Fuelishness! Feed: Oil prices cloud recovery; When the Clunker Is Greener; Chevy Volt to Get 230 MPG; A 5-Stroke Engine; Diesel as alternative fuel in US
- Economic outlook: Oil prices cloud recovery hopes – The nascent recovery in global economic activity could yet be derailed by rising oil prices, with Brent crude hitting $76 a barrel last week, its highest levels of the year to date.
- When the Clunker Is Greener – Policies that encourage purchases of energy-efficient products may also increase, rather than decrease, energy use by confusing efficiency with consumption.
- Chevy Volt to Get 230 Miles per Gallon in the City, GM Says – If the figure is confirmed by the EPA, which does the tests for the mileage posted on new car door stickers, the Volt would be the first car to exceed triple-digit gas mileage, Posawatz said.
- Ilmor Engineering Creates a 5-Stroke Engine – The engine operates by using low- and high-pressure cylinders and a similar setup for the camshafts. The two high-pressure cylinders operate as a conventional 4-stroke engine does and alternately exhaust into the third, low-pressure cylinder, where the burnt gases perform more work.
- Diesel play catch up in alternative fuel race with help of German automakers – With a fuel efficiency boost that some claim can approach 40 percent over gas-powered counterparts, diesel is at least starting to make more and more sense from a cost perspective to the consumer.
Fuelishness! Feed: $700B Gains from Energy Efficiency; Bio-Engineering Algea; Cash for Clunkers FAIL; Cellphone Use as Deadly as Drunk Driving; Merits of a Gasoline-Diesel ‘Cocktail’
- McKinsey Tallies $700 Billion Gain from Energy Efficiency – A massive efficiency push over the next decade could save the U.S. economy $700 billion. That is, while efficiency measures would cost about $520 to put in place, they would save $1.2 trillion through 2020. In the process, efficiency could meet 23% of America’s future electricity demand.
- Algae: From Biotech to Frankenfuels? – Algae, say scientists and industrial titans alike, could jumpstart a viable biofuels industry because it reproduces quickly and can be turned into fuel without taking food from the world’s plate.
- Is the Cash-for-Clunkers Program an Environmental Dud? – As Congress debates adding $2 billion to the program, some calculations show that it may have only negligible environmental benefits.
- US safety agency hides dangers of using cellphones while driving – Driving while dialing and driving while texting is more dangerous than you knew. A federal report proves it, with some really scary numbers that show it is as dumb and deadly as drunk driving and DUI, driving under the influence.
- Gasoline-diesel ‘cocktail': A potent recipe for cleaner, more efficient engines – Based on tests by the University of Wisconsin-Madison engine research group headed by Rolf Reitz, would be a diesel engine that produces significantly lower pollutant emissions than conventional engines, with an average of 20 percent greater fuel efficiency as well.
CHINO, Calif., July 29 /PRNewswire/ — J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. and SunEco Energy today announced the signing of a cooperative agreement, which could lead to J.B. Hunt becoming a significant purchaser of biodiesel made from natural algae oil using SunEco Energy’s proprietary technology.
The two companies conducted a series of successful tests using biodiesel made by SunEco Energy from 100 percent natural algae oil produced at the company’s pilot plant in Chino, California. These tests, using a 20 percent and 50 percent blend of algae oil with petroleum diesel, measured an 82 percent reduction in particulate emissions with no loss of power.
“Transportation fuel is virtually 100% oil-based,” said Gary Whicker, senior vice president of engineering for J.B. Hunt. “Finding alternative energy sources to put in our fuel tanks is good business for our company and our nation. SunEco’s innovative process to produce renewable fuel supplies from algae grown in American ponds is an intriguing new option. Our initial experience with their algae-based biodiesel is promising, and we are excited about the opportunity to work with SunEco Energy to move towards a lower cost, less carbon intensive, and more secure energy supply for our business.”
“We are very pleased that J.B. Hunt, a leading transportation company, took the steps to test our fuel in their trucks and are taking further steps to become a leader in the use of renewable fuels,” said Dan Gautschi, Chairman and CEO of SunEco Energy. “The SunEco technology has been in development for over five years, with an operating pilot facility over the past two years which has allowed us to continually produce barrels of oil rather than beakers, enabling us to provide oil for tests in a variety of applications.”
SunEco’s proprietary technology utilizes naturally occurring algae strains in a monitored environment to produce an oil product suitable for making renewable transportation fuels and other oil-based products, and, as a byproduct of the process, a high-quality animal feed supplement. SunEco is currently raising additional funding to enable the large scale deployment of the technology in U.S. and international markets, including a large development in the Imperial Valley region of California.
J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. focuses on providing safe and reliable transportation services to a diverse group of customers throughout the continental United States, Canada and Mexico. Utilizing an integrated, multimodal approach, J.B. Hunt provides capacity-oriented solutions centered on delivering customer value and industry-leading service.
