By John Addison (8/28/07)
The Loire Valley in France brings images of magnificent castles, breathtaking landscape, superb wine, and driving 10,705 miles per gallon (3,789 km/l). A team of students at the La Joliverie in Loire won the 2003 Shell Eco-Marathon race with this remarkable fuel economy. Yes, you read that right – over 10,000 mpg and the fuel was gasoline. It was not an electric vehicle. It was not even a hybrid. The vehicle was shaped for minimal wind resistance.
The vehicle was also built with new materials that are lighter, stronger, and available in some new models now in car showrooms. When you buy your next vehicle, you can get 40 miles per gallon (mpg), not 14 mpg, by selecting a vehicle that is lighter and more aerodynamic. Some people want you to think that you need to wait years before you can get a car with great mileage. This is not true. You can get over 40 miles per gallon today. You do not need to wait for future technologies.
By going on an energy diet we can have healthy cities, be energy independent, and stop global warming. This can be done with modest annual improvements. We could cut vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by improving mileage 4% annually for 22 years.
We have one global trend towards fuel and energy efficiency and a more powerful force towards increased consumption. Our future depends on fuel and energy efficiency being the winner. Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute have looked at the numbers in detail. They calculate that moving our typical car with its internal combustion engine wastes over 90% of the energy content in the gasoline used. 90% is wasted moving the vehicle and driver. What if we look at the energy efficiency of just moving the driver? 99% waste! Only one percent of the energy in the gasoline is actually used to move the person.
Americans spend an extra $3 billion on fuel because vehicles are heavier than they were in 1960. The world’s drivers consume an extra 39 million gallons each year for each pound of added vehicle weight.
Cars need to go on a diet. SUVs need a crash diet. A light weight auto requires a lighter engine and powertrain, which in turn requires less fuel weight. To achieve more miles per gallon carry less weight. If you use a big SUV like the GM Envoy XL, your official EPA mileage is 15/19. Your mileage may vary (as in worse). If you use a much lighter GM Chevrolet Cobalt M-5, your EPA mileage is an improved 25/34. Vehicles can be better designed. Minor reductions in weight and drag, can improve mileage 14 to 53% and only raise prices by $168 to $217. Winning the Oil Endgame
In Europe, the Renault Clio uses recycled plastic for 10 percent of the total vehicle weight. Recycling helps the environment. Use of plastic reduces weight and improves fuel economy. The VW Lupo 3L TDI achieves 78 miles per gallon. The VW is small, lightweight, and uses an efficient diesel engine.
A new study determines that the amount of aluminum used in new European cars has risen from 50 kg in 1990 to 132 kg in 2005 and is predicted to grow by another 25 kg by 2010. The two million tons of aluminum components were put in European cars saved one billion liters of fuel annually and 40 million tons of CO2 emissions over the lifespan of the vehicles.
No more heavy metal. Your car is probably made with steel. Aluminum makes vehicles lighter. Market leader Toyota bought 5.9% of Izuzu so that Toyota could make better use of aluminum. In 2012, a joint venture between Toyota and Izuzu will start producing a new light-weight aluminum engine. Green Car Congress
Carbon fiber makes vehicles even lighter. Carbon fiber requires half the weight and gives better protection. My bicycle is carbon fiber, making it easier to get up hills. My golf clubs using carbon fiber; unfortunately, nothing can help my golf game.
Sexy exotic cars are made with carbon fiber. GM’s Ultralite, built in 1992, had a carbon-fiber-skin for the chassis and body panels. The weight was only 420 pounds including the doors. Auto makers know how to make a car that gets over 100 mpg, even without the hybrid technology which we will review. Auto makers need a business case to make the change.
VW developed an experimental two-seater that got 240 mpg. Critics point out that the 0.3-liter 8.5-hp one-cylinder engine could not rapidly accelerate on to a freeway. Millions of vehicles do not need such acceleration. Many fleets, from college campuses to city parking inspectors, need vehicles with modest speeds that can be parked in tight spaces.
The Toyota Prius is more aerodynamic than a Chevrolet Corvette. Last week I met with Prius drivers that are getting 60 mpg in real driving conditions. In addition to being aerodynamic, the Prius uses low rolling resistance tires. You can even improve mileage with your current vehicle by keeping the tires fully inflated, thereby lowering rolling resistance and increasing mileage.
Does your family or household own more than one vehicle? If so, use most often the vehicle that consumes the least gas. It is a no-brainer. That is your main car. My wife and I share the high mileage hybrid. It puts on the most miles. The other sedan, which still gets good mileage, is used only on days when we both have destinations in opposite directions. For the most part, it is a back-up car that stays parked in the garage.
When you buy a new car select one that gets at least 40 miles per gallon (or get an electric vehicle). Most likely the high mileage car will be aerodynamic, lighter, safer, and use low rolling resistance tires.
