Pipe: Advanced tech

Mercedes-Benz estimates COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST cuts number of serious rear-end collisions by 30%

Thu, 2014-10-23 06:03

The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class (earlier post) comes with COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS as standard. Accident researchers at Mercedes-Benz anticipate that this feature could cut the number of serious rear-end collisions by up to 30% compared with vehicles that do not have a corresponding protective system.

COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS extends the functionality of the earlier COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST with the addition of autonomous braking to reduce the risk of rear-end collisions. If the driver fails to act when a risk of collision is detected, despite the warning lamp in the instrument cluster and the intermittent audible alert, the system will automatically trigger braking. The vehicle speed is thus already significantly reduced. Depending on the relative speed, this intervention may be enough to avoid a rear-end collision with vehicles that are driving more slowly, stopping or stationary, or significantly mitigate its severity.

Since its market launch in 2011, the B-Class has been equipped with COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST as standard. This safety system includes a radar-based, visual distance warning signal, an additional audible collision warning and selective brake boost courtesy of Adaptive Brake Assist. It is standard equipment for all vehicles in the new generation of compact cars (A-Class, B-Class, CLA-Class and GLA-Class), as well as many other vehicles from Mercedes-Benz.

The official figures show that the number of serious rear-end collisions with Mercedes-Benz B-Class vehicles has gone down by 14% in Germany by comparison with the predecessor model.

In a study, accident researchers at Mercedes-Benz came to the conclusion that up to 20% of all serious rear-end collisions in Germany could be prevented if all vehicles were fitted with an equivalent safety system. Their claim is based on a simulation study using a pre-crash matrix—a digital accident database from the Traffic Accident Research Institute in Dresden containing thousands of carefully reconstructed, real-life accidents.

For the enhanced successor system, COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS, which is set to be rolled out across all model series, the accident researchers are forecasting up to 30% fewer serious rear-end collisions than without the system.

UAI and EFC call EPA MOVES2014 emissions model treatment of ethanol “seriously flawed”; call for peer review

Thu, 2014-10-23 05:45

Two organizations, the Urban Air Initiative (UAI) and the Energy Future Coalition (EFC), are asserting that the latest version of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) MOtor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES) modeling system for estimating emissions from mobile sources is “seriously flawed” with respect to its treatment of higher ethanol blends.

EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ) developed MOVES; the emission modeling system estimates emissions for mobile sources at the national, county, and project level for criteria pollutants, greenhouse gases, and air toxics. MOVES2014 is the latest version of MOVES and includes the effects of the Tier 3 rule as well the impacts of other EPA rulemakings promulgated since the last MOVES release in 2010; new emissions data; and new features that users have requested.

MOVES2014 will be used to estimate air pollution emissions from cars, trucks, motorcycles, and buses in official State Implementation Plan (SIP) submissions to EPA, the organizations note. MOVES is EPA’s approved model for estimating volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), direct particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) and other pollutants and precursors from cars, trucks, motorcycles, and buses. EPA has advised states to use MOVES2014 in SIP development as expeditiously as possible.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, UAI and EFC are requesting the immediate suspension of the use of the MOVES model with respect to ethanol blends until the EPAct study that underpins it can be peer-reviewed by transportation fuels experts at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and until that analysis can be evaluated for the purpose of maximizing the accuracy of the models.

The two organizations also say that EPA should also refrain from using the EPAct study with regard to an anti-backsliding study required by Congress.

The organizations assert that inaccurate results could block access to the market for higher ethanol blends, denying states what the UAI says could be a valuable tool in protecting public health.

The new elements in MOVES2014 pertaining to ethanol reflect the findings of a study conducted for EPA by the Coordinating Research Council (CRC), a non-profit organization supported by the American Petroleum Institute and a group of auto manufacturers (Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen). The study … used an inappropriate fuel sample methodology designed in part by a Chevron consultant.—Letter to EPA

The organization explain that ethanol blends can be created in two ways: by adding more ethanol to a product approved for commercial use, such as E10 (“splash blending”); or by adjusting the gasoline blendstock first to match certain selected parameters (“match blending”).

While many tests of splash-blended ethanol have shown that it reduces pollution, the study behind MOVES2014 used match-blended ethanol instead. Nearly all US gasoline is produced by splash-blending 10% ethanol.

