Pipe: Advanced tech

AllCell and LG develop high-performance Li-ion battery for material handling market

Thu, 2015-05-21 13:09

AllCell Technologies, LLC, a Chicago-based Lithium-ion battery pack manufacturer for smart-grid, autonomous and light electric vehicle applications, and LG Chem Ltd. have developed a high performance long lasting Li-ion battery for material handling applications. The battery is built with LG’s cylindrical 18650-format Li-ion batteries and AllCell’s proprietary passive thermal management technology with phase change composite (PCC) (earlier post).

The battery is designed as a drop-in replacement for lead-acid batteries with fast charge/discharge capabilities, 4-5 times longer life, robust fuel gage, hot environment resilience, and no standard maintenance requirements.

A base model (26V, 93 Ah) with CAN bus communication has been recently certified for air shipment (i.e. IATA/UN 38.3 testing) and is currently available for field testing with strategic partners in the material handling market.

In a field traditionally dominated by lead acid technology, lithium-ion is emerging as an attractive alternative due to its fast charge capability. The ability to perform high rate charges throughout the day eliminates the need for customers to swap batteries during multi-shift operation, greatly reducing battery inventory cost and space. This capability is further enabled by the growth of autonomously guided vehicles that can optimize charging time and never forget to charge when idle.

A Navigant Research report estimates that revenue from fuel cells, fast chargers, and Li-ion batteries in the material handling market will be $556 million in North America by 2020, compared to $121 million in 2013. Industry leaders such as Kiva, Toyota-Raymond, and Hyster-Yale have announced products or product testing with lithium-ion batteries.

We have been working closely with strategic partners in the material handling industry and we plan to position our new battery with LG Chem to be cost competitive and to provide our partners with a strategic edge in the material handling market.—AllCell’s CEO, Said Al-Hallaj

Bosch retrofits a pair of Tesla Model S EVs for automated driving testing

Thu, 2015-05-21 10:23

Bosch has retrofitted two Model S Teslas for automated driving; the vehicles join the Bosch test fleet. The two Teslas can now autonomously drive from on-ramp to off-ramp without the driver needing to monitor them constantly. Dr. Dirk Hoheisel, member of the Bosch board of management, said that Bosch opted for two all-electric Model S vehicles because they combine two automotive industry trends: electrification and automation.

Fifty new Bosch components were installed in each car, including a stereo video camera (SVC), which the car uses to recognize lanes, traffic signs, and clear spaces. The Bosch says that its SVC is the smallest stereo camera system for automotive applications currently available in the market; the compact design makes it easy to integrate into vehicles. In addition to the camera, 1,300 meters of cable were laid in each car and fixed in place with 400 cable ties.

After some 1,400 hours of work on each of them, the test vehicles are ready for highly automated driving. —Dr. Dirk Hoheisel, member of the Bosch board of management

Highly automated vehicles must be capable of operating safely even if a component fails. The only way to achieve such operational reliability is by a design strategy that includes redundancy in safety-critical systems such as braking and steering. For example, both test vehicles feature both the iBooster electromechanical brake booster and the ESP braking control system. These Bosch components can brake the car independently of each other, without any need for driver intervention. Back-up systems are also available for the two test vehicles’ power supply and vital ECUs.

Since 2011, Bosch has had two teams on two continents working on automated driving. At the Abstatt location in Germany, Bosch engineers are working on system integration. Their colleagues at Palo Alto in California’s Silicon Valley are driving forward work on function development.

The two teams receive support from roughly 2,000 driver-assistance engineers who work for Bosch around the world. To make it as easy as possible for the two teams to share their results, Bosch uses identical test vehicles.

Bosch started testing automated driving on public roads at the beginning of 2013. So far, it has been using test vehicles based on the BMW 325d Touring.

Engineers have successfully driven them for several thousand kilometers on freeways—both the A81 near Stuttgart and the I280 in California. Before the first test drives, the German certification authority TÜV Süd reviewed the safety concept that Bosch had prepared specially for the purpose. Although the technology on board the vehicles is designed to handle any situation in freeway traffic, the drivers at the wheel have been specially trained.

Solvay Specialty Polymers launches new wear-resistant Veradel polyethersulfone; improved powertrain efficiency

Thu, 2015-05-21 07:57

Solvay Specialty Polymers introduced Veradel 3300 SL 30 polyethersulfone (PESU). The new Veradel grade is a tough, high-performance resin designed to meet growing global demand for advanced polymers that can improve automotive powertrain efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. Formulated to replace metal in automotive applications prone to friction and wear such as oil pumps and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) systems, the new resin offers wear resistance, and low coefficient of friction in both dry and lubricated environments.

An injection moldable resin, Veradel 3300 SL 30 PESU is formulated with a ternary anti-friction/anti-wear additive system comprising carbon fiber, graphite and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). As a result, it offers excellent wear resistance to broaden metal replacement options in oil pumps and EGR systems where thermoplastic parts come into contact with metals.

Solvay’s new Veradel PESU material also meets other key criteria in these applications. It performs reliably across the broad temperature ranges in which oil pumps are designed to operate (-40°C to 150°C/-40°F to 302°F), and withstands the high temperatures for which EGR systems are specified (up to 200°C/392°F). This high-performing polymer also delivers good dimensional stability and strong resistance to oil and exhaust gases.

Veradel 3300 SL 30 resin is a next-generation materials solution that can help meet upcoming CO2 emission standards in Europe, as well as increasingly stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in the US and China.

