Pipe: Advanced tech

newsclips -- Newsclips for November 24, 2014

Mon, 2014-11-24 15:08
This is a service of the California Air Resources Board s Office of Communications.

newsrel -- L Oreal USA fined $146,500 for Redken products that violated California air quality regulations

Mon, 2014-11-24 14:50
Please consider the following news release from the California Air Resources Board: http://bit.

Researchers develop rechargeable hybrid-seawater fuel cell; highly energy density, stable cycling

Mon, 2014-11-24 12:59

Schematic illustration of the designed hybrid-seawater fuel cell and a schematic diagram at the charged–discharged state. Kim et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in Korea and Karlsruher Institute of Technology in Germany have developed a novel energy conversion and storage system using seawater as a cathode. As described in an open access paper in the journal NPG Asia Materials, the system is an intermediate between a battery and a fuel cell, and is accordingly referred to as a hybrid fuel cell.

The circulating seawater in the open-cathode system results in a continuous supply of sodium ions, endowing the system with superior cycling stability that allows the application of various alternative anodes to sodium metal by compensating for irreversible charge losses. Hard carbon and Sn-C nanocomposite electrodes were successfully applied as anode materials, yielding highly stable cycling performance and reversible capacities exceeding 110 mAh g−1 and 300 mAh g−1, respectively.

Sodium can serve as an alternative to lithium in rechargeable batteries as the reversible storage mechanisms for sodium ions are very similar (e.g., earlier post). Similarly, sodium has recently attracted attention as a replacement for lithium in alkali-metal-air batteries. These batteries are promising systems that provide very high theoretical energy densities; however, the use of pure alkali metals (both Li and Na) as anodes create safety and cost issues associated with their reactivity and the expense of the required dry-assembly process, the developers of this new hybrid fuel cell noted.

Thus, we have designed a novel energy conversion and storage system using seawater, or more precisely, the NaCl dissolved in seawater, as a sodium source. The use of naturally-abundant seawater as a sodium source renders unnecessary any additional processing and allows for a substantial reduction of the manufacturing cost for energy storage and conversion devices. The herein-reported device is an intermediate system between batteries and fuel cells and is thus referred to as a hybrid fuel cell.

Differing from conventional batteries, which comprise alkali-metal-containing intercalation or insertion materials as electrodes in a closed system, this novel concept gains its active material from seawater, which is circulated in the open cathode. Such an abundant supply of active material (sodium dissolved in seawater) enables the use of various alloying-anode materials, such as Si, Sn or Ge, overcoming the limitation introduced by the irreversibility of the first and, to a lesser extent, subsequent alloying processes.

… circulating seawater in an open-system electrode corresponds to a continuous supply of sodium ions, which gives this system superior cycling stability and allows the application of various anodes by compensating for irreversible charge losses. The negative electrode of this novel hybrid battery/fuel cell system is, instead, closed and separated from the open-seawater positive electrode by a NASICON solid electrolyte. The negative electrode might be composed of sodium metal, in metal-seawater configuration, or a sodium-ion host (e.g., an alloying material), in full sodium-ion configuration.—Kim et al.

For the electrochemical studies in the paper, the fabricated the negative electrode from an 80:10:10 (wt.%) mixture of hard carbon or Sn-C, SuperP carbon black as a conductive additive, and poly(vinylidene fluoride) as a binder. Seawater containing NaCl was used as the positive electrode.

Charge–discharge curves of seawater-hybrid fuel cells with (a) hard carbon and (b) Sn/C anodes; (c) cycling performance recorded with negative electrodes in a hybrid-seawater fuel cell system (0.05 mA cm−2). Kim et al. Click to enlarge.

The non-aqueous liquid electrolyte on the negative-electrode side was a 1 M solution of NaClO4 in ethylene carbonate/diethyl carbonate (DEC; 1/1 vol.%). As the solid electrolyte, a NASICON (Na3Zr2Si2PO12) ceramic electrolyte with a diameter of 20 mm and a thickness of 2 mm was used. The conductivity was determined to be σNa=9 × 10−4 S cm−1 at room temperature by dielectric spectrometry. A carbon paper with a thickness of 280 μm was used as the current collector in the positive-electrode compartment containing seawater. The Sn-C anode was kept in liquid electrolyte (1 M NaClO4 in ethylene carbonate/DEC) for 1 day and washed by DEC for the stored Sn-C anode.

The redox processes at the cathode are:

Charge: 4NaCL → 4Na+ + 2Cl2 + 4e-

Discharge: 4Na+ + 2H2O + O2 + 4e- → 4NaOH

During charging, the Na+ ions present at the cathode diffuse through the NASICON electrolyte and transfer to the negative electrode, with the release of gaseous Cl2 is released. Upon discharge, the oxygen dissolved in seawater is reduced, resulting in the formation of NaOH in the presence of water and sodium ions. The participation of oxygen in the reduction reaction boosts the theoretical discharge potential to 3.11 V from 1.88 V in de-aerated water.

  • With hard carbon as the sodium-ion negative-electrode, the discharge capacity (sodium uptake) was 114.4 mAh g−1, whereas the irreversible capacity amounted to 60 mAh g−1. This latter value decreased with increasing cycle number, although the reversible capacity slightly decreased. Such an electrochemical performance is typical of hard carbons, the authors said, indicating that seawater can serve as the source of sodium ions as well as conventional cathode materials in sodium-ion batteries.