The EPAct study compared the emissions of 27 fuel blends at different boiling points designed to fit a desired distillation profile. Because ethanol’s distillation characteristics are unlike those of hydrocarbons, and because it evaporates at a temperature below two of the specified boiling points, the tests added more “high boiling point” components of gasoline to achieve a “match.” However, these high boiling point components are typically aromatic compounds—the worst-polluting components of gasoline. Emissions increased because of the changes in the base fuel, not the ethanol. Thus, ethanol was unfairly and incorrectly blamed for emissions caused by aromatic hydrocarbons.

The study concluded that “other factors being equal, increasing ethanol is associated with an increase in emissions”—but it later acknowledged: “However, if typical collateral fuel changes (lower T50 and aromatics) are accounted for, we might project that blending ethanol would tend to reduce THC, NMHC and NMOG emissions (highlighting the important sensitivities to these other fuel parameters).”

… Independent investigations by automakers and other fuel experts confirm that the use of match blending in the EPAct study mistakenly attributed increased emission levels to ethanol rather than to the addition of aromatics and other high boiling point hydrocarbons, thereby significantly distorting the model’s emissions results. A peer-reviewed analysis that will be published shortly found that “the degradation of emissions which can result is primarily due to the added hydrocarbons, but has often been incorrectly attributed to the ethanol.” Confirmation or refutation of these findings is critical to an objective analysis of the most effective way to ensure that the composition of gasoline minimizes harmful exhaust emissions.—Letter to EPA

First natural gas GM half-ton pickups with 5.3L DI engines delivered in Texas

Thu, 2014-10-23 04:58

Nat G CNG Solutions has delivered the first natural gas half-ton pickup trucks with General Motors’ 5.3-liter direct injection engine. The 2015 model vehicles were purchased by local Houston company NewTex Plumbing and San Antonio-based Pioneer Energy Services. GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado trucks for each fleet were upgraded to run on either natural gas or gasoline using the new DuraDrive DI natural gas system, supplied by Utah-based AGA Systems.

The DuraDrive DI system is a completely redesigned system using Tier 1 OEM tested components engineered to accommodate the unique operating characteristics of the direct injection engine.

During EPA testing the DuraDrive DI set a record for efficiency on an eight-cylinder natural gas truck, achieving 23 mpg (10.2 l/100 km) highway. The half-ton CNG upgrade from Nat G comes standard with a 24 gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) natural gas cylinder giving the vehicle a combined natural gas and gasoline range of more than 1,000 highway-miles.

Nat G CNG Solutions has pre-orders for more than 50 units of the DuraDrive DI, which will be delivered to customers in Texas and Louisiana before the end of the year.

In addition to supporting the 5.3-liter engine, AGA Systems has also started shipping the DuraDrive DI for GM’s 6.2 liter direct injection engines, which are used in the Chevy Suburban, the GMC Yukon XL and several larger pickup trucks. Nat G is offering an underbody cylinder system for the full line of GM full-sized SUVs to allow customers to upgrade their SUVs without losing cargo space.

AGA Systems has also received certification for the GMC Terrain line of compact SUVs equipped with the 2.4L direct injection engine.

AGA Systems designs and manufactures CNG engine systems for a wide range of General Motors vehicles and produces the only natural gas engine systems EPA-certified for GM’s direct injection engines.

Low oil prices hurting some US shale operations; slumping oil prices putting pressure on drillers

Thu, 2014-10-23 04:50

by Nick Cunningham of

The number of active rigs drilling for oil and gas fell by their most in two months, according to the latest data from oil services firm Baker Hughes. There were 19 oil rigs that were removed from operation as of Oct. 17, compared to the prior week. There are now 1,590 active oil rigs, the lowest level in six weeks.

“Unless there’s a significant reversal in oil prices, we’re going to see continued declines in the rig count, especially those drilling for oil,” James Williams, president of WTRG Economics, told Fuel Fix in an interview. “We could easily see the oil rig count down 100 by the end of the year, or more.” Baker Hughes CEO Martin Craighead predicted that US drilling companies could begin to seriously start removing rigs from operation if prices drop to around $75 per barrel. Some of the more expensive shale regions will not be profitable at current prices. For example, the pricey Tuscaloosa shale in Louisiana breaks even at about $92 per barrel. But that also reflects the high costs of starting up a nascent shale region.

Much of the shale basins that are principally responsible for America’s oil production will not feel the effects of low prices as quickly as many are predicting. Better-known shale formations, such as the Eagle Ford in South Texas, can break even at much lower prices. That’s because exploration companies have become familiar with the geology and fine-tuned drilling techniques to specific areas.