SunEco Energy is committed to leading the deployment of commercially viable bio-products made from natural algae strains. The Company’s primary objective is to deliver reliable clean and sustainable energy products for transportation fuels and livestock feed, thus breaking the trade-off between food or fuel. Looking forward, the company intends to expand its product range to include a full scope of uses currently obtained from petroleum, such as, plastics, inks and dyes, as well as nutri-ceuticals.
A few weeks ago Kathy called me and told me she needed a “case study” to add to the new press kit she was developing – something that illustrated the benefits of using FuelClinic.com from a member’s perspective.
I went to the database and back to my feedback emails, and found a few members who were obviously using the system regularly, were interested enough to communicate with me about the site and ideas or problems they had, and might possibly want to participate in a case study. I sent a few requests, received a few responses, including one from John Guercio.
From logs and emails I knew John had been using the system a long time, and when I asked him if he’d be interested in talking with Kathy he said “sure”. While I knew he was a “regular”, and I had assumed he was benefiting from using the site, I didn’t have any idea how he had been using the system – pushing it to it’s limits, and saving himself thousands of dollars.
Here’s how it starts:
John was used to receiving an occasional $2,000 expense check for his mileage. But when his company put him on a strict $750 a month expense plan, John knew it was time to take control of his MPGs and start paying better attention to the pain he would soon being feeling at the pump.
To do this, he turned to FuelClinic.com, the Web’s premiere online fuel efficiency tracking and driver improvement resource. His main interest was in tracking his Jetta’s miles per gallon for work-related trips to determine whether or not the new stipend was helping him make money, or causing him to lose it.
Find out how well it worked out for John, how he was able to track his expenses, improve his fuel mileage, decide NOT to get that new car he was looking at, and saved thousands of dollars in taxes last year.
If you are interested in participating in future case studies, please send a note to me at email@example.com – we are currently looking to create a case study detailing how a small business w/ a small fleet of vehicles has used FuelClinic.com in some way to save money, improve mileage, or track consumption.
Thanks John! Thanks Kathy!
Refer to the following charts and an estimate from the Energy Information Administration looking ahead twenty years.
Click image to enlarge.
Take a look at transportation – 96% of the energy we consume leading our modern mobile “just in time” lives is derived from one sole source – oil. In no uncertain terms, that’s a monopoly.
According to the Annual Energy Outlook 2009 (AEO 2009) from the Energy Information Administration, not much is due to change in the next 20 years. They outlook for 2030 shows oil slipping it’s grip only slightly – down just 9% to still monopolize our transportation sector at 86% in 2030.
In 2030, oil will cost anywhere from $50/bbl to $200/bbl – depending on various factors, but the AEO’s best guesstimate settles somewhere around $130/bbl:
In the AEO 2009 reference case, world oil prices rise to $130 per barrel (real 2007 dollars) in 2030; however, there is significant uncertainty in the projection, and 2030 oil prices range from $50 to $200 per barrel in alternative oil price cases. The low price case represents an environment in which many of the major oil-producing countries expand output more rapidly than in the reference case, increasing their share of world production beyond current levels. In contrast, the high price case represents an environment where the opposite would occur: major oil-producing countries choose to maintain tight control over access to their resources and develop them more slowly… (read more…)
Astonishingly enough, the forecast calls for no growth in oil consumption during this time, which I find very hard to believe. Consumption will be curbed thru a mix of high prices and regulation.
Total U.S. demand for liquid fuels grows by only 1 million barrels per day between 2007 and 2030 in the reference case, and there is no growth in oil consumption. Oil use is curbed in the projection by the combined effects of a rebounding oil price, more stringent corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, and requirements for the increased use of renewable fuels… (read more…)
Will we suffer through high gas prices for the next 20 years? Or longer?
– or –
Will pragmatic innovators lead the world beyond oil, into a future where seeking energy sources no longer dominates our time and politics, or limit so much of our human potential?
What do you think? Comments are open and greatly appreciated.
There’s an outstanding report from American Petroleum Institute (API) called Energizing America. I’m going to cherry pick some of the best and most informative info-graphs from this report and highlight them over the next few weeks. You can download a free copy of their report from their website.
Click image to enlarge.
The API report wants to emphasis that oil companies only make a 5.5% margin on each drop of oil the buy, refine, and transport to your local filling station.
More interesting are the taxes; nearly a quarter of the money consumers spend at the pump gets fed back to local, state, and federal governments. Any idea why every administration since the 1970’s oil crisis has so far failed to solve our oil addiction? Anyone?
California’s average price for a gallon of regular gasoline topped $3 Monday for the first time since last fall, driven higher by a rally in the market for crude oil. Just one month ago, Californians paid $2.52 per gallon, according to the AAA auto club…
…Some analysts say the price increase won’t go much farther.