Veradel 3300 SL 30 PESU complements Solvay’s portfolio of wear-resistant thermoplastics, which includes Ryton polyphenylene sulfide (PPS), KetaSpire polyethetherketone (PEEK), AvaSpire polyaryletherketones (PAEK) and Torlon polyamide-imide (PAI). Other Solvay products used in oil pumps and EGR systems include Tecnoflon FKM fluoroelastomers for sealing systems, and Fomblin perfluoropolyether (PFPE) fluorinated fluids for lubricants and greases.

Veradel 3300 SL 30 PESU is available worldwide.

Volkswagen’s autonomous braking system cuts 3rd party injury claims by 45% in UK

Thu, 2015-05-21 07:00

Safety experts at the Thatcham Research Centre in the UK have seen a 45% drop in third party personal injury insurance claims due to the fitment of auto-emergency braking systems in Volkswagen Golf and Passat models.

The latest generation Golf went on sale in the UK in January 2013. All except for the entry-level S models have Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) as standard, with ACC including the radar-sensor-controlled distance monitoring system Front Assist, as well as city emergency braking and cruise control. Since launch, third party injury claims on the latest Golf are 45% lower than for the equivalent Small Family Car Control Group.

These findings are based on the equivalent of more than 7,000 Mk VII Golf models insured for a full 12 months on the road, and come from claims data from our insurance members. When we saw figures based on an initial small sample, we were surprised, as they exceeded our own performance testing. However the figures held up, even after almost doubling the sample group, and have therefore given us a glimpse of what safety on UK roads could look like in the future.—Matthew Avery, Director of Safety at Thatcham Research

Although such systems are not new, the Golf brought ACC to a wide audience. The system operates over a speed range from 30 to 160 km/h (approx. 18 to 99 mph) with a manual gearbox and with DSG. In vehicles with DSG, it can intervene to such an extent that the car may be slowed to a complete standstill. In normal driving ACC maintains a preselected speed and a defined distance to the vehicle ahead, and it automatically brakes or accelerates in flowing traffic.

Front Assist continually monitors the distance to the traffic ahead and assists the driver in critical situations by preconditioning the brake system and alerting the driver to any required reactions by means of visual and audible warnings. If the driver fails to brake hard enough, the system automatically generates sufficient braking force to help avoid a collision. Should the driver not react at all, Front Assist automatically slows the car so that the speed of any impact is minimized.

The system also assists the driver by an alert if the car is getting too close to the vehicle in front. The city emergency braking function is also part of Front Assist and operates at speeds below 30 km/h (approx. 18 mph).

The new Passat, which went on sale in the UK in January, also now has ACC as standard on all but S models. With a further developed system, as well as the ability to detect pedestrians, early indications from Thatcham are that the reductions in accidents could be even more significant. ACC is also available on other models including the Polo and Touareg, while city emergency braking is offered on the up! city car.

11% of Boston Public Schools bus fleet to run on propane

Thu, 2015-05-21 06:00

Boston Public Schools will operate 11% of its bus fleet with Blue Bird propane autogas buses, starting with the 2015-2016 school year. The school district is purchasing 86 Blue Bird Propane Vision school buses, and hopes to convert more of their diesel fleet to propane buses in the future.

Like many urban cities, Boston has implemented mandates for reducing tailpipe emissions. The school district, already the city’s largest user of diesel fuel, has enacted a number of emissions-reducing initiatives in the past 15 years through its “Greening Boston Public Schools” program. School buses fueled by propane autogas fit with their mission to choose vehicles with the highest efficiency and the lowest environmental emissions, according to Peter Crossan, fleet and compliance manager of Boston Public Schools.

The new buses, powered by a Ford V10 engine, each come equipped with a ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas fuel system. The district’s autogas fleet will emit 66,000 fewer pounds of nitrogen oxide and 2,700 fewer pounds of particulate matter each year, when compared to the diesel buses they are replacing. Vehicles fueled by propane autogas emit 80% less smog-producing hydrocarbons and virtually eliminate particulate matter when compared to conventional diesel.

Boston Public Schools started exploring alternative fuels once the city’s outdated tunnel restrictions were lifted. About 40% of its fleet consists of 169-inch wheelbase buses. This smaller bus size meets the district’s need related to range and hours of service, which averages almost twice the national average on a daily basis, according to Crossan.

The 169-inch wheelbase bus is designed with a 50-gallon sized tank to accommodate shorter runs, and works well for Boston’s urban routes and special needs applications. This new autogas bus offering expands Blue Bird’s propane autogas portfolio, which also includes the 70-gallon standard and 100-gallon extended-range autogas tanks.

The school district also expects to save at least $1 per gallon on fuel as well as lower maintenance costs due to the cleaner burning properties of propane autogas.

To fuel the buses, Boston Public Schools has contracted with a company that performs on-site propane autogas fleet fueling services.

The school district will take delivery of the buses in June.

Global Bioenergies and Cristal Union form JV to produce renewable isobutene

Thu, 2015-05-21 05:00

Global Bioenergies, a developer of one-step fermentation processes for the direct and cost-efficient transformation of renewable resources into light olefins, and Cristal Union, the 4th largest European beet producer, have formed IBN-One, a joint venture to build and operate the first plant in France converting renewable resources into isobutene.