Productivity gains have allowed drillers to extract more oil for each rig it has in operation. For example, in North Dakota’s prolific Bakken formation, an average rig is producing more than 530 barrels per day from a new well in October. Less than two years ago, that figure sat at around 300 barrels per day. Extracting more barrels from the same operation improves the economics of drilling, which means shale producers are not as vulnerable to lower prices as they used to be.

Another factor that could insulate US oil production is that companies also factor in sunk costs. That is, if they have already poured in millions of dollars into purchasing land leases and securing permits, throwing in a little extra money to drill the prospect is probably the rational thing to do even at current prices. It is only projects in their infancy that may not be economically feasible.

This should delay the drop in rig count, and delay the drop in overall US oil production. As the Wall Street Journal notes, given these assumptions, US oil production in the Eagle Ford, Bakken, and Permian could actually break even at just $60 per barrel.

Much rides on the decision making of officials in Saudi Arabia. Although exact calculations vary, the world’s only swing producer needs oil prices between $83 and $93 per barrel for its budget to break even. But that may not be as important of a metric as it appears. Saudi Arabia has an enormous stash of foreign exchange, and could run deficits for quite a while without too many problems. With average costs of oil production from wells in the Middle East sitting at only $25 per barrel, the Saudis can clearly wait out US shale if they really want to.

It may actually be Canada’s oil sands that end up being the first victim, the Wall Street Journal reports. Mining, processing, and pumping heavy oil sands from remote positions in Canada are much more costly than conventional oil and even shale oil in the US. While short-term operating costs are only around $40 per barrel, new projects need prices well above $90 per barrel to be in the money.

Rig counts are starting to drop, but due to the long lead time for most oil projects, it could be a while before production begins to decline in a significant way. What happens next will be largely determined by the outcome of the next OPEC meeting in Vienna on Nov. 27, where all eyes will be on Saudi Arabia.


workshops -- New Workshop(s) posted to ARB's website

Wed, 2014-10-22 22:00
One or more workshops/meetings have been scheduled and are now located in ARB's Workshop Calendar.

onrdiesel -- CARB One-Stop Diesel Truck Event -- Anderson, OCTOBER 29

Wed, 2014-10-22 21:12
You are invited to participate in a free One-Stop Diesel Truck Event in Anderson, CA sponsored by the California Air Resources Board:.

newsclips -- ARB Newsclips for October 22, 2014.

Wed, 2014-10-22 19:14
ARB Newsclips for October 22, 2014.

newsrel -- MEDIA ADVISORY: Largest ever showcase of zero-emission cars, motorcycles, trucks & buses to highlight landmark announcement at ARB hearing

Wed, 2014-10-22 18:39
Please consider the following news release from the California Air Resources Board: http://bit.

arch-ctgs -- Architectural Coatings Reporting Tool Webinar Reminder

Wed, 2014-10-22 15:24
The California Air Resources Board s (ARB) staff is conducting a webinar on Thursday, October 23, 2014, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.

newsrel -- MEDIA ADVISORY: CoolCalifornia City Challenge awards, prize money presented

Wed, 2014-10-22 14:38
Please consider the following news release from the California Air Resources Board: http://bit.

UMTRI: automakers have surpassed new CAFE requirements for past 3 years

Wed, 2014-10-22 13:25

In the three years since the new CAFE standard for fuel economy has been in effect, automakers have surpassed it each year, improving new-vehicle fuel economy by about a mile per gallon annually, according to an analysis by Brandon Schoettle and Dr. Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).

In 2012, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the final standard governing new-vehicle Corporate Average Fuel Economy for model years 2017-2025. Since then, CAFE performance has exceeded projected levels for 2012, 2013 and 2014—the three years the current standard has been in effect.

Average monthly and model year fleet-wide achieved CAFE performance levels versus NHTSA projected achieved CAFE levels for model years 2008 through 2016. Source: UMTRI. Click to enlarge.

Achieved CAFE performance topped anticipated levels by 0.2 mpg for model year 2012, 0.1 mpg for model year 2013 and 0.2 mpg for model year 2014.

In addition, CAFE performance has consistently increased annually from model year 2008 through model year 2014, Schoettle and Sivak said. Overall, fuel economy improved by 5.3 mpg over these seven model years, from 25.5 mpg to 30.8 mpg.

The new standard for fuel economy for vehicle model years 2017-2025 continues the current system of incremental increases in CAFE for new light-duty vehicles (cars, vans, SUVs and pickup trucks) for each model year, based on targeted decreases averaging about 5% per year in carbon dioxide output per mile.