By John Addison (8/15/07)
Years ago, you only had one choice for your telephone service – AT&T. Now you have a variety of choices from landline, wireless, cable, and Internet providers. Years ago, gasoline was your only fuel choice. Now you have a number of fuel and electric choices. In the future, your favorite provider may be your electric and gas utility.
PG&E – Pacific Gas and Electric – (NYSE: PCG) provides electricity and natural gas to over 5 million customers in California. With revenues exceeding $12 billion, PG&E has an opportunity to increase its services as we continue the shift from vehicles with gasoline engines to vehicles using electric propulsion and alternate fuels.
When I met with a number of PG&E managers, Sven Thesen traveled from his Palo Alto home via bicycle and train, leaving his personal plug-in hybrid at home. Another traveled from his Alameda home via bicycle and ferry. Others used low-emission CNG and hybrid vehicles. The people managing PG&E’s clean transportation programs practice what they preach.
This article looks how PG&E runs a clean fleet, new programs for customers, and the exciting future potential of vehicle-to-grid (V2G).
Largest CNG Fleet in USA
As part of its larger environmental leadership strategy, PG&E owns and operates a clean fuel fleet of hybrid-electric and fuel cell vehicles, and more than 1,300 natural gas vehicles — the largest of its kind in the United States. PG&E’s clean fuel fleet consists of service and crew trucks, meter reader vehicles and pool cars that run either entirely on compressed natural gas or have bi-fuel capabilities. PG&E also has the largest fleet of Honda (HMC) Civic GX CNG cars.
Over the last 15 years, PG&E’s clean fuel fleet has displaced more than 3.4 million gallons of gasoline and diesel, and helped to avoid 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
Most of PG&E’s fleet runs on diesel or gasoline. CNG vehicles are simply not available for all of the fleet’s diverse applications. Heavy vehicles require either liquid natural gas (LNG) or diesel to meet extended power and range demands. Most heavy vehicles, including PG&E’s, run on diesel.
For any utility, Class 6/7 service trucks often need to idle their large diesel engines for hours in order to run heavy lifts and other equipment. As new lines are installed, customers complain of the vehicle noise keeping them awake at night. The maintenance crew is often forced to stop and start the engine so that they can shout between the ground person and the one in the air. The hybrid truck is especially valuable in neighborhoods with noise restriction laws.
Last week, I reviewed PG&E’s new hybrid service truck which already had over 6,000 miles of operation. Efrain Ornelas demonstrated the heavy lift and other accessories operating electrically with the engine off. In service, the vehicle is reducing diesel fuel use 55% because of regenerative braking on road and engine-off electric operation during stationary work. The vehicle even included both 110 and 208V outlets for power tools.
At $3.00 per gallon for fuel, the potential savings ranges from $4,500 to $5,500 a year per vehicle. Each hybrid truck reduces greenhouse gas emissions an estimated two tons per year.
In addition to the dramatic diesel fuel savings, PG&E further reduces petroleum use and emissions by using B20 biodiesel. PG&E is increasing using B20 biodiesel with its entire diesel fleet.
“Hybrid-electric trucks are promising because of their potential to significantly reduce the use of petroleum-based fuel and help keep California’s air clean,” said Jill Egbert, manager, clean air transportation, PG&E. “We hope our involvement will lead to the accelerated development and mainstream acceptance of hybrids in our industry.”
PG&E is one of 14 utilities in the nation participating in the pilot truck program, sponsored by WestStart’s Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF), a hybrid commercialization project bringing together truck fleet users, truck makers, technology companies, and the U.S. military, to field-test utility trucks with an integrated hybrid power-train solution.
This new Class 6/7 hybrid truck is built by International incorporating the Eaton (ETN) hybrid drive system with a 44kW electric motor. Eaton has produced more than 220 drive systems for medium and heavy hybrid-powered vehicles. Vehicle configurations include package delivery vans, medium-duty delivery trucks, beverage haulers, city buses and utility repair trucks – each of which has generated significant fuel economy gains and emission reductions.
Fleet customers for Eaton hybrid power have included FedEx Express, UPS, Coca-Cola Enterprises, The Pepsi Bottling Group, and the 14 public utility fleets into which were placed 24 hybrid-powered repair trucks.
Eaton employs a parallel hybrid diesel-electric with Eaton’s Fuller® UltraShift® automated transmission. It incorporates an electric motor/generator between the output of an automated clutch and input of the transmission. The system recovers energy normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries. When electric torque is blended with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for a given speed or used to operate the vehicle with electric power only.
“The early results are very promising,” said Bill Van Amburg, senior vice president, WestStart. “While testing these trucks on a larger scale and over a longer period of time in this pilot program is a critical next step, we’re confident these vehicles are commercially viable and will deliver real value to customers.”
