybrid production. (GCC)


Milj¯bil Grenland AS of Norway has launched a new electric car prototype powered by Electrovayaís Lithium-ion SuperPolymer battery. (GCC)

The city of Adelaide, Australia, has issued a call for registrations of interest (ROI) for manufacturers to supply an all-electric passenger bus with a minimum seating capacity of 20 by June 2006. The general specs call for the use of solar panels to assist in powering the bus. (GCC)

Saft, a leader in NiMH and Li-ion battery technologies, is the main participant in the European New Electric Postman Helper (NEPH) project (Eureka! Project 3364). In the short term, the NEPH Project aims to create a range of integrated electric powertrains for personal mobility vehicles to help the post-office employees of Europe distribute the mail in urban zones. Saft worked with Segway in developing self-contained Ni-Cd and Ni-MH batteries that feature integrated charge and discharge management electronics for the Segway Human Transporter. (GCC)

Azure Dynamics has sold two new zero-emission, all-electric Azure CitiVans to the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and delivered them to the United States Postal Service (USPS) fleet serving the Flushing Post Office in Queens, New York. The CitiVan uses an Azure AC90 110-kW traction motor that produces 630 Nm of peak torque, with sealed lead acid batteries for storage. Peak electrical power in the drive system is 110 kW, with continuous power of 45 kW. The CitiVan by Azure has a range of 40 miles on a complete charge, with a top speed of 60 miles per hour. (GCC)


The BOC Foundation has awarded a grant to Hydrogen Solar Ltd for the development and demonstration of scalable photo-catalytic hydrogen production using a Tandem Cell array. In the first phase of the project, Hydrogen Solar will design, build and install a 100 m2 array of Tandem Cells to generate high-purity hydrogen from sunlight and water. The second phase will be to demonstrate the Tandem Cell array over a six month period at the Beacon Energy Ltd site at West Beacon Farm, Leicestershire. The system will provide hydrogen for fuel cell applications, to provide electricity for recharging electric vehicles, and for heat and power for various buildings. (GCC)

Lockheed-Martin has contracted Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies to develop a hydrogen and oxygen fuel storage module for a regenerative power supply system for space exploration. Meeting the requirements of the contract will likely advance Quantumís current technology for hydrogen vehicle commercialization. (GCC).


Coors Brewing Company is doubling its current production of 1.5 million gallons of fuel ethanol per year from beer waste by adding a second ethanol processing plant at its Aurora, Colorado brewery. (GCC)

Husky Energy, a Canadian-based, integrated oil and energy company, is replacing its existing ethanol plant at Minnedosa, Manitoba with a new ethanol facility that increases the capacity of the original by a factor of 10. (GCC)

Malaysian palm plantation company Golden Hope Plantations Bhd (GHope) is exploring investing between MYR114 million (US$30.2 million) to MYR138 million (US$36.6 million) to build a Dutch biodiesel plant with a capacity of 150,000 metric tons (approximately 34.5 million gallons) and which can be operational in 15 to 18 months time. (GCC)

The Brazilian City of Maring·, State of Paran·, has joined Rio de Janeiro in using O2Dieselís proprietary ethanol-diesel blend. The city will convert all 235 of its diesel-powered buses as well as other diesel equipment used by the municipality for maintenance and garbage collection services to the cleaner-burning ethanol-diesel fuel by mid-2006. (GCC)

Independence BioFuels opened a biodiesel injection-blending facility in Pennsylvania—the East Coastís first. Because no biofuel refineries currently exist in Pennsylvania, this facility is the only point of biofuel distribution in the state(GCC)

The Bertin Group, Brazilís largest beef exporter, is building a plant to convert the cow tallow from its abattoirs into biodiesel. The US$18 million plant will begin production in June 2006 in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and is expected to produce 100,000 tons (approximately 23 million gallons US) of biodiesel annually. The factory is expected to produce almost 14% of the biodiesel required to comply with the Brazilian governmentís target of blending 2% biodiesel with petroleum diesel effective January 2006. (GCC)