Oil, they say, is now overpriced, because the demand for oil and gasoline in the recession-plagued United States remains low. If this spring’s oil rally continues, gas will keep rising. If the oil rally stops, gasoline prices should soon level out.
The federal Energy Information Administration last week predicted that gas prices nationwide would peak in July, averaging $2.70 for a gallon of regular for the month. According to AAA, the national average is already $2.67. The auto club expects the national average to pass $3 in the next few weeks.
The U.S. economy will not recover until the end of this year, and even then growth will remain meek and vulnerable to higher interest rates and commodity prices, economist Nouriel Roubini said on Tuesday.
Roubini, who rose to prominence for predicting the global credit crisis, tore down the “green shoots” theory that a rebound is imminent, saying there was a significant risk of a “double-dip” recession where the economy expands slightly only to begin contracting again.
“In addition to green shoots there are also yellow weeds,” he told the Reuters Investment Outlook Summit in New York…
“You’re starting to see the engines of the economy turn,” Obama said today in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the White House. “It’s going to take a long time — we had a huge de-leveraging that took place.”
…The U.S. economy shrank at a 5.7 percent annual pace in the first quarter, capping its worst six-month performance in five decades and reflecting declines in housing, inventories and business investment…
British Airways has asked its 40,000 staff to work without pay for up to a month as the ailing airline seeks to cut costs.
The group, which made a record £401 million loss in 2008 amid surging fuel prices and a collapse in premium-fare passengers, is seeking to reduce costs dramatically and has already offered staff unpaid leave or a reduction in hours.
Willie Walsh, BA’s chief executive, has now gone a step further by asking staff to volunteer for between one and four weeks of unpaid work in what he says is a “fight for survival.”
In another astonishing set-back in efforts to fix our oil addiction, one piece of legislation in the new energy bill that would allow a competing fuel product a real toe-hold in the global transportation fuel industry, has been watered down to insignificance.
What seems to be the signature energy legislation of the 111th Congress, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, (also known as the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill) which recently emerged from the Energy & Commerce Committee of the House of Representatives, does virtually nothing to shield the economy from the collapse a reemerging oil crisis would cause…
…The bill’s “cash for clunkers” program which gives consumers credit for purchasing an-oh-so-slightly more fuel-efficient car – for example $3,500 for replacing a SUV or pickup truck with a model just one mile per gallon more efficient – may help drive stockpiles of unsold Detroit cars off the lots but in terms of oil dependence it is equally meaningless…
…The one provision that could have made a difference, an Open Fuel Standard to ensure most new cars are flexible-fueled – capable of running on a variety of alcohol fuels in addition to gasoline – was watered down to meaninglessness by the Committee. Such a standard, which would add less than $100 to the cost of a new car, could have enabled drivers to choose a fuel alternative at the pump if and when gasoline prices rise sharply again…
Listen to what Congressman Elliot Engle, D-NY who serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, has to say about it a few weeks ago:
Consumer choice is good. Consumer choice leads to competition in markets. Competition in markets generally leads to healthy economics, where prices react predictably and are generally balanced by the consumers willingness to switch sources in order to find better value.
In transportation there is currently no real choice for fuel beyond oil – oil quite literally owns transportation. Ninety-eight percent of it – a strong monopoly. Allowing other alcohol-blended fuels to compete directly with oil would disrupt the oil monopoly with transportation, help clean up the environment, and create vital local economies all over the planet.
It’s time for choice in auto-fuels. What are your thoughts on the subject?
AS more research comes in regarding new technologies for producing bio-fuels, imagining a future where we have a real choice about our transportation fuels becomes less of a day-dream and more of a reality.
Found at: The BioEnergySite
Researchers at the University of Nevada are looking at some less conventional materials to extract biofuels – spent coffee grounds.
In a paper published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food ChemistryNarasimharao Kondamudi, Susanta K. Mohapatra and Mano Misra Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Nevada, describe the process to extract the oil from spent coffee grounds and then transesterify the processed oil to convert it into biodiesel.
The production of energy from renewable and waste materials is an attractive alternative to the conventional agricultural feed stocks such as corn and soybean. This paper describes an approach to extract oil from spent coffee grounds and to further transesterify the processed oil to convert it into biodiesel. This process yields 10?15% oil depending on the coffee species (Arabica or Robusta). The biodiesel derived from the coffee grounds (100% conversion of oil to biodiesel) was found to be stable for more than 1 month under ambient conditions. It is projected that 340 million gallons of biodiesel can be produced from the waste coffee grounds around the world. The coffee grounds after oil extraction are ideal materials for garden fertilizer, feedstock for ethanol, and as fuel pellets.
Gives new meaning to ordering “high test” at the restaurant.