PG&E sees a similar opportunity to save with its Class 5 trouble trucks. For this truck, PG&E partnered with the Electric Power Research Institute and other utilities to conduct a plug-in hybrid pilot project for a Ford F550 Super Duty Field Response Truck. PG&E currently has 350 Field Response Trucks on the road.
Some people are concerned that a shift to electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will not reduce global warming. These people point to coal power plants producing electricity that goes into the vehicles. Because electric drive systems are typically 300% more efficient than gasoline engines, major emission reductions are achieved even from coal generated electricity.
PG&E provides much greater benefit, because it is eliminating coal power from its power mix. As a customer, my latest PG&E bill showed a reduction of coal from 38 to 2% of the power mix. In 2007, energy from RPS-eligible renewables is increasing to 12% of the delivered power mix, from 5% in 2005. Natural gas is 43%, nuclear 23%, and large hydroelectric is 17%.
By 2010, 20% of PG&E delivered electricity will be from clean renewable energy. A big part of the increase will be 553 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) from a new Solel project. When fully operational in 2011, the Mojave Solar Park plant will cover up to 6,000 acres, or nine square miles in the Mojave Desert. The project will rely on 1.2 million mirrors and 317 miles of vacuum tubing to capture the desert sun’s heat. It will be the largest CSP project in the world. Solel utilizes parabolic mirrors to concentrate solar energy ontosolar thermal receivers. The receivers contain a fluid that is heated and circulated, and the heat is released to generate steam. The steam powers a turbine to produce electricity.
PG&E is also expanding its use of wind, geothermal, large solar PV, and biomass energy.
Natural Gas and Hydrogen Stations
PG&E owns and operates 34 compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations, for its own fleet and more than 200 commercial and private fleets. This includes transit districts, private refuse haulers, school districts, municipalities, air/seaports, and other miscellaneous operators including taxi, package delivery, military, and private fleets. PG&E Clean Air Transportation Program
In addition, construction of a hydrogen fueling station in San Carlos, California is scheduled to begin. GTI will serve as a partner on the project, providing a mobile hydrogen unit (MHU) that uses GTI’s patented reformer technology. This self-contained unit will produce hydrogen from natural gas. The hydrogen fueling station will be co-located with a publicly accessible compressed natural gas station to allow for 24/7 availability. Once sufficient demand is established, the MHU can be replaced with permanent facilities, and the unit can then be relocated to expand the network.
PG&E makes daily use of three Mercedes hydrogen fuel cell (F-Cell) vehicles. A variety of PG&E employees drive the vehicles including, fleet mechanics, inspectors, service planning representatives, project managers and officers.
A compelling idea for the future is to charge electric vehicles at night when electricity is cheap, and then buy the electricity from vehicles during peak hours. Some electric vehicles store enough electricity to power 50 homes. Sven Thesen at PG&E demonstrated spinning the meter backwards with their plug-in hybrid Prius with V2G. The Prius included a 9kWh plug-in kit from EnergyCS using Li-Ion batteries. A Sonny Boy power inverter, common in solar power installations, was used.
Today, utilities are powering vehicles with electricity, natural gas and hydrogen. In a few years, electric vehicles will also power homes with vehicle-to-home (V2H). Large batteries and fuel cells provide many times the electricity demand of a home. In a few more years, smart grids and intelligent power management will allow peak electricity demands to be met by utilities buying power from vehicles with vehicle-to-grid (V2G). U.C. Davis and PG&E have demonstrated V2H and V2G already.
With smart grid technology, customers could simply plug-in their vehicles to 110 volt outlets. At idle low-cost hours the vehicle would be timed to recharge. At peak hours, customers could agree to let the utility buy electricity at premium rates. In the future, expensive and polluting stand-by peaking generators could be eliminated with smart grid technology and V2G.
Leading the way to clean electricity and cleaner transportation are corporations like PG&E. In their own fleet they are proving that alt-fuels and electric drive systems can save money and emissions. As the technologies are proven, PG&E gives customers new ways to secure clean fuels and electric power.
By John Addison (8/13/07)
Toyota Prius enthusiasts may now be forced to wait until 2012 Prius plugin hybrid with lithium batteries. It was hoped that the shift to these batteries would give hybrids better miles per gallon and accelerate the availability of a plug-in hybrid sold and warrantied by a major auto maker.
There could be several reasons for the delay. One is that lithium batteries continue to be more expensive than the nickel metal hydride batteries that Toyota now uses. Another is concern about bad press from even a single incident of a thermal runaway. Apparently Toyota in its JV with Panasonic is developing lithium cobalt oxide battery chemistry. A similar chemistry caused some Sony laptops to catch fire.
Warranty requirements of 150,000 miles are a big hurdle, especially in a plug-in hybrid which makes far greater demands on the battery stack than a conventional hybrid.