NTR, a private sector developer, financier and operator of public and environmental infrastructure in Ireland, has made an initial Ä30-million (US$36.5-million) investment in Emerald Biodiesel, a German biodiesel company. The company will shortly begin construction of an integrated oil mill and biodiesel facility in the state of Mecklenburg Vorpommern, approximately 100 kilometers north of Berlin. The plant will have an initial capacity of 50 million liters (13.2 million gallons US) and is scheduled to be online before the end of 2006. Capacity will increase to 150 million liters (40 million gallons US) by the end of 2008. (GCC)

Singapore is getting its first two biodiesel plants. The Cremer Gruppe will invest up to S$34 million (US$20.1 million) in a plant with a capacity of 200,000 metric tons, and expects it to be online by the end of the first quarter in 2007. A joint venture between Wilmar Holdings and Archer Daniels Midland is building a 150,000 metric ton plant that can double its output to 300,000 metric tons per year. (GCC)


The California Air Resources Board has passed the proposed regulation mandating idle-shutdown technology on future heavy-duty diesel engines and adding heavy-duty trucks with sleeper cabs to the current prohibition on diesel engines idling for more than 5 minutes.

In 2004, California ordered operators of commercial trucks and buses to shut off their engines after idling for five minutes, but the rule did not cover trucks with sleeping berths unless they were within 100 feet of a home or school. The new restriction on the latter trucks is the first such in the country. The new regulation applies to current and future trucks, and will go into effect in 2008.


The state of Texas has signed an agreement to allow the first major offshore wind-energy project in the United States to be built off Galveston Island. Galveston-Offshore Wind, a division of Louisiana-based Wind Energy Systems Technologies (WEST), will build the 150-MW development on an 11,355-acre lease about seven miles off the coast. (GCC)

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has contracted with enXco, a wind energy firm based in Escondido, Calif. to supply 205.5 megawatts (MW) of electricity to utility customers. (GCC)

Two utilities this week announced they are preparing their combined construction and operating license (COL) application to be submitted to the NRC for new nuclear power generation in the US. Duke Power is applying for two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors (1.1 MW each). Although it did not specify the number of reactors in the initial COL, Constellation Energy is also beginning the process, using the 1.6 MW reactor designed by AREVA and offered through it and Constellation's joint venture, UniStar Nuclear. Constellation expects that its initial COL, if approved by the NRC, will serve as the base model for future nuclear plants under the UniStar brand.


Less than a week after the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved legislative language opening ANWR to drilling (GCC), the House Resources Committee passed through a budget reconciliation plan which includes permitting coastal states to engage in natural gas-preferential leasing in federal waters off their shorelines (Outer Continental Shelf -- OCS) and authorizing oil and gas drilling in ANWR. (GCC).

The Japanese Environment Ministry has again called for the introduction of a carbon tax, this time in January 2007, in an attempt to meet its targets for reducing CO2 emissions as set by the Kyoto protocol. But it also recommended delaying the application of the tax on gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to avoid putting too much economic burden on end-users. Originally announced in November 2004, the proposed carbon tax drew so much immediate fire from trade groups and other ministries in the government that the Environment Ministry backed off its planned implementation in favor of "further discussion." (GCC)

GM (which has had to go so far as to publicly preemptively rule out bankruptcy protection) is drawing up stand-by plans to boost production of smaller vehicles in case the recent increase in US demand for fuel-efficient cars and light trucks continues into next year. (GCC)

The company also announced it is opening a new R&D science office in Moscow to leverage Russian science institutes and universities on a broad array of technologies, including fuel cells, hybrid and electronic controls, and battery research. (GCC)

Sumitomo Rubber Industries has developed and will launch next year a specialty tire made with a smaller-than-usual proportion of synthetic rubber, which is made from petroleum. Approximately 55% of the material in a conventional tire, including synthetic rubber and other polymers, is petroleum-derived. The new Sumitomo tire drops this down to around 30%.

Sumitomo Rubber roughly halved the share of synthetic rubber used in the tire. It also increased the share of a genetically engineered natural rubber, which is made from the latex sap of the rubber tree. To date, according to Sumitomo, maintaining tire performance when increasing the share of natural rubber has been difficult. Sumitomo Rubber employed genetic engineering technology to alter the molecular structure of the rubber treeís latex sap, making the structure closer to that of synthetic rubber. (GCC)

Written by Mike Millikin of

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