Looks like the oil price has hit bottom, and is starting it’s steady march back up. This week futures settled firmly over $60/bbl. More worrisom than the price this week is the rate of the new rise over the last few weeks. Take a look at this updated chart I found at Wikipedia (click to visit):
In fiscal year ’08 – from the Fall of 2007 to the Fall of 2008 – American consumers, governments, and businesses paid nearly $1-trillion dollars for imported petroleum to make fuels like gasoline and diesel. One trillion dollars – per year.
If you do the math, this comes out to an average cost to every living American citizen of ~$3200/yr. To the average “family of four” we’re talking a hit of ~$13,000. If your family was very average and household income was $42,000 – last year you paid approximately 30% of your income for oil. (It’s much worse for people who drive as much, but earn less.)
Last summer oil prices had doubled for no real apparent reason, and a trillion dollars left the American economy directly at the “grass-roots level”. People stopped paying their mortgages or spending new money.
If any of the economic recovery plans actually do work, and our economy sputters back to life, expect oil prices to continue to “recover” as well.
Keep an eye on that little hook – the start of a “double hockey-stick”?
This is funny new commercial.
Popular Mechanics wrote:
The new era of clean diesel in America will officially be ushered in by the new VW Jetta TDi when it goes on sale in a few months. Powered by a 2.0-liter four-banger that produces 140 hp and 236 lb.-ft. of torque, it will be the first automobile to meet the world’s most stringent emission control standards, California’s Tier II, Bin 5.
I enjoyed driving a brand new diesel Seat around the beautiful country of Estonia in 2006. My Estonian cousin who’s car I was driving smiled as he pointed to a local blooming soy-bean farm and told me we are driving on sunshine. He fills his car with bio-diesel. He wondered why I didn’t do the same thing.
Clean diesels are a blast to drive. Like most diesels they have gobs of low-end torque that plants you in your seat, and since you can upshift as low as 1200 rpm you can take mechanical advantage of all that torque with quick up-shifts instead of revving out your fuel pump.
It’s not an answer to our oil addiction, and road taxes on diesel is pretty steep (meaning diesel is often more expensive than gasoline), it does offer you a way to get more mpg and enjoy the music of a finely tuned machine.
Let’s get real about alternative energy
By David MacKay
We need to introduce simple arithmetic into our discussions of energy. We need to understand how much energy our chosen lifestyles consume. We need to decide where we want that energy to come from, and we need to get on with building energy systems of sufficient size to match our desired consumption. Our failure to talk straight about the numbers is allowing people to persist in wishful thinking. Assuming we are serious about getting off fossil fuels, the scale of building required should not be underestimated. Small actions alone will not deliver a solution. The author goes on to break down the numbers associated with American and European energy usage, along with the numbers associated with energy production from renewables. Focusing attention on the numbers may make it possible to develop honest and constructive conversations about energy. It’s not going to be easy to make an energy plan that adds up, but it is possible. We need to get building.
David MacKay is a professor of physics at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the book “Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air.”
Fuelishness Marathon! – Part 4: Cellulosic Ethanol Could Have “Unintended” Environmental Consequences; $25 Billion For Green Cars;
- MIT Study Says Cellulosic Ethanol Could Have “Unintended” Environmental Consequences : Producing cellulosic ethanol from non-food feedstocks has been studied extensively at a local scale, but it’s difficult to estimate the environmental impacts on larger, heterogeneous regions. In this study, researchers evaluated two potential consequences of diverting usable land to biofuel production: either existing agricultural operations are intensified, or large areas of natural forest are cleared to increase cropland.
- $25 Billion Federal Loan Fund For Green Car Manufacturing Still Untapped : The program wasn’t funded until September 2008, and DOE reports that 43 of the initial applications landed during the final three days leading up to a Dec. 31, 2008 deadline.
- 1936 Chevy Sedan gets the electric car conversion treatment [w/video] : Shade tree mechanics. A 1936 Chevy Sedan. Down home narrator vibe. Yup, this video from a local TV station in Oklahoma has got everything you might be looking for to prove that electric cars are as American as apple pie.
Fuelishness! Marathon – Part 3: What is cellulosic ethanol; Algae Farming; Most Efficient Way to Travel 350 Miles
- What is cellulosic ethanol and how does it fit with green cars? : There is a lot of controversy surrounding biofuels. Various studies have shown that crop-based biofuels contribute to global warming more than they help prevent it, that ethanol is no better than gasoline, and that South East Asian rainforests are suffering for biofuels, to name just three. The most dramatic recent claim was that ethanol was the worst type of renewable energy.