UT Austin to lead $58M study of methane hydrate in Gulf of Mexico; $41M from DOE

Wed, 2014-10-22 13:08

A research team led by The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded approximately $58 million to analyze methane hydrate deposits under the Gulf of Mexico. The grant, one of the largest ever awarded to the university, will allow researchers to advance the scientific understanding of naturally occurring methane hydrate so that its resource potential and environmental implications can be fully understood.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is providing $41,270,609, with the remainder funded by industry and the research partners. Methane hydrate—natural gas trapped in an ice-like cage of water molecules—occurs in both terrestrial and marine environments. Prior programs in Alaska have explored gas hydrate reservoir potential and alternative production strategies, and additional testing programs are in development. While not part of this new program, the DOE further intends to evaluate production methods on terrestrial methane hydrate deposits in Alaska.

The objectives of the DOE’s marine gas hydrate program are to:

  • collect a full suite of in situ measurements and core samples to characterize the physical properties of marine methane hydrates;

  • assess their potential response to possible production activities; and

  • further delineate the occurrence and nature of gas hydrates in the US outer continental shelf.

More specifically, this new project, managed by the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, will characterize and prioritize known and prospective drilling locations with a high probability of encountering concentrated methane hydrates in sand-rich reservoirs.

A focused drilling program will acquire conventional cores, pressure cores, and downhole logs; will measure in situ properties; and will measure reservoir response to short-duration pressure perturbations.

DOE says that the field campaign will offer an ideal opportunity to deploy and to test several coring and hydrate characterization tools developed through previous DOE-supported research efforts.

Post-cruise analyses will determine the in situ concentrations, the physical properties, the lithology, and the thermodynamic state of methane hydrate bearing sand reservoirs.

DOE’s goal for the project is to use the collection and analysis of field data to strengthen the ability to estimate the occurrence and distribution of marine hydrates and to lay the groundwork needed to simulate production behavior from sand-rich reservoirs.

In addition to UT Austin’s Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) at the Jackson School of Geosciences, the Gulf of Mexico study includes researchers from The Ohio State University, Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership and the US Geological Survey.

Estimates vary on the amount of energy that could be produced from methane hydrate worldwide, but the potential is huge. In the Gulf of Mexico, where the team will be sampling, there is estimated to be about 7,000 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of methane in sand-dominated reservoirs near the seafloor. That is more than 250 times the amount of natural gas used in the United States in 2013.

Hydrates have the potential to contribute to long-term energy supplies within the United States as well as abroad; many large global economies that lack clean and secure energy supplies have potentially enormous hydrate resources. Accordingly, other countries with high energy demands or limited resources—e.g. Japan, South Korea, India and China—have active methane hydrate research programs.

Distribution of known methane hydrate accumulations. Council of Canadian Academies (2008). Click to enlarge.

Methane hydrate is stable under high pressure and low temperatures but separates into gas and water quickly when warmed or depressurized, causing the methane to bubble away. This poses technical and scientific challenges to those working to eventually produce energy from the deep-water deposits.

The heart of this project is to acquire intact samples so that we can better understand how to produce these deposits.—Peter Flemings, a professor and UTIG research scientist and the project’s principal investigator

The four-year project will be the first in the offshore United States to take core samples of methane hydrate from sandstone reservoirs, Flemings said, a delicate task that requires transporting samples from great depths to the surface without depressurizing them.

Carlos Santamarina, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a leading methane hydrate expert, said pressure core sampling is vital to gaining a better scientific understanding of hydrate-bearing sediments.

The technique is like taking a specimen inside a pressure cooker from thousands of feet below sea level, and bringing it to the surface without ever depressurizing the pressure cooker. With this technology, the sediment preserves its structure and allows us to determine all the engineering properties needed for design.—Carlos Santamarina

It is not currently economically or technically feasible to produce substantial amounts of energy from methane hydrate, but Flemings said that could change as the science improves and world energy demand increases.

This could be analogous to gas or shale oil 20 or 30 years ago. None of us thought we were going to produce any hydrocarbons out of shales then.—Peter Flemings

IHS: Wave of of mergers and acquisitions reshaping automotive semiconductor supplier landscape

Wed, 2014-10-22 12:34

Capped by last week’s announcement that Qualcomm Inc. would buy CSR PLC, the automotive semiconductor industry recently has been undergoing a wave of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity that has shaken up the competitive order of the market, according to IHS Technology.

In two major deals announced in August, Germany’s Infineon Technologies AG said it would acquire US-based International Rectifier Corp., while On Semiconductor Corp. sealed a deal to acquire fellow US firm Aptina Imaging Corp.