  • Anodes based on the high-capacity Sn-C nanocomposite showed a first-cycle irreversible capacity of ~200 mAh g−1, and the reversible capacity was ~300 mAh g−1. The team attributed the “rather high irreversible capacity” is to electrolyte decomposition at the particle surface, resulting in the formation of a solid-electrolyte interphase, as well as structural rearrangement occurring upon the first sodiation within the micron-sized composite particles. For subsequent cycles, the reversible capacity increased to >300 mAh g−1 at the 5th cycle, accompanied by a continuously decreasing irreversible capacity (~90 mAh g−1 at the 5th cycle).

Generally, the performance of both the anode materials (hard carbon and Sn-C nanocomposite) in combination with the seawater cathode is very stable upon continuous cycling, showing a remarkably low capacity fading of only 0.02% and 0% after 30 cycles for the hard carbon and Sn-C anode, respectively). These results again highlight the great advantage of an almost infinite supply of sodium ions by employing the open-system seawater cathode.

… hybrid fuel cells using seawater as the positive electrode show great promise as next-generation energy conversion and storage systems that allow both high energy density and low environmental impact at a low cost. In addition, this system can be easily scaled up. It appears noteworthy that the gaseous Cl2 released upon charge might be trapped somehow and later utilized for other applications. Indeed, the production of gaseous Cl2 might provide another great advantage of this technology, adding some value to this new device.—Kim et al.


  • Jae-Kwang Kim, Franziska Mueller, Hyojin Kim, Dominic Bresser, Jeong-Sun Park, Du-Hyun Lim, Guk-Tae Kim, Stefano Passerini and Youngsik Kim (2014) “Rechargeable-hybrid-seawater fuel cell” NPG Asia Materials 6, e144 doi: 10.1038/am.2014.106

research -- REMINDER - Nominations due in 7 days for the Haagen-Smit Clean Air Awards

Mon, 2014-11-24 12:00
The closing date for 2014 award nominations is December 1, 2014.

Bus maker Alexander Dennis to fit GKN Gyrodrive flywheel hybrid systems to 250 buses; partners on international development

Mon, 2014-11-24 10:11

Gyrodrive. Click to enlarge.

Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL), Britain’s biggest bus and coach manufacturer, has chosen GKN Hybrid Power as a preferred partner and committed to the purchase of 250 of its Gyrodrive electric flywheel hybrid systems (earlier post). ADL will focus initially on the introduction of the low emission technology to bus fleets in London and Oxford but anticipates rapid deployment across the UK in the next few years. It will also be working closely with GKN to develop the technology for international markets.

Instead of a battery, the Gyrodrive system uses a magnetically loaded high-speed carbon-fiber flywheel to store the energy generated by a bus as it slows down to stop. It then utilizes the stored energy to power a GKN EVO electric motor which helps accelerate the bus back up to speed, generating significant fuel savings of up to around 25% at a considerably lower cost than battery-hybrid alternatives.

The electric flywheel technology is particularly suited to applications that demand high symmetric power transmission at continuous cyclic duty cycle. Used in this way, the electro-mechanical efficiency of this technology is very high compared to competing electric storage technologies, the company notes.

Although this flywheel kinetic energy recovery (KERS) technology offers higher specific energy than ultracapacitor technologies, compared to batteries, the energy capacity is much lower. In other words, the flywheel cannot be considered as a battery replacement from perspective of storing energy over long durations (such as overnight). Instead, the flywheel is a very efficient, short duration energy accumulator, that can capture and re-deploy large cumulative amounts of energy with little waste. This sort of operation is ideally suited to Kinetic Energy Recovery on a city bus, for example, where energy captured during braking only needs to be stored until the next pull-away from the bus stop.

ADL’s Euro6 Enviro400 bus—the UK’s best-selling double decker—fitted with the Gyrodrive system recently achieved Low Carbon Emission Bus Certification, which acknowledges a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and entitles operators to enhanced fuel rebates.

The Gyrodrive system is designed to last for the life of the bus eliminating the need for any battery changes and offering much lower whole-life costs than other hybrid alternatives, making it a viable proposition commercially.

The same technology helped Audi’s R18 e-tron win the Le Mans 24 Hours Endurance race in June, Audi’s third consecutive win with GKN’s technology.

Earlier this year transport operator Go-Ahead Group selected GKN to supply 500 systems for use on buses in cities across the UK following successful trials in London.

ADL is now well established as Britain’s leading provider of advanced hybrid systems with almost 800 of our low carbon buses operating across the country. This alliance with GKN introduces a new dynamic to the market place, courtesy of a lower cost solution that provides significant fuel and greenhouse gas reductions, coupled with reliability and durability. Add to this the incomparable aftermarket support that we can provide together and it represents a powerful proposition.—Colin Robertson, CEO of Alexander Dennis

GKN Hybrid Power us further developing the Gyrodrive technology is being further developed for other mass transit markets including trams, construction and agricultural equipment. Earlier this year GKN announced the acquisition of Williams Hybrid Power from Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited to form GKN Hybrid Power, which is focused on delivering complete hybrid solutions across multiple vehicle, power and industrial markets.