- Algae Sizzle and Algae Steak : Bionavitas “Light Rod” idea called Light Immersion Technology that looks like a giant tapered optical fiber that places light at depth into algae cultures. Ingenious as ideas go, with a near stunning amount of coverage on Wednesday the idea might get some financial and research legs. What has been left out is the details about the light. The photos seem to leave out the top of the rod or fiber or just show a shaft, whose top area sets the amount of light; no matter how deep it is distributed. The idea solves a problem in algae culturing, getting light deep so that the culture isn’t just a thin layer at the sunlit surface.
- How Many Gallons of Fuel Does it Take to Travel 350 Miles? : GOOD Magazine, in collaboration with Robert A. Di Leso, Jr., explores fuel use by various modes of transportation. In what is essentially a fancied up bar chart, we see how many gallons of fuel it takes for a passenger to travel 350 miles by cruise ship, Amtrak, Boeing 737, Sedan, hybrid, etc. A couple of non-fuel modes of transportation are included as well using caloric conversions. It’ll take about 48 Whoppers with cheese to walk 350 miles. Good to know, especially since I was planning on walking 350 miles today. Totally kidding. I’m walking 360. Like a circle.
Fuelishness! Marathon – Part 2: Plug-In Charging Stations; Mille Hybrid-Powered Race Recovery Vehicle; Omnivore Concept Engine
- Raleigh, N.C. to Install Plug-in Hybrid Charging Stations : Like the San Francisco-based program, drivers will access the charging stations through key-cards. In Raleigh, this means simple credit card access at a cost of about 2.5 cents per mile, while the SF-based program uses chargers provided by Coulomb Technologies at no cost, but are only available to members of the car-sharing programs City CarShare and Zipcar.
- Miller Industries Adds Eaton Hybrid-Powered Race Recovery Vehicle To Fleet : The debut of the colorful white and green vehicle as part of Miller’s 12-truck fleet at the famed Daytona International Speedway was so successful that Miller announced plans to have it added to the company’s fleet of race recovery vehicles that will be operating throughout 2009. Miller supplies race recovery trucks for a large number of NASCAR events.
- Geneva Preview: Lotus to unveil Omnivore concept engine : The Omnivore is specifically designed to take advantage of varying fuels and modern electronic control capabilities. Like most research engines, this is a single cylinder design that allows the Lotus engineers to more quickly make changes and study the effects. This is also a two-stroke design with an air assisted direct injection system provided by Orbital Corporation of Australia. Those interested in two-strokes may remember Orbital from the early nineties when a number of manufacturers were investigating two-stroke engines. The concept engine uses a mono-block layout with a single hunk of metal comprising the cylinder block and head and no poppet valves. Instead the ports are exposed by the piston’s motion. Variations in timing between intake and exhaust are achieved by valve in the exhaust port that traps the exhaust.
Here’s an anti-ethanol argument I never saw coming…
A prominent Saudi scholar warned youths studying abroad of using ethanol or other fuel that contains alcohol in their cars since they could be committing a sin, local press reported Thursday.
Sheikh Mohamed Al-Najimi, member of the Saudi Islamic Jurisprudence Academy, based his statement on a saying by the prophet that prohibited all kinds of dealings with alcohol including buying, selling, carrying, serving, drinking, and manufacturing, the Saudi newspaper Shams reported Thursday.
Saudi and Muslim youth studying abroad would violate the prohibition if they used bio fuel, he said, since it “is basically made up of alcohol.”
Fuelishness! Marathon – Part 1: Cellulosic Ethanol in NY; GM’s Fuel Economy Estimates Drop; A Turbo For Every Car
- Mascoma Begins Cellulosic Ethanol Production in New York : Mascoma Corporation has begun producing cellulosic ethanol from non-food biomass at its demonstration facility in Rome, New York. Mascoma’s Consolidated Bioprocessing (CBP) process consists of a mild pretreatment followed by the introduction of cellulose-utilizing and ethanol-fermenting microbes that both hydrolyze and ferment the sugars into ethanol.
- GM’s Future Fuel Economy Estimates Drop in New Federal Aid Application : Citing the possibility of an ongoing increase in sales of larger, less-efficient cars and trucks as one factor, General Motors Corp. has revised its future average fuel economy numbers sharply downward in its most recent application for federal aid.
- Popular Mechanics: 5 TurboCharger Innovations for Fuel Efficiency and Power : In the 1980s, it was difficult to escape the turbocharger. The twin energy crises of the 1970s forced automakers to produce cars that delivered better fuel economy. And that meant downsizing engines. By the 1980s, turbo technology was evolving and automakers installed them to boost the power of these smaller engines. But turbos promised more than just power—they promised fuel economy benefits too.
Today’s economic doom-and-gloom pallet cleanser; a start-up biodiesel manufacturing company in El Paso Texas who just bought additional equipment to triple their biodiesel output, because they have more demand than they can currently meet.