Global Bioenergies has engineered an initial series of bacterial strains that can produce light olefins via the fermentation of sugars. The process is designed to be used downstream from multiple sugar production pathways: sugar, starch and cellulose. The process can thus be used with cellulosic biomass, following pretreatment and hydrolysis. The company has targeted renewable isobutene as its first product. (Earlier post.)

Isobutene is a key chemical building block that can be converted into transportation fuels, polymers and various commodity chemicals. Global Bioenergies has just delivered the first batch of renewable gasoline produced using Global Bioenergies’ fermentative isobutene pathway to its partner Audi. (Earlier post.)

IBN-One is a societe anonyme (limited liability corporation) with share capital of €1,000,000, jointly owned by Cristal Union and Global Bioenergies; the plant could be operational by 2018.

Ahead of IBN-One’s formation, Global Bioenergies and Cristal Union conducted a preliminary design study at several potential industrial sites. Initially, IBN-One will carry out a detailed project study covering technical, regulatory, commercial and financial aspects to flesh out the project planned in France.

Global Bioenergies has granted IBN-One a non-exclusive license to use its isobutene process for a 50,000 tonne capacity plant to be located in France.

Right from the outset, our plan was to grant non-exclusive licenses on a plant-by-plant basis. With the increasing technological maturity of the isobutene process, we can now turn this dream into reality. Many other licenses are expected to be granted over the next few years.—Marc Delcourt, Chairman and CEO of Global Bioenergies

BN-One provides a bridge between the sugar and petrochemicals industry. The markets for fossil isobutene in materials and fuel are very large indeed. The development of market share for renewable isobutene has opened up new prospects for French agriculture and dovetails perfectly with the policy of increasing beet-growing areas planned by Cristal Union with the end of sugar quotas looming.—Alain Commissaire, CEO of Cristal Union

IBN-One is expected to finance the cost of the engineering work with a financing round scheduled for 2016. Expressions of interest have already been received from public and private investors. Construction and start-up of the plant will require additional funding.

Frost & Sullivan expects premium and mass market passenger car OEMs to adopt shift-by-wire technology by 2020

Thu, 2015-05-21 05:00

New analysis from consultancy Frost & Sullivan—“Key Focus Areas for Driving Interface Systems for Passenger Cars”—projects that shift-by-wire technology is likely to be adopted in premium segment cars globally and across volume segments in mature markets such as North America, Germany and Japan by 2020. Although the technology is currently expensive, commoditization will bring down the cost of these systems and make it ready for the mass market.

Other highlights of the analysis include:

  • Shift-by-wire technology is expected to be widely adopted due to its ability to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness, offer design flexibility, and augment response time. It is likely to be one of the enabling technologies for level 4 automated vehicles, wherein driver input will be minimal/nil.

  • At present, shift-by-wire technology is used in automated self parking, wherein the car parks itself without driver input. The technology is likely to remain confined to the premium vehicles segments due to the high cost involved. Adoption in the volumes segment is expected after 2020.

  • Road surface condition sensing systems are in the pre-development phase, and premium original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are likely to be the initial adopters of the technology. Non-contact-based sensors and co-operative systems are likely to be the preferred road sensing systems for OEMs as they offer seamless integration potential with other systems, such as advanced driver assistance systems.

  • Haptic feedback accelerator pedal technology is being considered by most OEMs because of its ability to analyze a vehicle’s environment and provide feedback on the level of acceleration input needed through the pedal. It is likely to be implemented in the premium segment post 2018.

Passenger car OEMs are striving to provide better driving dynamics, stability and safety by integrating driving interface systems. These can monitor the state of vehicles and its surroundings and dynamically optimize traction and ride performance. While electronic transmission shift is being used as one of the enabling technologies for future autonomous self-driving vehicles and driver assistance systems, haptic feedback is being employed to enrich the driving skills of drivers.—Frost & Sullivan Automotive & Transportation Senior Research Analyst Kamalesh Mohanarangam

Dept. of Interior to invest nearly $50M to improve water efficiency and conservation in Western states

Thu, 2015-05-21 04:00

The US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation will invest nearly $50 million to improve water efficiency and conservation in California and 11 other western states.

Reclamation is investing more than $24 million in grants for 50 water and energy efficiency projects in 12 western states; more than $23 million for seven water reclamation and reuse projects in California; and nearly $2 million for seven water reclamation and reuse feasibility studies in California and Texas.

WaterSMART is the US Department of the Interior’s sustainable water initiative. Since it was established in 2010, WaterSMART has provided about $250 million in competitively-awarded funding to non-federal partners, including tribes, water districts, municipalities and universities. These investments have conserved enough water to meet the needs of more than 3.8 million people.

WaterSMART water and energy efficiency grants can be used for projects that conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, benefit endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets, carry out activities to address climate-related impacts on water or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict. The new projects announced today will be leveraged with at least 50% non-federal funding for a total of $133 million in improvements over the next two to three years.

Through Title XVI of the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act, Reclamation provides funding for projects that reclaim and reuse municipal, industrial, domestic or agricultural wastewater and naturally impaired ground or surface waters. Title XVI provides up to 25% of project costs. Project sponsors provide the remaining 75% of the funding necessary to carry out projects, thereby leveraging limited federal funding to implement as many water reuse projects as possible. Seven projects in California will receive $23.2 million.

Also under the Title XVI Act, Reclamation is providing $1.6 million for communities to study whether water reuse projects would help them to meet their future water needs. Four feasibility studies in California and three studies in Texas were selected this year. Feasibility studies are funded jointly by Reclamation and project sponsors. A cost-share of at least 50% of study is required.

newsclips -- ARB Newsclips for May 20, 2015.