Wave energy company Pelamis enters administration

Mon, 2014-11-24 09:43

Pelamis Wave Power, the leading wave energy technology and company, has entered bankruptcy administration in the UK. The directors said they had been unable to secure the additional funding required for further development. The board moved to appoint an administrator to assess the options for securing the future for the business and employees of Pelamis.

Blair Nimmo and Gary Fraser of KPMG have now been appointed as Joint Administrators of Pelamis Wave Power.

Pelamis recently received a strong endorsement of its leading wave energy technology position from independent consultants following a series of due diligence exercises. This work included detailed assessments of the onward commercial viability of the technology and designs.

The combination of more than 350 person-years of experience in the team, some 15,000 hours of real grid connected test data and intensive parallel R&D work gives Pelamis a strong platform from which to develop and demonstrate the viability of its technology for commercial deployment at scale.

New heterogeneous acid catalyst shows high activity in release of hydrogen from sodium borohydride; lowest activation energy yet reported

Mon, 2014-11-24 07:05

A team from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay has devised a heterogeneous acid catalyst, silica sulfuric acid, that shows high activity towards releasing hydrogen from sodium borohydride (NaBH4), with a hydrolysis rate of 5.5 L min−1 g−1. Further, the activation energy of the NaBH4 hydrolysis reaction in the presence of the catalyst was calculated to be the lowest (17 kJ mol−1) among reported heterogeneous catalysts to date.

The IIT prepared their catalyst from silica gel (SiO2) and sulfuric acid (H2SO4). A paper on their work is published in the Journal of Power Sources.

When NaBH4 is suspended in an aqueous solution and then passed over a catalyst, the reaction produces hydrogen, along with a benign byproduct—sodium metaborate—that can be recycled back into sodium borohydride.

Sodium borohydride attracted a great deal of interest beginning in the late 1990s as a hydrogen storage material, with companies and researchers working on its application in a range of applications, from portable devices to transportation. For example, then-DaimlerChrysler used Millenium Cell sodium borohydride technology it its Natrium fuel cell concept car, introduced in 2001. (Millenium Cell liquidated in 2008.)

In 2007, however, an independent technical review panel convened at the behest of the Department of Energy to consider the technical status and progress of R&D on the hydrolysis of sodium borohydride for on-board vehicular hydrogen storage unanimously recommended a “no-go” to further funding on this material for vehicular applications, due to an inability to meet DOE targets. (Earlier post.)

Issues included water handling and catalytic reactivity and durability.


  • Joydev Manna, Binayak Roy, Pratibha Sharma (2015) “Efficient hydrogen generation from sodium borohydride hydrolysis using silica sulfuric acid catalyst,” Journal of Power Sources, Volume 275, Pages 727-733 doi: 10.1016/j.jpowsour.2014.11.040

  • Demirci, U. B., Akdim, O., Andrieux, J., Hannauer, J., Chamoun, R. and Miele, P. (2010), “Sodium Borohydride Hydrolysis as Hydrogen Generator: Issues, State of the Art and Applicability Upstream from a Fuel Cell,” Fuel Cells, 10: 335–350 doi: 10.1002/fuce.200800171

UC Riverside researchers find mixed emissions impact from use of higher ethanol and butanol fuels in FFVs

Mon, 2014-11-24 06:00

A study by University of California, Riverside researchers found that the use of higher ethanol blends and a 55% butanol blend in port-fueled and direct injection flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) could lead to emission changes of GHGs, CO, aldehydes, BTEX (monoaromatic hydrocarbons of benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, m/p-xylene, and o-xylene), and particulates.

In a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they reported that the higher alcohol fuels would decrease PM mass and number emissions, although current technology direct injection fueling produces higher particle number and soot mass emissions than the PFI fueling as a result of liquid fuel wetting effects and insufficient air fuel mixing. Particulate emissions were clearly influenced by certain fuel parameters including oxygen content, hydrogen content, and aromatics content.

The results also suggested that BTEX emissions would decrease with higher ethanol blends and the isobutanol blend—an important finding since benzene is a known carcinogen to humans and these other compounds play an active role in the atmospheric chemistry and contribute to the photochemical smog present in many metropolitan areas.

Emissions of nonmethane hydrocarbons (NMHC) and carbon monoxide (CO) showed some statistically significant reductions with higher alcohol fuels, while total hydrocarbons (THC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) did not show strong fuel effects.

However, they also found that the use of higher ethanol blends in FFVs would significantly increase acetaldehyde emissions—classified by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a potential human carcinogen. The isobutanol blend resulted in higher butyraldehyde emissions; butyraldehyde possesses similar reactivity and mutagenicity to acetaldehyde.

For the study, which was supported by the California Energy Commission, South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the University of California Transportation Center (UCTC), the researchers used an E10 blend as the baseline for comparison with E51 and E83 blends. They also tested a Bu55 blend (55% isobutanol)—the highest volume of isobutanol that could be blended while still meeting the California summer gasoline specifications.

Testing was conducted on two late-model FFV pickup trucks with similar horsepower ratings and certification levels: a 2013 model year (MY) Ford F150 (PFI-FFV) with a 3.7 L V6 engine and PFI fueling having a rated horsepower of 302 hp at 6500 rpm and a 2014 MY Chevrolet Silverado (GDI-FFV) with a 5.3 L V8 engine and wall-guided direct injection fueling having a rated horsepower of 355 hp at 5600 rpm.

