Energy/Environment - Tech Blog
Chinese company BYD (Build Your own Dreams) will begin assembling electric buses "in the coming months" at a vacated recreational-vehicle assembly plant formerly occupied by Rexhall Industries in Lancaster, CA. The company also will manufacture lithium-iron-phosphate batteries at a separate plant in Lancaster, which is part of Los Angeles County. The plants will be the BYD's first in the U.S. The company's U.S. headquarters is in the city of Los Angeles. In April, the Long Beach Transit Authority awarded a $12.1 million contract to BYD for 10 electric buses. The company says its electric buses have a range of more than 155 mi (250 km) on a single charge.
An SAE International study group comprising 10 global automakers has completed an updated fault-tree analysis of R-1234yf that indicates "the risk of passenger exposure to a vehicle fire associated with this refrigerant is exceptionally remote." The Cooperative Research Project (CRP1234-4) team met at the recent SAE 2013 World Congress in Detroit. In September 2012, Daimler announced that it had developed a new test method that demonstrated an additional risk of post-collision fires in vehicles using R-1234yf. In response, SAE CRP1234-4 was formed to further evaluate the refrigerant's safety. All OEMs, including Daimler, were invited to participate. The SAE CRP team members have conducted numerous additional tests of various types to study ignition of an R-1234yf leak in a crash-damaged vehicle. The SAE CRP team of OEMs has concluded that the refrigerant release testing conducted by Daimler is unrealistic and that it is not an appropriate test to verify the safety of refrigerant applications in vehicles. The Daimler testing did not include any actual vehicle collisions or the mitigating factors that occur in an actual collision. These factors include the quenching effect of front-end-compartment deformation, the extinguishing effect of steam released due to radiator breakage, and dispersion of the refrigerant from the condenser outside the engine compartment. Daimler’s refrigerant release apparatus and nozzle does not represent actual crash-damaged refrigerant lines, and was found to be artificial. The SAE CRP is currently finalizing its report and is targeting June 2013 for publication.
After a successful first year in which it demonstrated the potential of operating real-time particle sensors in engine exhaust systems, the Particle Sensor Performance and Durability (PSPD) consortium will focus its second year of research on improving the sensors’ durability and reliability. Dr. Imad Khalek, Senior Program Manager in Southwest Research Institute’s Engine, Emissions and Vehicle Research Division, and Principal Investigator of the PSPD consortium, is seeking new members. "The best value for consortium members will require cooperation and contributions from engine and sensor manufacturers, as well as other stakeholders," he said. "More thorough evaluation can be performed if participation in the consortium expands. The objective is not to identify one winner, but rather to clearly identify unique characteristics that may be more beneficial for specific applications." Khalek further stated that the consortium’s goal is to develop PM sensors for production engine emissions systems that will provide value similar to that of NOx sensors. First-year research focused on investigating the performance of the spark-plug-sized exhaust particle sensors at different levels of engine exhaust velocity, temperature, particle concentration, electric charge, and size distribution. Short-term sensor survivability also was measured during various operating conditions. For more information, contact Khalek at (210) 522-2536 or Ikhalek@swri.org.
The U.S. EPA on March 29 a proposed rule to lower the sulfur content of gasoline and to reduce NOx and other pollutant emissions (not including CO2) from light-duty vehicles. The proposed rule—encompassing a number of provisions that together are called Tier 3—is supported by the two U.S. lobbying organizations representing the world's major automakers and would cover the period 2017-2025 to coincide with already approved federal CO2 emissions (EPA addresses CO2 separately from the traditional pollutant emissions types such as NOx). The rule would result in a gasoline sulfur content of 10 parts per million by 2017—a reduction of more than 60% from today's levels. The American Petroleum Institute opposes the rules and claims compliance costs will be much higher than those projected by the EPA. The proposed gasoline sulfur levels would match those already being achieved in many parts of the world, including Europe and Japan. The same low sulfur levels are also already required in California, which has its own set of pollutant emissions rules (LEV III) that are similar to those proposed in Tier 3. Without alignment of the state and federal rules on gasoline sulfur content and vehicle emissions, automakers would have to offer different vehicles in different parts of the country to comply with the different requirements, adding costs, EPA says. Compared to current standards, the proposed nonmethane organic gases (NMOG) and nitrogen oxides (NOx)—presented as NMOG+NOx—tailpipe standards for light-duty vehicles represent approximately an 80% reduction from today’s fleet average and a 70% reduction in per-vehicle particulate matter (PM) standards.
China, through its Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, on March 20 approved corporate average fuel-consumption regulations for passenger cars through 2020, with the target of 6.9 L/100 km in 2015 and 5.0 L/100 km in the final year. In keeping with its overarching goal of encouraging the production and sale of vehicles employing advanced fuel-saving technologies, the government will reward automakers in the form of discounted fuel-consumption values for selling fuel-cell, full-electric, and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles. The calculations for all vehicles apply in the same manner to those built inside and outside China. The new regulations go into effect May 1, 2013, and apply to calendar years, not model years. Currently, average passenger car fuel consumption is set at 7.8 L/100 km.