Wed, 2015-05-20 17:47
ARB Newsclips for May 20, 2015.

Eidesvik Viking Queen retrofitted with 650 kWh energy storage system for hybrid system; 18% fuel savings; ThinkGlobal connection

Wed, 2015-05-20 15:53

Eidesvik is retrofitting its offshore support vessel (OSV) Viking Queen with a 650 kWh, 1600 kW energy storage system. The Viking Queen is the first OSV to get such a system installed as a retrofit solution. The agreement is made possible through targeted cooperation between Lundin Norway AS which has the vessel on hire; ZEM AS, the supplier of the system; and Eidesvik.

Viking Queen.

ZEM is partnering with electric drive technology company Nidec ASI in this project. ZEM was founded in 2009 by Jan Olaf Willums, former CEO of EV company ThinkGlobal (earlier post), and Salman Farmanfarmaian to create a hub for battery-related knowledge and to pursue opportunities in the electric maritime, mobility and microgrid storage markets. ZEM’s technology development is led by Egil Mollestad, the former CTO of Think.

Eidesvik said the commercialization of the technology is now possible much because of the R&D project FellowSHIP, in which the partners have worked with battery technology for 5 years.

Use of the energy storage system will result in a fuel saving of approx. 18% for the vessel from the hybrid system. Further, NOx and greenhouse gas (CO2e) emission levels will be reduced by approximately 25%.

In addition to the agreement for energy storage system, Lundin Norway AS and Eidesvik have agreed an extension of the vessel’s contract.

arbcombo -- Notice of Public Availability of Modified Text ~ Cap and Trade Regulation

Wed, 2015-05-20 15:46
The California Air Resources Board has posted the 15-day Notice of Public Availability of Modified Text and Availability of Additional Documents for the Amendments to the California Cap on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Market-Based Compliance Mechanisms.

Connecticut providing up to $3K cash rebate for buyers of BEVs, FCEVs, and PHEVs while funding lasts

Wed, 2015-05-20 14:45

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate Program (CHEAPR). Under this new initiative, a cash rebate of up to $3,000 is now available for Connecticut residents, businesses, and municipalities who purchase or lease an eligible electric vehicle (EV). EVs covered by CHEAPR include battery electric (BEV), fuel cell (FCEV), and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles.

CHEAPR rebates are being offered at three levels:

  • The maximum $3,000 rebate is available for vehicles with a battery capacity of 18 kWh or greater of for any fuel cell electric vehicle. Vehicles in this category include the Nissan Leaf, VW e-Golf, Ford Focus Electric, BMW i3, and Mercedes Benz B class.

  • A $1,500 rebate is available for vehicles with a batter capacity of seven to 18 kWH. Vehicles in this category include the Chevy Volt, Ford C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi.

  • A $750 rebate is available for vehicles with a battery capacity of less than 7 kWH, such as the 2015 model year Toyota Prius Plug-In.

Rebates will be available until the $1 million in funding is distributed to consumers. If additional funding becomes available, the program may be extended.

Funds for the CHEAPR pilot program, which is being administered through the EVConnecticut program, come from $1 million that was made available to the state as a result of an agreement that allowed for the merger of Northeast Utilities and NSTAR. The merger of those companies, now known as Eversource Energy, was completed on 12 April 2012.

The CHEAPR program will also help Connecticut achieve the goals of the eight-state, bi-coastal Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Action Plan designed to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025.

According to R.L. Polk and Company, there are 2,754 EVs currently registered in Connecticut.

In addition to CHEAPR rebates, consumers can take advantage of a Federal Income Tax Credit to help drive down the cost of purchasing a new plug-in electric vehicle. The credit ranges from $2,500 to $7,500, based on the battery capacity of the vehicle.

MARAD to award up to $750K for projects demonstrating emissions reduction on ships

Wed, 2015-05-20 14:16

Under a newly-issued RFP (DTMA91R1500012) the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) will award up to $750,000 for projects that demonstrate the use of exhaust gas cleaning systems (i.e. scrubbers) or Tier III-compliant selective catalytic reduction on marine vessels with Category 3 engines.

MARAD will provide cost-share funding for US-flagged vessels that operate on coastal waterways, the Great Lakes, or in international waters.

Eligible applicants include vessel owners, operators, or sponsors. The awardee(s) will be required to conduct emissions testing at three distinct intervals to verify the efficacy of the technology on criteria pollutant emission reduction.

Data must be made available to MARAD and can be used publically.

For projects that focus on scrubber installation, only closed-loop, hybrid (i.e. can be used as open loop or closed), or dry scrubbers will be funded.

Sandia researchers demonstrate thermoelectric behavior in a MOF

Wed, 2015-05-20 12:12

Sandia National Laboratories researchers, with colleagues at the University of Virginia, have made the first measurements of thermoelectric behavior by a nanoporous metal-organic framework (MOF), a development that could lead to an entirely new class of materials for such applications as cooling computer chips and cameras and energy harvesting. “These results introduce MOFs as a new class of thermoelectric materials that can be tailored and optimized,” said Sandia physicist François Léonard.

This work, published in a paper in the journal Advanced Materials, builds on previous research in which the Sandia team realized electrical conductivity in MOFs by infiltrating the pores with a molecule known as tetracyanoquinodimethan (TCNQ), as described in a 2013 paper in Science (Talin et al. 2013). (Earlier post.)