Both vehicles had three-way catalysts (TWCs) and were certified under California ULEV II/Tier 2 Bin 4 emission standards. The vehicles had accumulated mileages of 13700 for the Ford F150 and 2649 for the Chevrolet Silverado at the beginning of the testing. Each vehicle was tested on each fuel over three FTPs and three UC tests.

In terms of GHGs, the impact of the higher alcohol fuels was mixed, with the higher alcohol fuels showing some increases in CH4 emissions, but the E83 fuel also showing some reductions in CO2 emissions over the UC cycle.

Overall, the differences in tailpipe GHGs between fuels are probably relatively minor compared to other factors that might influence a full life cycle analysis assessment of GHGs for different fuels. The PM emission levels for these vehicles on the low level ethanol blend (i.e., E10) are above or right at the future California LEV III and Tier 3 standards for PM mass emissions to be implemented by 2017 (3 mg/mile) and are clearly above the ultralow PM standard of 1 mg/mile, which is expected in 2025 in California, indicating that meeting future regulations will require additional PM reductions from the levels observed for this current technology GDI-FFV. For GDI-FFVs, this would likely be achieved by a combination of engine calibration and different fuel injection design, such as a spray-guided architecture. Higher levels of fuel oxygenates could also potentially provide PM reduction benefits for future GDI and PFI vehicles.—Karavalakis


  • Georgios Karavalakis, Daniel Short, Robert L. Russell, Heejung Jung, Kent C. Johnson, Akua Asa-Awuku, and Thomas D. Durbin (2014) “Assessing the Impacts of Ethanol and Isobutanol on Gaseous and Particulate Emissions from Flexible Fuel Vehicles” Environmental Science & Technology doi: 10.1021/es5034316

Graphene sheets show durability and performance with and without Pt as catalysts for fuel cell ORR

Mon, 2014-11-24 06:00

A team from the East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai reports in a paper accepted for publication in the RSC journal Chemical Communications that platinum (Pt) supported on graphene sheets showed excellent durability as a catalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in fuel cells. Further, they found that their GNS, when used as a metal-free catalyst for ORR, showed a performance even better than a commercial Pt/C catalyst from Johnson Matthey.

They synthesized the graphene sheets (GNS) continuously by spray pyrolysis of iron carbonyl and pyridine. They then prepared Pt/GNS catalysts and Pt-free GNS catalysts; the Pt loading on GNS was ~25 wt.%

They then electrochemically tested Pt/GNS in 0.5M H2SO4 and GNS Pt-free catalyst in 0.1 M KOH.

  • To prepare the Pt/GNS electrode, they dispersed Pt/GNS catalyst in a mixture of methanol and 5 wt.% Nafion solution with a weight ratio of 50:1. The mixture was agitated by ultrasonication for 30 minutes to form an ink. A given amount of this ink was then dropped on the electrode and dried to yield a thin-film electrode. The Pt loading on the RDE was ~23 μg cm-2.

  • To prepare the platinum-free electrode, they dispersed mg of GNS in a mixture of methanol and 5 wt.% Nafion solution with a weight ratio of 50:1. The mixture was agitated by ultrasonication for 30 min to form an ink. Then a given amount of this ink was dropped on the electrode and dried to form a thin-film electrode. The GNS loading on the RDE was controlled to be 0.71 mg cm-2.


  • Jian Nong Wang, Biao Zou, Xiao Xia Wang and Xin Xin Huang (2014) “Continuous synthesis of graphene sheets by spray pyrolysis and their uses as catalysts for fuel cells”, Chemical Communications doi: 10.1039/C4CC08197H

A*STAR researchers develop predictive model for mass-transit train overloading

Mon, 2014-11-24 05:01

Researchers at A*STAR in Singapore have developed a model that uses smartcard ticket data to provide valuable predictive data on potential train overloading for Singapore’s public transport system. This will enable system planners to address critical bottlenecks as the system stretches to accommodate an expanding population.

More than one million commuters—roughly 20% of Singapore’s population—use the mass rapid transit (MRT) system every day. With the population slated to increase by 26% by 2030, this growth needs to be managed in a way that prevents system delays and overcrowding. A suboptimal transport system could lead to dissatisfied customers and higher economic costs.

To conduct their investigation, Christopher Monterola and colleagues at the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing used an agent-based model (ABM)—a modeling technique which identifies key individual influencers, or agents, in a complex system and models them in a relatively natural way. The team chose three tractable agents: the commuters, the train and the station. Unlike other transportation models, the ABM can consider interactions between agents.

The team examined two main problems that lead to travel delays: overloading and overcrowding. By varying the train’s loading capacity (the maximum number of commuters a train can accommodate at a given time), the team identified a threshold capacity: beyond this tipping point even a few additional commuters produce a cascade of delays. Similarly, more passengers waiting on crowded platforms in popular routes may also significantly increase delays and extend travel times.

Prior to its use for scenario planning, the model was experimentally validated using a week of Singapore smartcard data, which corresponds to 14 million journeys. The data collected for each journey included the anonymized smartcard ID, journey ID, date, origin and destination stations, ‘tap-in’ and ‘tap-out’ times, and the distance traveled.