With the International Rectifier deal, Infineon bolstered its Nº 2 rank in the global automotive semiconductor business and helped it to close the gap on the market leader, Renesas of Japan. Following the acquisition, Infineon trails Renesas by just $288 million, down from nearly $500 before Infineon bought International Rectifier, based on ranking data from 2013.

Meanwhile, the Aptina acquisition expanded On’s automotive semiconductor revenue by $183 million, allowing On to move up one position to eighth place in the market, also based on 2013 ranking data.

The purchase of the UK’s CSR will allow California-based Qualcomm to enhance its market share. Qualcomm ranked Nº 43 in 2013, while CSR came in at 23. The two companies combined would have ranked at Nº 19 in 2013.

While these three M&A deals differ in their specific goals and benefits, all have the same strategic objective: expanding market share in the lucrative business for semiconductors used in automobiles. The automotive supply is adding new infotainment, communications and driver-assist functionality at a rapid pace, causing related semiconductor revenue to rise 5 percent to reach $26 billion in 2013. Suppliers are buying up competitors to gain scale in the market, to add key capabilities and to capitalize on established customer relationships.—Ahad Buksh, analyst for automotive semiconductors at IHS

ms-mailings -- Reporting California Vehicle And Engine Production Numbers For Assessing Annual Certification Fees For Fiscal-Year 2014-2015.

Wed, 2014-10-22 10:57
To cover the costs of state programs related to regulatory development of motor vehicle and engine emissions requirements in California, the Air Resources Board (ARB) is authorized to collect annual certification fees from vehicle and engine manufacturers and used direct import (UDI) vehicle emission laboratories based on the number of vehicles and engines they produced for sale in California.

Swedish Energy Agency awards PowerCell $960K toward developing modular fuel cell range extender system for EVs

Wed, 2014-10-22 10:16

The Swedish Energy Agency has awarded Volvo Group spinout PowerCell SEK7 million (US$965,000) for the MoRE Zero project to develop a fuel cell system for use in a modular range extender system for electric vehicles in the European ERA-NET project. The kick-off meeting of the MoRE Zero project took place on June 2014.

PowerCell will develop a modular and scalable fuel cell system in the order of 20-25 kW. The fuel cell systems will be integrated and demonstrated in three different types of electric vehicles: a small 3.5-tonne truck provided by IDIADA; a 5-tonne minibus or 10-tonne small bus provided By Hexagon Studio; and an 18-tonne heavy truck provided by E-Trucks Europe. The modular range-extender system will comprise:

  • A PEM-based fuel cell stack;
  • A peripheral system in order to condition and monitor the hydrogen and fuel cell stacks
  • A scalable hydrogen storage system; and
  • A modular DC/DC converter.

MoRE Zero work packages. Click to enlarge.

PowerCell, which has been developing fuel cell technology for more than a decade, has been working on its latest fuel cell platform (S2) since 2010. This is now in the final stages of development and will be launched as a commercial product by the end of 2014; S2 will be produced within the power range of 5-25 kW. This covers a gap in the fuel cell market, the company notes, as fuel cell stacks up to 20 kW are available from some manufacturers, but in the range 10-30 kW, there is more or less nothing available on the open market.

The fuel cell stacks that are made for these small power classes (<30 kW) are typically designed for stationary applications where packing volume and cost targets are not nearly as stringent as in the automotive industry. These designs require a smaller initial investment cost than automotive fuel cell stacks, but will never be anywhere near as cost-effective high volume. The PowerCell fuel cell stack is developed according to the standard for vehicles and for use in automotive environment and a power range that is appropriate for the range extender–application.—Magnus Henell, CEO of PowerCell Sweden AB

The More Zero consortium consists of partners from four countries that have joined together in an ERA-NET project to develop a modular range extender concept that can be used in a variety of vehicles, based on the PowerCell’s fuel cell technology. Partners in the project are:

  • IDIADA, Spain
  • Triphase, Belgium
  • Hexagon Studio, Turkey
  • E-Trucks Europe, Belgium

ERA-NET is an instrument created for the European Commission to develop and strengthen the R & D collaboration between countries and regions in Europe.

PowerCell is a spinout from the Volvo Group with the objective to develop and produce environmentally friendly power systems based on a unique fuel cell and reformer technology that matches existing fuel infrastructures. PowerCell is based in Gothenburg and is owned by Volvo Group Venture Capital, Fouriertransform, Midroc New Technologies and Finindus.