Molecular cluster calculations indicate that TCNQ can bind to two Cu(II) dimer units within the MOF pores, and a partial charge transfer of ≈0.3 e− between the TCNQ and the framework was estimated by infrared and Raman spectroscopic measurements. Temperature dependent conductivity measurements indicated hopping carrier transport with a very low activation energy of ≈0.04 eV. The creation of an electrical conductor from the insulating Cu3 (BTC)2 framework immediately raises the question: could this conducting Guest@MOF material be technologically useful? One application for which the unique combination of properties of conducting MOFs and Guest@MOFs could be advantageous is thermoelectricity.—Erickson et al.

The Sandia team found that not only is the TCNQ-filled MOF material thermoelectric but the efficiency of its temperature conversion approaches that of the best conducting materials such as bismuth telluride, said Sandia senior scientist Mark Allendorf.

The researchers also gained a fundamental understanding of the charge transport properties of these novel materials that furthers the long-range goal of molding MOFs into electronic and optoelectronic devices.

MOFs have a crystalline structure consisting of rigid organic molecules linked together by metal ions. The hybrid of inorganic and organic components produces an unusual combination of properties: nanoporosity, ultra-large surface areas and remarkable thermal stability, which are attractive to chemists seeking novel materials. The empty space framed by the organic molecules and metal ions can be filled with practically any small molecule a chemist chooses.

We describe this concept as Guest@MOF, with the guest being practically any molecule small enough to fit in the MOF pores. The great thing about chemistry is you can synthesize a wide variety of molecules to be inserted inside a MOF to change its properties. In optimizing materials, this gives you a lot of knobs to turn.—Alec Talin, a materials scientist at Sandia

The researchers had to devise a method to measure the thermoelectric properties of TCNQ@MOF, where TCNQ was the guest molecule. They created a thermoelectric device by connecting Peltier heaters and coolers to each end of a thin film of TCNQ@MOF to generate a tiny temperature gradient. They then accurately measured the temperature gradient with an infrared camera while simultaneously measuring the generated voltage. From these data they obtained the Seebeck coefficient—i.e., the measure of the magnitude of an induced thermoelectric voltage in response to a temperature difference as induced by the Seebeck effect.

Patrick Hopkins, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Virginia, and his graduate student Brian M. Foley used a laser technique to measure the thermal conductivity.

The resulting measurements showed great promise. TCNQ@MOF has a high Seebeck coefficient and low thermal conductivity, two important properties for efficient thermoelectricity. The Seebeck coefficient was in the same range as bismuth telluride, one of the top solid-state thermoelectric materials.

The measurements also captured data that has advanced the team’s fundamental understanding of the TCNQ@MOF electronic structure. Sandia physicist Catalin Spataru and materials scientist Mike Foster conducted detailed electronic structure calculations of TCNQ@MOF and Sandia materials scientist Reese Jones performed thermal conductivity simulations.

The simulations allowed the researchers to verify the source of the charge transport and establish that TCNQ@MOFs is a p-type material. Applications such as transistors and diodes require semiconductors of both p-type and n-type.

We’re now looking for a molecule that in combination with a MOF creates an n-type semiconductor with similar properties to TCNQ@MOF. Once we find that, we’ll be at the early stage of creating a full thermoelectric device.—François Léonard

The researchers are now improving the thermoelectric efficiency of TCNQ@MOF. One avenue is to change the MOF films from the polycrystalline structures used in the initial research to single-crystal.

A unified structure should conduct electricity better. However, we believe the interfaces between the polycrystal grains contribute to the low thermal conductivity. So the best energy conversion efficiency will likely be achieved by balancing these two parameters.—Sandia chemist Vitalie Stavila

The researchers are also turning their thermoelectric measurement technique to other MOFs and materials, such as carbon nanotube thin films.


  • Erickson, K. J., Léonard, F., Stavila, V., Foster, M. E., Spataru, C. D., Jones, R. E., Foley, B. M., Hopkins, P. E., Allendorf, M. D. and Talin, A. A. (2015), “Thin Film Thermoelectric Metal–Organic Framework with High Seebeck Coefficient and Low Thermal Conductivity” Adv. Mater. doi: 10.1002/adma.201501078

  • A.A. Talin, A. Centrone, A.C. Ford, M.E. Foster,V. Stavila, P. Haney, R.A. Kinney, V. Szalai, F. El Gabaly, H.P. Yoon, F. Léonard and M.D. Allendorf (2013) “Tunable electrical conductivity in metal-organic framework thin-film devices,” Science doi: 10.1126/science.1246738

US recalls due to defective Takata airbags expands to nearly 34 million

Wed, 2015-05-20 10:08

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that at the Department’s insistence, air bag manufacturer Takata has acknowledged that a defect exists in its air bag inflators. Takata has agreed to a national recall of certain types of driver and passenger side air bag inflators. These inflators were made with a propellant that can degrade over time and has led to ruptures that have been blamed for six deaths worldwide. The action expands the number of vehicles to be recalled for defective Takata inflators to nearly 34 million.

Secretary Foxx also announced that the Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a Consent Order to Takata. The Consent Order requires the company to cooperate in all future regulatory actions that NHTSA undertakes in its ongoing investigation and oversight of Takata.

“We will not stop our work until every air bag is replaced.”—Secretary Foxx

In addition, NHTSA announced its intent to begin a formal legal process to organize and prioritize the replacement of defective Takata inflators under the agency’s legal authority.