Increased spending on new vehicle technologies to comply with proposed European CO2 emissions regulations for 2020 will add between €100 and €1100 to the capital cost of the average new light-duty vehicle in 2020, but also save vehicle owners €400 annually in fuel expenses, according to a new study carried out jointly by Ricardo-AEA and Cambridge Econometrics. That translates into a break-even point for vehicle owners of about three years, if actual technology costs end up aligning with those projected. The study also projects that a shift to low-carbon-emitting vehicles would increase spending on vehicle technology, "generating positive direct employment impacts." At the EU level, the cost of running and maintaining the European car fleet would become €33-35 billion lower each year compared to a “do nothing scenario” by 2030, "leading to mildly positive economic impacts." The study looks only at the impact of improvements related to internal-combustion engines and hybridization; a second phase of the study will "examine the impact of gradually substituting fossil fuels with domestically produced electricity and hydrogen as energy sources for vehicles." EU Regulation 443/2009 set an average CO2 target for new cars sold in the EU at 130 g/km by 2015. The proposed CO2 target for 2020 (95 g/km) is currently under review.
Overall vehicle fuel economy in the U.S. improved by 16% between 2007 and 2012, according to a recently released annual report (based on preliminary data) by the U.S. EPA. Fuel economy from 2011 to 2012 improved by 1.4 mpg to 23.8 mpg and CO2 emissions fell to 2.0 g/mi to 374 g/mi—in both cases the largest annual improvement since EPA began reporting on fuel economy in 1975. The report, “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 through 2012,” covers cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles. It attributes the improvements in 2012 partially to skewed figures from 2011 resulting from the nuclear disaster in Japan that affected car and car-part production. But it also credits the 2012 improvement to "the rapid adoption of more efficient technologies, the increasing number of high-fuel-economy choices for consumers, and the fact that many automakers are already selling vehicles that can meet more stringent future fuel-economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards…Compared to five years ago, consumers have twice as many hybrid and diesel vehicle choices, a growing set of plug-in electric vehicle options, and a six-fold increase in the number of car models with combined city/highway fuel economy of 30 mpg or higher."
Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has launched its third cooperative research program aimed at developing a high-efficiency gasoline engine for the light-duty automotive and medium-duty engine markets. The four-year program, called HEDGE-III (High-Efficiency Dilute Gasoline Engine), will continue the work done in HEDGE-II, which developed dedicated-EGR technology that achieved nearly 42% thermal efficiency from a 2.0-L engine. This engine, using SwRI’s D-EGR technology, achieved roughly the same fuel consumption as a 2.0-L diesel, but with the potential for ultra-low emissions and high specific power that typically are associated with a gasoline engine. HEDGE-III will continue investigating high-efficiency concepts of Low Pressure Loop (LPL) EGR and D-EGR while developing tools for improved flame modeling and improved knock prediction for high-dilution gasoline engines. Work will also continue on advanced ignition and boosting systems. However, it will begin to shift the emphasis to a more general examination of high-efficiency technologies with less direct emphasis on cooled EGR and more on interactions with dilute and variable-valvetrain technology, and extending EGR to gasoline direct-injection and alternative-fuel engines such as natural gas. For more information about HEDGE, contact Dr. Terry Alger at (210) 522-5505, fax (210) 522-2019, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Executives from Cummins and Eaton revealed on March 10 a new powertrain package for the North American heavy-duty truck market that they expect will deliver a 3 to 6% fuel-economy (FE) improvement, lower preventive maintenance costs, and total life-cycle cost improvements. The package combines an Eaton Fuller Advantage Series automated transmission with new Cummins ISX15 SmartTorque2 ratings. The product will be available in fall 2013 for linehaul, regional haul, and less-than-truckload applications.
The automated transmission will be offered as a small ratio step Over-Drive model with new Cummins ISX15 SmartTorque2 ratings: the ISX15 415 ST2, with torque of 1450 to 1650 lb·ft (1966 to 2237 N·m), and the ISX15 450 ST2, with torque of 1550 to 1750 lb·ft (2102 to 2373 N·m). The powertrain package is currently undergoing field testing with various sized fleets, and initial testing and customer validation results are confirming the anticipated 3-6% better FE, the companies claim.
Scania and Siemens are teaming to develop hybrid trucks that draw electrical current conductively from overhead wires or inductively from energy-transmitting devices embedded in the road. “Full-scale demonstration of electrified road sections can quickly become a reality through this partnership,” Henrik Henriksson, Executive Vice President and head of Scania’s Sales and Marketing, said in a March 11 press release that contained few technical details. In 2012, the two companies displayed a mockup of a truck fitted with a catenary system like those used on some trams and trains. Siemens has been studying catenary technology as part of its eHighway concept, which it says involves three core components: diesel-electric hybrid technology, power supply via catenary lines and regenerative braking, and intelligently controllable pantographs for energy transmission.