Global Alternative Fuels, LLC of El Paso, Tex. has purchased an additional 10 million gallons of [biodiesel] capacity. Added to the existing 5 million gallon plant, Global Alternative Fuels is working to meet regional demand for sustainably produced biodiesel.
“El Paso is in a desert area, so we chose Greenline’s waterless biodiesel platform for our initial 5 million gallon plant,” said Carlos Guzman, Co-founder, President & COO of Global Alternative Fuels, LLC. “Once we discovered that 5 million gallons would not be enough to meet demand in our area, we asked Greenline to add another 10 million gallons of capacity…”
Global Alternative Fuels started producing biodiesel on January 3rd of this year and already has a need to increase capacity. “We have a buyer for every drop of fuel we make,” said Guzman. So, Greenline has begun work on increasing plant capacity to 15 million gallons and adding a feedstock blending unit. “The Greenline feedstock blending unit allows us to utilize multiple sustainable feedstocks including locally sourced animal tallow and Iowa soybean oil,” said Guzman.
Wow. That’s refreshing. :)
Last year I had a quick conversation with Bob Casper, President of POET Ethanol Products, after a conference where he had said that the ethanol industry in America was about to meet the current 10% blend-wall mandate, providing all the fuel the market could use, while continuing to improve efficiencies and producing more fuel with fewer resources.
I asked him what his single greatest challenge is, and he told me that the industry was about to have excess capacity, without any real FFV progress, the blend-wall for non-FFV vehicle fuel needed to be raised to 12% or 15% in order to create room for the industry to continue to grow, to encourage continued innovation and investment.
One of the challenges of increasing the blend-wall is certifying that the existing equipment like pumps, tanks, and dispensing machines can operate without problems due to the higher alcohol content. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) creates standards for this kind of equipment, and recently announced it will support the sale of E15 in existing approved 87-regular gasoline systems.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) says it will support the sale of 15% ethanol blends through “legacy” dispensers, as long as those pumps meet current UL standards for the sale of 87-regular gasoline. The decision by the Chicago-based standards-setting group is a major coup for marketers and ethanol suppliers, who have pushed for UL approval of higher blend sales. UL has tested pumps up to a 15% blend but until now has said it will only give its stamp of approval to dispensers cleared for 10% ethanol fuel, the current limit for non-flex fuel vehicles under the Clean Air Act.
There are other challenges, from auto manufacturer warranties, to congressional action still needed, to consumers potentially noticing reduced mileage from using a greater percentage of alcohol in their low-compression gasoline engines. (While “miles-per-gallon” may slip, the “miles-per-gallon-of-gasoline” will increase significantly.)
Fuelishness! Feed: Slippery Mercedes E-Class, Fuel-Efficient Indian SUV’s, Another Pay-Per-Mile Road Tax Scheme
- New Mercedes E-Class Coupe couples low drag coefficient to efficient engines : Partnering the wind-cheating new shape of the E-Class Coupe, which replaces the outgoing CLK and joins the new E-Class sedan just unveiled a few months ago, is a range of fuel-sipping engines, including the new four-cylinder turbo-diesel E 250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY, which offers more power and torque than the model it replaces while returning 17 percent better fuel economy (5.3 liters per 100 kilometers on the European combined cycle) and emitting 138 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer. Efficiency is also optimized by use of on-demand activation for the steering and fuel pumps, a dynamic alternator and tires with low rolling resistance, which join the roster of new driving and safety systems you can read about in the press release after the jump. See more photos of the new E-Class Coupe in the gallery below.
- Indian Automaker Sees U.S. Market As Ready For Its 30 MPG Diesel Pickups and SUVs : Mahindra & Mahindra, an Indian manufacturer specializing in pick-ups and SUVs, believes that what works with value-conscious Indian car buyers will translate to American consumers weary of gas guzzlers but not quite ready to kick their SUV habits… A key part of the trucks’ allure will be high fuel-efficiency figures. Power will come from a 2.2-liter common rail four-cylinder diesel engine, fitted to a six-speed automatic transmission. Mahindra representatives say the engine and transmission combination will deliver a fuel economy average of at least 30 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
- Massachusetts Joins States Contemplating Pay-Per-Mile Road Tax Plans : As a matter of national policy we are encouraging people to jettison their gas-guzzlers and seek out the most efficient cars and trucks they can. We want plug-in hybrids and electric cars that use no oil at all. Taxing gasoline rewards and thus encourages purchases of fuel-efficient vehicles; charging by the mile doesn’t. The driver of a 15-miles-per-gallon Jeep Grand Cherokee pays the same for a 100 miles trip as the driver of a 48-mpg Prius, even though the Jeep uses more than three times as much fuel and, as a heavier vehicle, does more damage to the road surface.