The model can be used to assist MRT system planners in alleviating strains on a system should it become overloaded through the provision of real-time information on threshold capacities and ‘bottleneck’ stations.

Other transportation systems could also use the model, which can be “augmented to work with real-time data, to enable a livestream view of all commuter movement in a city,” says Monterola. The team is currently working with behavioral scientists to interpret the influence of these system variables on commuter satisfaction—perhaps ultimately even at the individual level.


  • Legara, E. F., Monterola, C., Lee, K. K. & Hung, G. G. (2014) “Critical capacity, travel time delays and travel time distribution of rapid mass transit systems.” Physica A 406, 100–106 doi: 10.1016/j.physa.2014.02.058

  • Othman, N. B., Legara, E. F., Selvam, V. & Monterola, C. (2014) “Simulating congestion dynamics of train rapid transit using smart card data,” Procedia Computer Science 29, 1610–1620 doi: 10.1016/j.procs.2014.05.146

Lux Research: fuel cell vehicles lag other drivetrains in terms of cost of ownership; ICE and HEV lowest cost

Mon, 2014-11-24 05:00

Based on an analysis of various cost of ownership scenarios for various drivetrains, including internal combustion engine (ICE) gasoline and diesel; hybrid (HEV); battery-electric (EV); plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV); and fuel cell vehicles, Lux Research concludes that fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) are “solidly in a laggard position.

The Lux analysts ran scenarios associated with operation and ownership, broken out into fuel cost alone; fuel cost plus operation, but excluding purchase or lease; and fuel cost plus operation, including purchase or lease (total ownership cost). When looking at fuel cost only, EVs lead the way due to the relatively low price of electricity, followed by various types of hybrids (HEVs and PHEVs). Fuel cell vehicles can match EV fuel costs at $3/kg dispensed H2—a price highly unlikely in near-term, Lux said.

When including purchase price (broken out as a five-year loan at 6% interest plus 10% down-payment) in the scenario, the HEV and ICE drivetrains lead in terms of affordability, with EVs and low-cost FCVs behind.

Source: Lux Research. Click to enlarge.

A $30,000 price point and hydrogen at $3/kg makes the FCV option less costly than both the PHEV and EV option, and approaching the cost of ownership of ICE and HEV drivetrains. However, Lux notes, this optimistic case requires a major OEM to commit to producing hundreds of thousands of units, independent of proven demand, with an EV-like $5+ billion risk (similar to Nissan-Renault or Tesla-Panasonic factories) that built huge scale first. There is no guarantee to OEMs that such a risky bet would work out, Lux cautions.

OEMs will enter markets cautiously, each selling only thousands of FCVs per year this decade, and deploying a total of 700,000 FCVs on the road by 2030, in an effort to meet regulations while minimizing their losses on these initially unprofitable vehicles. Why so pessimistic? Despite attempts to entice initial buyers with free hydrogen and subsidies, the long-term economics do not enable these strategies to scale to mass-market success; subsidies will eventually expire and FCV costs will remain high. This will also require some pretty remarkable infrastructure investment to go along for the ride.

We anticipate that between $180 billion to $800 billion will be required by various individual regions to adopt a full-fledged hydrogen economy. In the likely absence of such funding, a shift to hydrogen will not happen before 2040, if ever.—Lux Research

The Lux analysts also observed that, due to aggressive cost reduction efforts on fuel cells, automotive OEMs will have an opportunity to enter stationary energy and offer financing. Lux expects most to overlook this opportunity, but those who don’t may pick up hundreds of millions in revenues.

It is the strength of partnerships (and the creativity thereof) between OEMs, infrastructure gas specialists, Tier 1 suppliers, and chemicals and materials leaders that will separate the fuel cell survivors from those that fail.


DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office updates 5-year program plan; commercially viable hydrocarbon biofuel technologies by 2017; <$3/GGE

Sun, 2014-11-23 07:33

BETO high-level schedule. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BTO) has updated its Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP), which delineates the goals and structure of the office. BTO is one of the 10 technology development offices within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at DOE.

The MYPP identifies the research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) activities the Office will focus on over the next five years and explains why these activities are important. The MYPP is intended for use as an operational guide to help BETO manage and coordinate its activities, as well as a resource to help communicate its mission and goals to stakeholders and the public.

BETO’s overarching strategic goal is to develop commercially viable bioenergy and bioproduct technologies to enable the sustainable, nationwide production of biofuels that are compatible with today’s transportation infrastructure; can reduce greenhouse gas emissions relative to petroleum-derived fuels; and can displace a share of petroleum-derived fuels to reduce US dependence on foreign oil and encourage the creation of a new domestic bioenergy industry.

The Office’s high-level schedule aims for development of commercially viable renewable gasoline, diesel, and jet technologies by 2017 through R&D, and enables a trajectory toward long-term renewable fuels goals. Overall performance goals are:

  • By 2017, validate, at a pilot scale, at least one technology pathway for hydrocarbon biofuel production at a mature modeled price of $3/GGE with GHG emissions reduction of 50% or more compared to petroleum fuel.

  • By 2022, validate hydrocarbon biofuels production from at least two additional technology pathways at a pilot or demonstration scale (>1 ton/day).