Toyota (TM) did provide significant encouragement with the announcement that it is demonstrating ten plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and plans to follow with commercial sales. The new Toyota with its NiMH battery pack and has an all-electric range of only 13 kilometers (8 miles) and a maximum speed of only 100 km/h (62 mph) in electric-only mode. Green Car Congress
Eight of the new Toyota PHEV will be demonstrated in Japan. Two will be demonstrated in California, which may currently be the world’s biggest market for hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and freeway speed electric vehicles. California ZEV Program
Toyota’s delays with lithium batteries give General Motors the opportunity to be first. GM plans to sell a 2010 model year Saturn VUE Green Line plug-in hybrid. GM is evaluating using the A123Systems’ nanophosphate batteries.
General Motors and A123Systems will co-develop cells with A123Systems’ nanophosphate battery chemistry for use in GM’s electric drive E-Flex system. The first car likely to use the E-Flex drive system is the Chevy Volt. GM announced that it plans to move ahead with road testing the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric passenger car by spring 2008. GM’s chief of global products, Bob Lutz said, “We’ll have some on the road for testing next spring, and we should have the Volt in production by the end of 2010.”
A123Systems has received venture capital investment exceeding $100 million. It has demonstrated volume manufacturing success in making over 10 million lithium nanophosphate batteries annually for Black and Decker power tools and other customer applications.
A123 has developed two Automotive Class Lithium Ion cells, the ultra high power AHR32113M1Ultra and the more energy dense AHR32157M1HD. These two cells, designed for HEV and PHEV applications offer extremely low cost per Watt and Watt-hour, respectively.
The AHR32113 uses the new Ultra electrode design, offering yet higher power over that seen in the traditional 26650M1. Alternatively, the 32157 uses a more energy dense electrode, geared for the higher energy requirements of the PHEV marketplace, while not sacrificing the power capability needed for charge-sustaining operation. A123 Battery Details
Altair Nanotechnologies (ALTI) claims double the power density of A123. At the start of the year, Altair issued the following: “On January 9, 2007, we entered into a multi-year purchase and supply agreement with Phoenix for lithium nanoTitanate battery packs to be used in electric vehicles produced by Phoenix. Contemporaneously, Phoenix placed firm purchase orders for 35KWh battery pack systems valued at $1,040,000 to be delivered in March and April of 2007 and placed an indicative blanket purchase order for up to 500 battery pack systems to be delivered during 2007 (projected value between $16 and $42 million).”
Phoenix Motorcars, a private company, announced an order for 200 electric trucks from PG&E, with the first two to be delivered by June. In my recent August meetings at PG&E, I was informed that they had not received the two trucks from Phoenix. Delivery is now expected in January 2008. PG&E stated that there is no order for 200.
During its August 9 investor conference call, Altair announced that Phoenix’s fund raising was not progressing as expected, and that projected 2007 shipments from Altair would not be reached. For Altair, one challenge will be progressing from impressive lab results to low-cost volume manufacturing. Altair lost over $5 million last quarter and only has $20 million in cash left.
The State of New York continues to evaluate converting at least 500 of its hybrids to plug-in hybrids. Electrovaya (TSX: EFL) has delivered a converted Ford Escape SUV Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Electrovaya uses its MN Series Lithium Ion SuperPolymer cells—a lithiated manganese oxide-based system. Electrovaya’s testing indicates 130 mpg for the converted PHEV. Green Car Congress
Recognizing that a 150,000 mile warranty is an obstacle to putting clean PHEV on the road, South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) ordered 30 more plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) that are likely to achieve over 100 mpg with 50,000 mile warranties. Ten will be Toyota (TM) Priuses converted to PHEV by A123 Hymotion using A123 lithium batteries. 20 will be Ford (F) Escapes converted to PHEV by Quantum (QTWW) using Advanced Lithium Power batteries. AQMD Award
Tesla gives people the opportunity to drive battery electric vehicles (EV). Unlike the PHEV, the Tesla Roadster does not use a gasoline engine, it is pure electric. The Roadster is hot and pricy, starting at $92,000. In the future, Tesla plans to offer a more affordable 4-door sedan EV named WhiteStar. A secret to making a five-seat sedan electric vehicle for $50,000 will be lowering the cost of the battery stack. While major auto OEMs are betting on new lithium chemistry in larger form factors, Tesla integrates 6,831 commodity 18650-sized lithium-ion cells into the 56 kWh Energy Storage System (ESS) pack. The 18650 size is somewhat larger than an AA battery. The size is popular in a range of consumer electronics. Millions are made in high-volume, low cost manufacturing. Tesla Article
Although the road to clean transportation can be bumpy, in the future, we will have increasingly affordable PHEV and EV choices that allow us to use home and work electric power, saving fuel cost and lowering emissions.