The actions expand regional recalls of Takata passenger-side inflators, currently limited to areas of high absolute humidity, to nationwide recalls involving more than 16 million vehicles. They also expand the current nationwide recall of driver-side inflators to more than 17 million vehicles. It’s anticipated that the remedy of vehicles will be prioritized based upon risk, with the vehicles that present the greatest risk in terms of age and geographic location to be serviced first.

The Department has established a new website,, to provide regular updates on the status of this and other recalls and of NHTSA’s investigation.

Testing and investigation by Takata, auto manufacturers, and independent researchers have not yet established a definitive root cause of the inflator malfunctions. NHTSA’s analysis of test results and engineering reports from independent organizations points to moisture infiltrating the defective inflators over extended periods of time as a factor.

Over time, that moisture causes changes in the structure of the chemical propellant that ignites when an air bag deploys. The degraded propellant ignites too quickly, producing excess pressure that causes the inflator to rupture and sends metal shards into the passenger cabin that can lead to serious injury or death.

The agency already has held informal discussions with auto makers and parts suppliers in an effort to coordinate one of the largest and most complex product recalls in history. NHTSA also plans to issue notice of intent to open a proceeding that would coordinate the remedy program for Takata inflators in order to address the highest risks quickly.

Hitachi Automotive Systems supplying 5 kW/kg high power density prismatic Li-ion cells for MY 2016 Malibu Hybrid

Wed, 2015-05-20 10:02

Hitachi Automotive Systems, Ltd. will supply 5,000 W/kg high power density prismatic lithium-ion battery cells for the new MY 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid (earlier post). Featuring a new full-hybrid powertrain which leverages technology from the Chevrolet Volt, the 2016 Malibu Hybrid will offer an estimated combined fuel economy rating exceeding 45 mpg (5.22 l/100 km).

The Hitachi Li-ion cells employ heat resistant separators to ensure the ionic conductivity between the electrodes, achieving not only a high output power density of 5,000W/kg, but also a high level of safety. In addition to this, the battery’s ability to maintain its high output power density in GM evaluations, even under extremely low temperatures such as the -30 ˚C cold region test, led to its adoption.

Hitachi uses an NMC cathode paired with a hard carbon anode.

Cell Specs Size (mm) 120×80×12 Weight (kg) 0.24 Average Voltage (V) 3.7 Capacity (Ah) 5.2 Output Density (W/kg) 5,000 Energy Density (Wh/kg) 80

The new cell is a modification of Hitachi’s 5.3 Ah prismatic cell, which featured a specific power of 3,400 W/kg and specific energy of 76 Wh/kg.

GM had earlier used Hitachi’s cylindrical 4.4 Ah Li-ion cell—a downsized and lightweighted version of the 5.5 Ah cylindrical cell in use in hybrid-electric trucks, buses and trains—in hybrid products. Those 4.4 Ah cylindrical cells had a specific power of 3,000 W/kg and specific energy of 61 Wh/kg.

Hitachi’s lithium-ion battery operations for vehicles began in 1999. To date, a total of more than 5 million lithium-ion batteries have been introduced into the market for commercial hybrid buses and trucks, as well as hybrid passenger cars.

Last year, Hitachi Automotive Systems integrated the lithium-ion battery manufacturer Hitachi Vehicle Energy’s design and R&D departments, advancing lithium-ion batteries by using the electronic, control, and software technology the company possessed toward battery control system development. (Earlier post.)

Saft introduces Li-ion drop-in replacement for lead-acid batteries in military vehicles: XCELION 6T

Wed, 2015-05-20 07:00

Saft Xcelion 6T. Click to enlarge.

Saft has introduced its Xcelion 6T battery for powering military vehicles. The Xcelion 6T is a lithium-ion (Li-ion) drop-in replacement for lead-acid batteries that provides equivalent power of two lead-acid batteries at a quarter of the weight and half the volume. (Earlier post.)

The launch signals the conclusion of a two-year industrialization program, in which Saft successfully reduced the cost of the Xcelion 6T to increase its commercialization and create a versatile off-the-shelf product.

The Saft Xcelion 6T is a 28V, 60Ah Li-ion battery system (1.6 kWh) that is designed within the dimensions of a traditional lead-acid battery, enabling easy installation into the vehicle. The system provides power for starting, lights and ignition, as well as safety critical devices during silent watch missions, such as sensors, jammers, communication and control equipment. It also features available CANBus communications that relays vital information, including state-of-charge, state-of-health, cell voltages, temperatures and battery diagnostics.

The Xcelion 6T has already been chosen for the Thales Hawkei vehicle and by Lockheed Martin for its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) offering. In the first quarter of 2015, Saft delivered Xcelion 6T batteries for use in the Hawkei’s prototype vehicles. A follow-on contract is expected to support Hawkei initial production in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Saft’s Xcelion 6T has completed all qualification tests, including United Nations (UN) transportation certification. It also has a NATO Stock Number, which will expand the market for the battery.

As modern military operations shift away from the frontline, the need to power the plethora of emerging sensors and communication systems installed in today’s military vehicles is putting a strain on current power systems. Saft’s Xcelion 6T leverages Li-ion technology to offer many benefits over lead-acid, such as longer life, higher energy density, and lower total cost of ownership.

As a result, the Xcelion 6T enhances the capabilities of today’s military vehicles, supporting extended silent watch operations (engine-off mode) and a multitude of technologies on the vehicle that must run on battery power.