BETO organizes its portfolio according to the biomass-to-bioenergy supply chain—from the feedstock source to the end user, with the major focus on feedstock supply and biomass conversion. Key components of the portfolio include:

  • R&D on sustainable, high-quality feedstock supply systems;

  • R&D on biomass conversion technologies;

  • Demonstration and validation of integrated biorefinery technologies up to industrial scale; and

  • Cross-cutting sustainability, analysis, and strategic communications activities.

Multi-year performance goals are:

Click to enlarge.

BETO multi-year milestones f0r 2013-2022 are:

Click to enlarge.

Delphi and CMU spinout Ottomatika partner to accelerate automated driving; “connected automation”

Sat, 2014-11-22 07:28

Delphi Automotive PLC, which already offers a suite of advanced driver assistance systems, will partner with Ottomatika, Inc., a spinout from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) led by Dr. Raj Rajkumar which provides advanced automated driving software, jointly to develop technology that will help accelerate automated driving.

Dr. Rajkumar is a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at CMU; co-director of the CMU-Penn T-SET (Technologies for Sade and Efficient Transportation) UTC (US DOT University Transportation Center); co-director of the General Motors-Carnegie Mellon Vehicular Information Technology Collaborative Research Lab; and led the development of the CMU advanced Autonomous Cadillac SRX. (Earlier post.)

Delphi, the company that first introduced automotive radar systems, will integrate its active safety technologies with Ottomatika’s automated driving software. The combination of the two creates a technology platform that enables a vehicle to make human-like decisions when driving in the city or on the highway.

The platform is flexible and can be expanded and upgraded as the software is updated. It will also support vehicle-to-environment (V2X) communications. The result, suggests Dr. Rajkumar in the video clip below, will be “connected automation”.

Using their individual strengths, Delphi and Ottomatika have developed a vehicle platform that can instantaneously make complex decisions, such as stopping and proceeding at a four-way stop, timing a highway merge or calculating the safest maneuver around a bicyclist on a city street.

Use case: Intersections. Click to enlarge.

Delphi is supporting the collaboration by making an investment in Ottomatika. (According to a new SEC filing, Ottomatika has raised $2,256,477 via a subordinated convertible promissory note.) Together, the two companies will design a short- and long-term roadmap of steadily increasing vehicle automation in the coming years.

Dealing with highly complex real-world decisions is a limitation for much of the current technology in the market. This partnership with Ottomatika will represent a significant step forward in making automated driving a reality. Your car just got a lot smarter.—Jeff Owens, Delphi’s chief technology officer

Ottomatika leverages ground-breaking expertise and long-term experience in vehicle automation. Delphi and Ottomatika working together have the potential to solve the automated driving challenge, which makes roads safer for everyone.—Raj Rajkumar

2015 Ford F-150 offers highest EPA-estimated fuel economy among full-size gasoline-powered pickups

Sat, 2014-11-22 07:08

The new 2015 Ford F-150 (earlier post) 4x2 with Ford’s 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine has EPA-estimated ratings of 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined (12.4, 9.0 and 10.7 l/100 km, respectively)—the highest EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of any gasoline-powered full-size pickup sold in America. That is 5% to 29% better than current F-150 models, depending on engine and driveline configuration on the combined cycle.

The improved performance is enabled by saving weight through the use of high-strength steel and high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys plus smart engineering. Overall, up to 700 pounds (318 kg) of weight have been saved.

The weight savings not only improve fuel efficiency, they improve the new F-150’s capability and performance. Combined with EcoBoost engine technology, the F-150 now tows as much as 1,100 more pounds and hauls as much as 530 pounds more than today’s model with a 5% to 16% better power-to-weight ratio.

Ford offers new F-150 customers four engine choices: the available 2.7-liter EcoBoost with standard Auto Start-Stop; a new standard 3.5-liter V6 Ti-VCT engine; a more powerful available 5.0-liter V8 Ti-VCT engine; and an available premium 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine.

Compared to MY 2008 F-150s, the new trucks offer EPA-estimated fuel economy rating improvements of up to 43%; power-to-weight increases of up to 46%; towing improved by up to 3,900 pounds; and payload could improve as much as 1,390 pounds, depending on engine and configuration.

Ford has 2 million EcoBoost engines on the road in cars, utilities and trucks to date. EcoBoost technology was first offered for F-150 customers in early 2011 with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine. To date, Ford has sold 600,000 F-150 trucks equipped with 3.5-liter EcoBoost engines.

newsclips -- ARB Newsclips for November 21, 2014.

Fri, 2014-11-21 17:24
ARB Newsclips for November 21, 2014.

arbcombo -- November 2014 Joint Auction #1 is Rescheduled for November 25, 2014

Fri, 2014-11-21 15:21
The November 2014 Joint Auction #1 is rescheduled to November 25, 2014.

arbcombo -- Save the Date: Refrigerant Management Program R3 Webinar

Fri, 2014-11-21 13:07
ARB staff will hold a free on-line webinar on Tuesday, December 11, 2014 at 9:00 11:00 am Pacific Time to review the requirements of the regulation and the procedures for filing the Annual Reports and paying the Annual Implementation Fees using the online R3 tool.