Korea team develops urchin-like material for effective electrocatalyst for Li-O2 batteries

Wed, 2014-10-22 07:00

Researchers in Korea have developed a spinel NiCo2O4 material with a sea-urchin-like structure as an effective electrocatalyst for rechargeable non-aqueous Li-O2 batteries. A Li-O2 battery containing the catalyst exhibited a high specific capacity of about 7,309 mAh g−1 at 0.2 mA cm−2. A paper on their work is published in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

The electrochemical performance of lithium-oxygen batteries can be significantly improved by using a catalyst to enhance the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and oxygen evolution reaction (OER), they note.

… the urchin-like structure of the catalyst not only provides more electrocatalytic sites but also promotes mass transport in the electrolyte. In addition, mesoporous NiCo2O4 can efficiently catalyze the formation and decomposition of Li2O2.

… The integrity and porosity of spinel NiCo2O4 had a significant effect on the performance of the Li-O2 battery with reasonable specific capacity and cyclability, suggesting that the NiCo2O4-based materials can be effective catalysts for oxygen electrode in high performance Li-O2 batteries.—Jadhav et al.


  • Harsharaj S. Jadhav, Ramchandra S. Kalubarme, Jang-Woong Roh, Kyu-Nam Jung, Kyoung-Hee Shin, Choong-Nyeon Park and Chan-Jin Park (2014) “Facile and Cost Effective Synthesized Mesoporous Spinel NiCo2O4 as Catalyst for Non-Aqueous Lithium-Oxygen Batteries,” J. Electrochem. Soc. volume 161, issue 14, A2188-A2196 doi: 10.1149/2.0771414jes

Ballard and Van Hool launch European service center to support fuel cell buses

Wed, 2014-10-22 06:00

Ballard Power Systems and partner Van Hool N.V., announced that a dedicated joint European Service and Parts Center for fuel cell buses (to be called ESPACE) will be operational in November 2014. The key objective of ESPACE is to support Van Hool fuel cell buses in Europe that are powered by Ballard fuel cell modules.

With a growing number of Van Hool buses on European roads powered by Ballard fuel cell modules, maintenance and repair activities related to fuel cells and hybrid drive line components need to be readily available from experienced support personnel.

By the end of 2014, there are expected to be 27 of these fuel cell buses in operation in five European cities—10 in Aberdeen, 5 in Antwerp, 5 in Oslo, 5 in San Remo and 2 in Cologne. ESPACE will ensure safe, reliable operation of these buses and will maximize operating uptime while offering transit agencies more competitive maintenance costs.

ESPACE will be co-located with Van Hool’s Lier, Belgium manufacturing facility, encompassing 120 square meters of space and storing up to 200 parts on-site, including fuel cell modules, batteries as well as electric driveline and hydrogen storage components.

Ballard and Van Hool plan to have two dedicated fuel cell service personnel at the facility to provide training and technical assistance to Van Hool and customer representatives as well as to impart knowledge of fuel cell technology and Ballard’s FCvelocity-HD fuel cell product line. These personnel will also be backed by teams of experts and engineers at both companies.

By liaising between on-site support and the respective corporate engineering departments, ESPACE will help identify the root cause of any reported failure and will accelerate the implementation of remedial plans. Locating ESPACE in Lier, Belgium will enable this process, thanks to the rapid exchange and assessment of collected data, all within similar time zones.

CMU/MIT study finds large-scale battery manufacturing will do little to reduce unit costs past a 200-300 MWh annual production level

Wed, 2014-10-22 05:59

A new techno-economic analysis by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and MIT has found that economies of scale for manufacturing current Li-ion batteries for light-duty EV applications (in this case, prismatic pouch NMC333-G batteries and packs) are reached quickly at around 200-300 MWh annual production. Increased volume beyond that does little to reduce unit costs, except potentially indirectly through factors such as experience, learning, and innovation, they determined.

That’s comparable to the amount of batteries produced for the Nissan Leaf or the Chevy Volt last year,” said CMU’s Dr. Jeremy Michalek, the corresponding author of a paper on the research published in the Journal of Power Sources. “Past this point, higher volume alone won’t do much to cut cost. Battery cost is the single largest economic barrier for mainstream adoption of electric vehicles, and large factories alone aren’t likely to solve the battery cost problem.

The cost of Li-ion batteries is arguably the single largest barrier to mainstream adoption of EVs. Thus, battery cost is a key factor in addressing oil dependency, global warming, and air pollution in the United States. We investigate the role of battery design variables on the cost and performance of Li-ion batteries by first characterizing the tradeoffs in battery design and subsequently using this knowledge to optimize and assess technical and economic implications.