One of the most compelling arguments against ethanol states that there is “less heat energy” in a gallon of ethanol vs. a gallon of gasoline. When used in current automotive engines, the driver will find overall “miles-per-gallon” (MPG) mileage reduced, even as the “miles-per-gallon-of-gasoline” (MPGG) is increased substantially.
I’ve argued that once engineers begin to design engines to take advantage of the properties of ethanol (specifically the very high octane), that mileage and power would at least equal that of a gasoline engine. Over the last few weeks there have been announcements from Ricardo and Bentley that their engineers have done just that…
Ethanol Boosted Direct Injection or EBDI, takes full advantage of ethanol’s best properties – higher octane and higher heat of vaporization – to create a truly renewable fuel scenario that is independent of the cost of oil.
According to the press release, Ricardo claims they’ve boosted ethanol engines “to a level of performance that exceeds gasoline engine efficiency and approaches levels previously reached only by diesel engines.” (Diesel engines are approximately 30% more fuel efficient than gasoline engines.)
EBDI is another example of how professional racing is the NASA of the automotive industry, developing the full potential of automotive technologies that will benefit all of us.
Science continues to find better and more efficient ways to break down the sugars in inedible biomass feedstock for bio-fuels. A few years ago critics talked about cellulosic ethanol as if it was a myth that should be ignored. Today, with plants already in production, cellulosic ethanol is a reality – and with continued research finding natural processes to help convert the feedstock to energy, the future of cellulosic ethanol looks bright.
The latest bug helping to break-down bio-mass is our long-time nemesis, wood rot…
An international team led by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) have translated the genetic code that explains the complex biochemical machinery making brown-rot fungi uniquely destructive to wood. The same processes that provide easier access to the energy-rich sugar molecules bound up in the plant’s tenacious architecture are leading to innovations for the biofuels industry. The research, conducted by more than 50 authors, is reported in the February 4 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Among the challenges to more cost-effective production of biofuels from cellulosic biomass—the fibrous material of whole plants—is to find effective means to work around the polymer lignin, the scaffolding that endows the plant’s architecture with rigidity and protection from pests. By doing so, the organic compound cellulose—the long chain of glucose (sugar) units can be unbound, broken down, fermented, and distilled into liquid transportation fuel. This is where the destructive capabilities of rot come in.
“The microbial world represents a little explored yet bountiful resource for enzymes that can play a central role in the deconstruction of plant biomass—an early step in biofuel production,” said Eddy Rubin, Director of the DOE JGI, where the genome sequencing was conducted. “The brown-rot Postia placenta’s genome offers us a detailed inventory of the biomass-degrading enzymes that this and other fungi possess.”
Fuelishness! Feed: Airlines Finds Biofuel More Efficient; Curtailing Ethanol Carbon Loss; Pryolysis-Gasification of Bio-Mass; Venezuela heading for collapse.
- Earlier in the month Continental Airlines completed a test flight using biofuels, and now a few weeks later Japan Airlines has joined a (slowly) expanding number of airlines trying to green their fuel usage. The fuel used was a mixture of jatropha oil, algae oil, and camelina oil (the first time that feedstock has been employed in a jet fuel).
- Scientists at Michigan State University are finding ways to curtail carbon loss when transforming plant waste into ethanol…“These results demonstrate that bio-energy cropping systems, particularly those integrating livestock manure into their management scheme, are a win-win option on both alternative energy and environmental fronts,” Thelen said. “Under proper management, livestock manure can replace carbon lost from corn stover removal and actually provide an environmental benefit, both in terms of greenhouse gas mitigation and the improved soil properties associated with increasing (soil carbon) levels, such as increased water retention.”
- Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) think they have a winner with Bioliq, a fuel produce by pyrolysis-gasification processing of wood, straw, or other substances. They are constructing a pilot plant, to be completed in 2012. process to create relatively affordable biofuels out of common plant wastes, such as waste wood. They hope the technology will yield fuel that costs €0.50 a liter or $2.49/gallon USD.
- The collapse in oil prices has hit OPEC nations hard, but perhaps none more so than Venezuela. Hugo Chavez apparently put more of his profits into his socialization programs than in paying contractors for their work. Now they have stopped working altogether as Chavez has no money to pay their past-due notices, which will curtail production just when Chavez needs it most…
The Ford Motor Company isn’t looking for a handout – they’ve managed to keep their business running the old fashioned way, they’ve kept their finger on the pulse of American car buyers.