In the long term, Xcelion 6T will reduce logistical burdens to stow, transport and distribute replacement batteries. This translates to more than $200 million of savings in total cost of ownership for a fleet of 20,000 vehicles over a 20-year life. With a market size of 700,000 lead-acid batteries acquired per year by the military, Saft is positioning itself to achieve widespread adoption of its Xcelion 6T battery to offer tremendous cost savings to the end-user.

Lifecycle study finds fuel switching from diesel to natural gas could produce net climate damage absent reductions in CH4 emissions and improved vehicle efficiency

Wed, 2015-05-20 05:58

A study by a team from the Environmental Defense Fund, in collaboration with a colleague from the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University has found that while switching a heavy-duty truck fleet from diesel to natural gas has the potential to produce climate benefits, realizing that potential would require a combination of significant reductions well-to-wheels methane emissions (i.e., addressing leakage) and efficiency improvements in the natural gas vehicles themselves. Otherwise, fuel switching can produce net climate damages (more radiative forcing) for decades.

The results, published in an open access paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, suggest that policymakers wishing to address climate change should use caution before promoting fuel switching to natural gas, the authors concluded.

… since natural gas has relatively low carbon intensity, releasing less carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of usable energy than other fossil fuels, it is often assumed that switching to natural gas is comparatively beneficial for the climate. As recent literature suggests, the latter statement deserves a closer look. While it is true that natural gas emits less CO2 than other fossil fuels during combustion, potential climate benefits could be reduced or even delayed for decades or centuries depending on the magnitude of methane (CH4) loss from the natural gas supply chain—an area of active research.

Although CH4 decays more rapidly than CO2 in the atmosphere, it is a more powerful greenhouse gas (GHG), and its influence on the climate is significant on decadal time frames. Even small amounts of CH4 can potentially overwhelm large CO2 reductions to increase radiative forcing in the short run. Taking CH4 emissions into consideration is critical: short-term radiative forcing will determine the rate at which climatic changes occur, and it is crucial to address both short and long-term net radiative impacts in order to minimize social and ecological disruptions from climate change.—Camuzeaux et al.

For the study, the EDF team used the Technology Warming Potentials (TWP) methodology, which considers the radiative efficiency of both CO2 and CH4 and their atmospheric fate as a function of time, thereby providing a view of climate impacts from fuel switching across both short and long time frames.

The researchers modified the TWP methodology to differentiate upstream and in-use methane emissions, and examined several engine technologies (spark ignition (SI) and high-pressure direct injection (HPDI)) and fuel types (LNG and CNG).

For engines, they mainly used two commonly used configuration in the heavy-duty sector: 11.9L, both as diesel compression and natural gas SI types; and 15L, available both as diesel and HPDI engine. They also examined an 8.9 L heavy-duty engine, also available both as diesel CI and natural gas SI type, included for completeness and to enable direct comparison to other studies.

Based on EPA data, they assumed the 11.9 L SI natural gas engine to be on average 13% less efficient than its diesel counterpart, and the 15.L HPDI to be on average 5.5% less efficient than the 15 L diesel CI engine.

They conducted sensitivity analyses to better understand climate implications under a range of assumptions for key parameters: well-to-pump (upstream) CH4 emissions; efficiency differences between natural gas and diesel engines (efficiency penalty); and pump-to-wheels (in-use) CH4 emissions.

The results show which combinations of these input parameters produce climate benefits on all time frames when switching diesel truck fleets to natural gas.

TWP results for diesel to natural gas HDT fleet conversions. Technology Warming Potential (TWP) for three diesel to natural gas heavy-duty fleet conversion cases (rows from top to bottom: 11.9 L diesel to 11.9 L SI CNG; 11.9 L diesel to 11.9 L SI LNG; 15 L diesel to 15 L HPDI LNG), with each column showing the sensitivity to alternative ranges of upstream CH4 emissions; relative vehicle efficiency; and the combination of the two.

The “Sensitivity to WTP CH4 Emissions” case assumes a range of upstream emissions between 0 and 4% of natural gas throughput, with vehicle efficiency fixed at reference case levels.

The “Sensitivity to Relative Vehicle Efficiency” case assumes a range of diesel to natural gas vehicle efficiency penalty values between 0% and 20% (or equal efficiency) for the SI fleets and between 0% and 10% for the HPDI fleets, with upstream emissions fixed at reference case levels.

The “Combined” cases show the sensitivity of the TWP results to both the upstream CH4 emissions and the assumed vehicle efficiency penalty, with the most optimistic scenario assuming zero upstream emissions and equal vehicle efficiency and the most pessimistic scenario assuming 4% upstream loss and upper bound vehicle efficiency penalty for the natural gas trucks.

Pump-to-wheels CH4 emissions are held constant at 2.6 g/mile for the SI fleet conversion cases and 4.2 g/mile for the HPDI case, which equals approximately 0.6% and 1% of natural gas fuel consumption respectively. Credit: ACS, Camuzeaux et al. Click to enlarge.

Broadly, using reference case assumptions reflecting currently available data, they found that converting heavy-duty truck fleets leads to damages to the climate for several decades: around 70–90 years for the SI cases, and 50 years for the more efficient HPDI.