Existing studies on the economics, adoption potential, and emissions reduction potential of EVs typically treat Li-ion batteries as though they are all the same, with a single estimate of cost per kWh of storage. In practice, Li-ion technology encompasses a wide range of alternative chemistries (e.g.: LiMn2O4, LiFePO4, LiNi0.33Mn0.33Co0.33, etc.), electrode designs (e.g.: thin/thick), packaging alternatives (prismatic, pouch, cylindrical), and capacities (size, number of electrode layers, etc.) of the individual cells that make up the pack as well as differences in pack configuration, thermal management, and control electronics. Each of the potential combinations of these alternatives has different performance, cost, weight, volumetric, thermal, and degradation characteristics that interact with the constraints and needs in the design of a vehicle powertrain system. For example, short-range PHEVs require cells with higher power-to-energy ratios because they have less battery capacity over which to distribute peak power demands. Thinner electrodes deliver higher power per unit capacity, but they also require more of the inactive materials, and this has implications for cost, volume, weight, and life.

… We aim to produce a transparent, bottom-up assessment that explicitly accounts for the battery design changes needed to meet requirements for various EV applications at minimum cost while identifying key factors and characterizing uncertainty.—Sakti et al.

The team built an optimization model to identify the least-cost battery and pack design that satisfies energy and power requirements representative of PHEV10 (16 km AER), PHEV30 (48 km AER), PHEV60 (96 km AER), and BEV200 (320 km AER) vehicles, where the subscript indicates the vehicle’s all-electric range (AER) in miles.

They calculated cell capacities for different designs, then pack energy using capacity times average cell voltage as estimated by using Battery Design Studio (BDS) simulation software. BDS was also used to simulate the hybrid pulse power characterization (HPPC) test—defined by the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC)—on a set of 48 virtual LiNi0.33Mn0.33Co0.33/Graphite (NMC333-G) cells varied over a full factorial of selected electrode thickness and cell capacity levels. The single side electrode coating thickness was varied from 25 mm to 200 mm in intervals of 25 mm and the cell capacity was varied from 10 Ah up to 60 Ah in 10 Ah intervals.

To compute cost, they modeled the process of manufacturing the Li-ion battery pack using a process-based cost model (PBCM) to simulate production operations in a manufacturing plant, using data at the individual machine level for each of the process steps. They adopted information on equipment cost and processing rates for most of the many process steps from Argonne National Laboratory’s Li-ion battery cost and performance model, BatPaC.

Process steps involved in Li-ion battery manufacturing (adopted from ANL’s BatPaC). Process steps with sufficient data on machine processing rates are assumed to be dedicated, and have been shown in green boxes with italicized fonts. Blue boxes show the process steps for which sufficient information was not available, and they were therefore considered undedicated. Credit: Sakti et al. Click to enlarge.

They assumed a yield of 100% for all process steps except Cell Stacking (#7 in the diagram above), in which defects may be incorporated as the bi-cell layers are stacked on top of one another. Their base assumption for cell stacking yield was 95%.

Comparing the cost of a battery and pack design sized for a PHEV20, for example, using BatPaC vs. the PBCM with base case, optimistic, and pessimistic assumptions found results from the base case PBCM comparable to BatPaC at a volume of 100,000 packs, the level at which BatPaC is calibrated.

Total breakdown of the sample PHEV20 (36 km AER) battery pack at 20,000 packs per year, with a further breakdown of the material cost. Sakti et al. Click to enlarge.

The PBCM results are lower cost than BatPaC estimates at low production volume and comparable cost at higher volume.

Results from the PBCM suggest that economies of scale are reached at about 200-300 MWh of battery capacity production—much sooner than suggested by the BatPaC model. This early attainment of economies of scale is observed across a wide range of battery pack specifications.—Sakti et al.

They found that the specific cost of the optimal design decreases with the increasing electric range—from $545 kWh-1 for the PHEV10 (16 km AER) to $230 kWh-1 for the BEV200 (320 km AER). Part of this cost decrease is due to increased cathode thickness for larger AER applications that have lower power requirements per unit energy.

However, they noted, the PHEV30 (48 km AER) design is constrained by the upper bound for cathode thickness, and larger packs cannot take advantage of thicker electrodes. Additional reductions in specific cost for the PHEV60 (96 km AER) and BEV200 (320 km AER) result primarily from spreading some of the packaging, battery management and thermal control costs over a larger pack energy.