Years ago they developed a “sustainability” plan, long before it was a political topic. Near-term elements of Ford’s sustainability plan include improving today’s gasoline engines to make them more fuel efficient with reduced emissions:
- The Ford Fusion is now America’s most fuel efficient mid-size sedan for both hybrid and conventional gasoline models
- The four-cylinder Ford Fusion S is now certified at 34 mpg highway and 23 mpg in the city, topping the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord
- The new Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrids deliver up to 41 miles per gallon in the city – eight miles per gallon better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid. In addition, the base Fusion with its 4-cylinder engine and six-speed transmission is EPA certified with best-in-class fuel economy of 34 mpg on the highway
- The Ford Focus with its 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and manual transmission delivers 35 mpg on the highway, 5 mpg better than Toyota Corolla’s 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and 2 mpg better than Honda Fit’s 1.5-liter 4-cylinder, both also with manual transmissions
- The all-new 2009 Ford F-150 – which is Motor Trend magazine’s Truck of the Year – achieves 3 mpg more than the Toyota Tundra pickup on the highway and 1 mpg better in the city with its 4.6-liter V-8 engine, compared to Toyota’s 4.7-liter V-8. The F-150’s larger 5.4-liter V-8 achieves 2 mpg better on the highway than the facing Tundra engine
- The 2009 Ford Escape with its new 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and six-speed transmission achieves 28 mpg on the highway, the same as Toyota’s RAV4 and 1 mpg better than the Honda CR-V, both with 4-cylinder engines, too
- The Ford Expedition achieves 20 mpg on the highway, beating both of the Toyota Sequoia’s V-8 engines by as much as 3 mpg on the highway
And Ford’s plans for the near future:
- A new battery electric commercial van in 2010
- A new battery electric small car in 2011 to be developed jointly with Magna International
- Next-generation hybrid vehicles, including a plug-in version in 2012
Some other links to Ford documents with additional information about the their plans and progress:
Eco-Driving Module / online course under “Driving Skills for Life”: https://www.drivingskillsforlife.com/templates/site/wbt/scos/module_1/index.htm
German web site: www.ford-eco-driving.de
What do you think – has Ford proven itself to be the Most American Car Maker?
The Greenest American Car Maker?
One of the common arguments against ethanol/methanol is that we “don’t have enough arable crop land to produce enough ethanol to replace our projected demand for oil without starving to death first”.
In a way this is true, but it misses the point. We don’t have to replace all oil with alcohol (or anything for that matter), we just have to displace enough of it to reduce the strategic value of oil, making oil a plentiful commodity instead of an economic weapon.
Here’s an interesting idea from FFV Club of America that illustrates how Flex Fuel technology can effectively increase your “miles per gallon of gasoline” to over 100 MPGG.
I get 100+ miles per gallon of gasoline (MPGG) using E85, so I use less gasoline and more domestically produced alternative fuels.
When using E85 in my FFV I can get 100+ MPGG (miles to the gallon of gasoline). After all, the challenge is about gallons per gasoline not only miles per gallon. For example. The 20 gallon fuel tank on my Dodge minivan takes 17 gallons of ethanol and 3 gallons of gasoline (E85). I normally average about 20 miles per gallon and go about 400 miles on that tank full. Even if I assume a 20% loss in mileage (truthfully I do not check or care, I just use E85 when I can) I go about 320 miles on those 3 gallons of gasoline or about 106 MPGG. Now that is progress and I have one of the highest miles per gallon of gasoline cars on the road!
In essence, you’re going much further on each gallon of petroleum-based gasoline but “cutting” it with biomass-based alcohol.
I like this so much I’m adding the capability to measure and track “MPGG” using FuelClinic in a future update.
Daydreaming: Imagine the kind of MPGG possible if the existing gasoline-hybrids like the Toyota Prius were also Flex Fuel capable (they are not). Taking the daydream one step further, how about a plug-in flex-fuel hybrid… (Need to stabilize E85 in storage, to prevent moisture from being absorbed, but otherwise – it’s possible today to build such a vehicle.)
Calculating MPGG also helps debunk another frequent argument against alcohol-blends that, gallon for gallon, drivers will actually see a decrease in mileage using ethanol/methanol vs. straight gasoline.
Note: It is true, generally speaking, that in existing gasoline powered automobiles you will get “fewer miles per gallon” using ethanol/methanol, but only because gasoline powered cars are engineered to efficiently use lower-octane gasoline as a fuel. If cars were engineered to take advantage of the higher octane/higher compression ratios possible with ethanol, the efficiency would rival that of gasoline. There’s nothing “wrong” with alcohol as a fuel, just ask IndyCar Racing, it’s just not apples-to-apples to compare fuel efficiency in engines that are not tailored to take advantage of the different properties of each fuel.
If the goal is to reduce oil consumption, control oil prices, cut carbon emissions, and help ourselves and our nation economically, then thinking about the ability of your Flex Fuel car to “off-set” oil by a substantial margin with each mile you drive makes each fill-up a little more satisfying.
What do you think about MPGG, ethanol/methanol, or Flex Fuel technologies?
Would measuring mileage by MPGG make refueling a little more satisfying to you, or am I just nuts?
As always, your comments are important and greatly encouraged. :)