EPA delays issuing 2014 RVO standards for RFS until sometime in 2015

Fri, 2014-11-21 12:42

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not finalize the 2014 applicable percentage standards (the 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations, RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program until sometime next year. In a notice to be published in the Federal Register, the agency said that it intends to take action on the 2014 standards rule in 2015 prior to or in conjunction with action on the 2015 standards rule.

Because of the delay in issuing the 2014 RFS standards, EPA is moving the compliance demonstration deadline for the 2013 RFS standards to 2015. EPA will make modifications to the Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) to ensure that Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) generated in 2012 are valid for demonstrating compliance with the 2013 applicable standards.

Background. The RFS requires a certain percentage of renewable fuels in the US fuel pool. Four separate percentage standards are required under the RFS program: cellulosic biofuel; biomass-based diesel; advanced biofuel; and total renewable fuels. Cellulosic biofuel and biomass-based diesel categories are nested within advanced biofuel, which is itself nested within the total renewable fuel category.

Last November (2013), EPA published a notice of proposed rulemaking to establish the 2014 RFS standards that would entail a reduction in the cellulosic biofuel and the total renewable fuel standards (RFS) for 2014. (Earlier post.)

Nearly all gasoline sold in the US is now E10 (10% ethanol). Production of renewable fuels has been growing rapidly in recent years, while at the same time, advances in vehicle fuel economy and other economic factors have pushed gasoline consumption far lower than what was expected when Congress passed the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2007. As a result, EPA said, we are now at the “E10 blend wall,” the point at which the E10 fuel pool is saturated with ethanol. If gasoline demand continues to decline, as currently forecast, continuing growth in the use of ethanol will require greater use of higher ethanol blends such as E15 and E85.

Accordingly, in the November 2013 notice, EPA proposed a total renewable fuel target of 15.21 billion gallons; the final 2013 overall volumes and standards required 16.55 billion gallons; the original target as specified in the Clean Air Act is 18.15 billion gallons. EPA set the troublesome cellulosic biofuel target at 17 million gallons—significantly lower than the Clean Air Act (CAA) target of 1.75 billion gallons—but an increase from the 6.0 million gallons specified for 2013.

As EPA dryly noted in its notice in the Federal Register, that proposal “generated significant comment and controversy.” Proponents of the rule from the renewable fuels industry slammed the changes as undermining the Administration goals of decreasing greenhouse gases and improving energy security. Advocates from the refining industry—which is responsible for meeting the standards—had for some time been arguing that the entire program was flawed, given the difficulty particularly in obtaining cellulosic biofuels to meet the aggressive targets. They saw the November 2013 proposal as a “step in the right direction,” but still advocated for the repeal or significant overhaul of the entire program.

Commenters weighted in on how volumes should be set in light of lower gasoline consumption than had been forecast at the time that the Energy Independence and Security Act was enacted, and whether and on what basis the statutory volumes should be waived.

Commenters also expressed concerns regarding the proposal’s ability to ensure continued progress towards achieving the volumes of renewable fuel targeted by the statute.

Reactions to the new delay. The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) said that the EPA’s decision to delay the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) “continues the atmosphere of uncertainty for the advanced biofuel industry.”

We appreciate that EPA will not be finalizing a proposed 2014 RFS rule containing a flawed methodology for setting the renewable fuel volumes. We will continue to work with the agency to get this successful program back on track as soon as possible. The RFS supports companies that invest in, build and start up new advanced and cellulosic biorefineries here in the United States. It’s clear that the advanced biofuel industry has made rapid strides to increase production capacity to meet the annual volume requirements. Unfortunately, the delay in this year’s rule already has chilled investment and financing of future projects, even as first-of-a-kind cellulosic biofuel plants are right now starting up operations. The industry needs a final rule that is legally appropriate and continues to support our efforts.—BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said:

Deciding not to decide is not a decision. Unfortunately, the announcement today perpetuates the uncertainty that has plagued the continued evolution of biofuels production and marketing for a year. Nevertheless, the Administration has taken a major step by walking away from a proposed rule that was wrong on the law, wrong on the market impacts, wrong for innovation, and wrong for consumers.

… Refiners will continue to resist the competition from biofuels. The RFS must be allowed to be the market forcing mechanism it was designed to be. In the end, the verdict on today’s announcement can only be made after a decision on a path forward for biofuels is identified.

Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) Executive Director Brooke Coleman said:

Pulling back on the 2014 RFS rule is the right thing to do at this stage in the game when it comes to preserving the integrity of the program. While the cellulosic biofuel industry will not get the policy certainty it needs from this decision, it does suggest that the Administration is listening when it comes to our concerns about giving oil companies too much power to avoid its obligations under the RFS going forward. This battle was never about the 2014 volumes for the oil industry, and we appreciate the Administration’s willingness to pivot in the right direction this late in the game. The key now for advanced biofuel investment is to move quickly to fix what needs to be fixed administratively so we can reestablish the RFS as the global gold standard for advanced biofuel policy.

American Petroleum Institute (API) President and CEO Jack Gerard said the administration’s decision to punt on this year’s RFS standards is a clear demonstration to Congress that the Renewable Fuel Standard has become completely unworkable and must be repealed.

The rule is already a year overdue and the administration has no intention of finalizing this year’s requirements before the year ends. It is unacceptable to expect refiners to provide the fuels Americans need with so much regulatory uncertainty. This is an example of government at its worst.