Our results show that under our reference case assumptions, reductions in CH4 losses to the atmosphere are needed to ensure net climate benefits on all time frames when switching from diesel to natural gas fuel in the heavy-duty sector. By combining such reductions with engine efficiency improvements for natural gas HDTs, it may be possible to realize substantial environmental benefits. However, until better data is available on the magnitude of CH4 loss, especially for in-use emissions, the precise climate impacts of a switch remain uncertain in this sector.—Camuzeaux et al.


  • Jonathan R. Camuzeaux, Ramón A. Alvarez, Susanne A. Brooks, Joshua B. Browne, and Thomas Sterner (2015) “Influence of Methane Emissions and Vehicle Efficiency on the Climate Implications of Heavy-Duty Natural Gas Trucks” Environmental Science & Technology doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b00412

Opinion: Are US Drillers Actually Making A Comeback?

Wed, 2015-05-20 05:00

by Nick Cunningham of>

Is US shale about to make a comeback? Oil prices have rebounded strongly since March. The benchmark WTI prices soared by more than 36 percent in two months, and Brent has jumped by more than 25 percent. There is a newfound bullishness in the oil markets—net long positions on Brent crude have hit multi-year highs in recent weeks on a belief that US supply is on its way down.

That was backed up by recent EIA data that predicts an 86,000 barrel-per-day contraction for June. The Eagle Ford (a loss of 47,000 barrels per day) and the Bakken (a loss of 31,000 barrels per day) are expected to lead the way in a downward adjustment.

But that cut in production has itself contributed to the rise in prices. And just as producers cut back, now that prices are on the way back up, they could swing idled production back into action.

A series of companies came out in recent days with plans to resume drilling. EOG Resources says it will head back to the oil patch if prices stabilize around $65 per barrel.

The Permian is one of the very few major shale areas that the EIA thinks will continue to increase output. That is because companies like Occidental Petroleum will add rigs to the Permian basin for more drilling later this year. In fact, Oxy’s Permian production has become a “sustainable, profitable growth engine,” the company’s CEO Stephen Chazen said in an earnings call. Oxy expects to increase production across its US operations by 8 percent this year. Diamondback Energy, another Permian operator, may add two rigs this year.

Other companies—including Devon Energy, Chesapeake Energy, and Carrizo Oil & Gas—have also lifted predicted increases in output for 2015.

In the Bakken, oil production actually increased by 1 percent in the month of March, a surprise development reported by the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

Taken together, momentum appears to be building in the US shale industry.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The US oil rig count has plummeted since October 2014, falling from 1,609 down to 668 as of May 8 (including rigs drilling for gas, the count dropped from 1,931 to 894). That is a loss of 941 rigs in seven months. Just because a few companies are adding a handful of rigs does not mean that the drilling boom is back. It takes several months before a dramatic drop in the rig count shows up in the production data. The EIA says production will start declining this month—but further declines in production are likely.

Moreover, even if US producers do come swarming back to the oil fields and manage to boost output from the current 9.3 million barrels per day, that would merely bring about another decline in oil prices. Lower prices would then force further cut backs in rigs and spending. The effect would be a seesaw in both prices and the fortunes of upstream producers.

As John Kemp over at Reuters notes, that is not an enviable position to be in. Much has been made about the geopolitical and economic influence that shale drillers have snatched away from OPEC. The oil cartel has lost its ability to control prices, the thinking goes. Now, the US is the new “swing producer,” and with it comes influence and prosperity.

But if oil companies oscillate between cutting back and adding more rigs as the price of oil bobs above and below the $60 mark, they won’t exactly be raking in the profits. Worse yet, EOG and Oxy may be profitable at $60, but there are a lot more drillers in the red.

In other words, there is still a supply overhang. In order for oil markets to balance, a stronger shake out is still needed. That means that the least profitable sources of production—drillers that have loaded up on debt to drill in high-cost areas—have yet to be forced out of the market. The drilling boom is not back yet.

Nick Cunningham is a Washington DC-based writer on energy and environmental issues.


Anderman report projects annual global EV and PHEV market to grow four-fold to 1.4M vehicles between 2014 and 2020

Wed, 2015-05-20 05:00

The 2015 xEV Industry Insider Report by Dr. Menahem Anderman, released this week, projects that the combined annual global electric vehicle (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) market will grow fourfold from 350,000 to 1.4 million vehicles between 2014 and 2020, with even faster growth likely in the following decade.

The report reveals sharper growth for PHEVs than for EVs, with government regulations heavily impacting regional market direction. Chinese and European markets tend toward PHEVs, Japan toward conventional hybrids, and the US—driven by both California and Federal regulations—toward a mixture of xEVs.

According to the report’s baseline estimate, the global Li-ion xEV business, totaling $4.1 billion in 2014, will reach $10.7 billion in 2020. Other battery market highlights from the report include:

  • The NiMH market peaked at about 1.5 million hybrid electric vehicle packs and an estimated value of about $1.8 billion. PEVE is now the only major supplier with Panasonic in the second position but far behind.

  • The Li-ion HEV market is growing with 5-6 major suppliers. 2015 pack business is evaluated at about $1 billion in spite of the many vehicles that utilize the technology.

  • LG Chem and Panasonic are the Li-ion market leaders; Samsung, GS Yuasa and AESC are also significant players.

Anderman’s report is based on onsite interviews with senior battery technologists and business development executives at 13 of the major international automakers and 10 of the main battery-system suppliers.

Dr. Anderman is founder and chairman of the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference (AABC). The 15th international AABC is scheduled for 15-19 June 2015 in Detroit.