The Renewable Fuel Standard was flawed from the beginning, horribly mismanaged, and is now broken. The only real solution is for Congress to scrap the program and let consumers, not the federal government, choose the best fuel to put in their tanks. Failure to repeal could put millions of motorists at risk of higher fuel costs, damaged engines, and costly repairs.—Jack Gerard

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) President Charles T. Drevna called the decision to delay issuing the 2014 RVO “a gross dereliction of responsibility that leaves fuel refiners and the biofuels industry alike to navigate a course of ambiguity.

Today’s announcement indicates that the Administration plans to continuously mismanage this program in a manner that equates to playing Russian roulette with the nation’s fuel supply at the American consumer’s ultimate expense. The Administration’s inaction demonstrates once again that the non-functioning Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program is irreparably broken. AFPM calls upon Congress to expeditiously resume work on repealing or significantly reforming the RFS. In the meantime, AFPM will seek legal intervention.

For three years in a row, the Administration has thumbed its nose at Congress and ignored a crystal clear statutory deadline to issue RVOs by November 30 of the preceding year. For this reason, AFPM today filed a notice of intent to sue EPA over its failure to issue the 2014 RFS regulations, which has languished at the White House Office of Management and Budget since August 22, 2014.—Charles Drevna

Volkswagen Group to invest $106 billion over next 5 years in Automotive Division

Fri, 2014-11-21 12:04

The Volkswagen Group will invest a total of €85.6 billion (US$106 billion) in new models, innovative technologies and its global presence in its Automotive Division over the coming five years. Around two-thirds of the total investment amount will flow into increasingly efficient vehicles, drives and more environmentally friendly production.

Investments in property, plant and equipment, investment property and intangible assets, excluding capitalized development costs (capex) in the Automotive Division will amount to €64.3 billion (US$80 billion), on a level with the planning approved in the previous year for the period from 2014 to 2018. At €41.3 billion (US$51.3 billion)—roughly 64%—the Group will spend most of the total capex in the Automotive Division on modernizing and extending the product range for all its brands. The main focus will be on expanding the SUV range—in particular in the A/A0 class—as well as on modernizing part of the light commercial vehicle portfolio.

At the same time, investments are also planned in new vehicles and successor models in almost all vehicle classes, which will be based on the modular toolkit technology and related components. This will allow the Volkswagen Group systematically to continue its model rollout with a view to tapping new markets and segments.

In the area of powertrain production, new generations of engines will be launched offering additional enhancements to performance, fuel consumption and emission levels. The Group will also continue to press ahead with the development of hybrid and electric drives.

In addition, the Company will make cross-product investments of €23.0 billion (US$29 billion) over the next five years. These include spending to expand capacity, a new Crafter plant in Poland and the new Audi plant in Mexico. Other investment focuses are press shops and paintshops, reflecting the company’s high quality targets and the continuous improvement of its production processes. Investments outside production are mainly planned for the areas of development, quality assurance, sales, genuine parts supply and information technology.

The joint ventures in China are not consolidated and are therefore not included in the above figures. They will invest a total of €22.0 billion (US$27 billion) in new production facilities and products in the period from 2015 to 2019. These investments will be financed from the joint ventures’ own funds.

We will continue to invest in the future to become the leading automotive group in both ecological and economic terms – with the best and most sustainable products. Development costs will remain high in the future as a result of high innovation pressure and increasing demands on the automotive industry from CO2 legislation. As a Group, we have the expertise and financial strength to continue to extend our technology leadership and to reach our goals for 2018.

For us, efficiency means not least that capex in the Automotive Division will remain at the same level over the entire planning period—despite increasing demands and the additional growth we have planned.—Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG

The capex ratio will be at a competitive level of between six and seven percent in the period from 2015 to 2019.

In addition to spending on capex, the plans also include capitalized development costs of €21.9 billion (US$27 billion) and proceeds from asset disposals of €0.6 billion, net of investments in financial assets. The capitalized development costs include upfront investments in connection with complying with environmental requirements and in expanding and upgrading the model portfolio.

More than half of the capex spending (around 56%) will be made in Germany.

Siemens and LG Chem plan closer collaboration on battery storage systems

Fri, 2014-11-21 09:50

Siemens and LG Chem have agreed to collaborate more closely on project development and marketing of industrial battery storage systems, and have signed a memorandum of understanding to this effect.

Siemens will supply the converters and controller for the joint storage solutions and also handle the project planning and implementation as well as the integration of the storage systems into distribution grids and microgrids. LG Chem will supply the batteries and the battery management system. The two companies have agreed upon accelerating energy storage solution (ESS) market dominance by collaborating on several major ESS projects over the next years.

LG Chem and Siemens have already been working together successfully for a number of years on lithium-ion-based energy storage systems. Technologies from both companies are in use in a number of international projects. For example, Siemens supplied a Siestorage battery storage system to Vulkan Energiewirtschaft Oderbrücke GmbH (VEO). The storage system ensures black start capability of the gas turbines in the Eisenhüttenstadt power plant. The blast furnace gas-fired power plant supplies the steel mill of ArcelorMittal Eisenhüttenstadt GmbH (AMEH) with electricity and heat in the event of failure of the local distribution network. Lithium-ion batteries from LG Chem are installed in the storage system.