In general, results suggest that the lowest cost designs use the thickest electrode coatings that satisfy the power requirements and large cell capacity and a preference for more cells per module instead of more modules per pack (because additional modules incur more module regulation costs, primarily from the module state-of-charge regulators). There is a marginal cost difference between achieving an active material target via increasing cathode thickness vs. increasing the number of bi-cell layers.—Sakti et al.

The results showed that pack-level specific cost ($ kWh-1) for these designs varies almost linearly with power-to-energy ratio.

Specific costs are pessimistically as high as $680 kWh-1 for the PHEV10 reducing to $330 kWh-1 for a BEV200 (320 km AER) or optimistically as high as $480 kWh-1 for the PHEV10 (16 km AER) reducing to $190 kWh-1 for the BEV200 (320 km AER). Overall, the effect of pack size on specific cost is larger than the uncertainty represented by our optimistic and pessimistic cases.

… The reduced specific cost for larger packs is due to the ability to use thicker electrodes for applications with larger energy requirements (larger AER), and new technology enabling cathode thickness values up to 200 mm could further decrease costs of larger packs by up to 8%.—Sakti et al.

The results of the study raise questions about whether increasing vehicle sales is the best way to continue to spend limited resources—as opposed to, for example, more research on battery technology,said co-author Dr. Jay Whitacre. Whitacre pointed to the study’s finding that a way to make batteries with thicker electrodes could lower the cost of long-range electric vehicle batteries by up to 8%, and noted that increasing production beyond current levels may only cut costs by less than 3%.

If economies of scale in battery production are achieved at relatively low volume, as our process-based cost model suggests, then policies attempting to achieve reduced EV costs via subsidies for EV sales may have limited effects on battery costs beyond levels of ~200-300 MWh per year. … Additionally, our results emphasize that different cell and pack designs are appropriate for different applications. Customizing battery designs for each application may save costs (assuming adequate production volume), and policymakers should be careful not to assume that achievement of cost targets for one application necessarily enables cost targets to be achieved for other applications.

Further, any cost estimate for automotive Li-ion batteries should be viewed in the context of the application (AER), the scope (cell vs. pack level costs), and the unit (cost per nameplate capacity vs. cost per usable capacity). Comparing cost estimates may be misleading if differences in context are not accounted for. —Sakti et al.

NMC-G. The study only considered the popular NMC-G chemistry, which is used either solely or in combination with other active material chemistries in the Ford C-Max Energi, BMW ActiveE, BMW i3, BMW i8, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Volvo C30 EV, Honda Fit EV and Honda Accord, according to the team.

Nor did the study explore the 18650 cell format that Tesla uses, opting instead for the prismatic format that everyone else is using, Michalek said. Although manufacturing cylindrical cells involves a few different steps, Michalek said he would expect economies of scale for these cells to be comparable. Indeed, with manufacturing for that format having already been cost-minimized for decades, there is likely less room for improvement in that format, he suggested.

Although high volume alone may not provide the cost savings Tesla is looking for from its Gigafactory, the company may get additional savings from other factors such as supply chain integration, he suggested.


  • Apurba Sakti, Jeremy J. Michalek, Erica R.H. Fuchs, Jay F. Whitacre (2015) “A techno-economic analysis and optimization of Li-ion batteries for light-duty passenger vehicle electrification,” Journal of Power Sources, Volume 273, Pages 966-980 doi: 10.1016/j.jpowsour.2014.09.078

Boeing, COMAC open facility to transform gutter oil into aviation biofuel

Wed, 2014-10-22 05:01

Boeing and Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) opened a demonstration facility that will turn waste cooking oil, commonly referred to as “gutter oil” in China, into sustainable aviation biofuel. The two companies estimate that 500 million gallons (1.8 billion liters) of biofuel could be made annually in China from used cooking oil.

Boeing and COMAC are sponsoring the facility, which is called the China-US Aviation Biofuel Pilot Project. It will use a technology developed by Hangzhou Energy & Engineering Technology Co., Ltd. (HEET) to clean contaminants from waste oils and convert it into jet fuel at a rate of 160 gallons (650 liters) per day. The project’s goal is to assess the technical feasibility and cost of producing higher volumes of biofuel.

Biofuel produced by the China-US Aviation Biofuel Pilot Project will meet international specifications approved in 2011 for jet fuel made from plant oils and animal fats. This type of biofuel has already been used for more than 1,600 commercial flights.

We are very happy to see the progress that has been made in the collaboration between Boeing and COMAC, especially the achievement in aviation biofuel technology. We will continue to work with Boeing in energy conservation and emissions reduction areas to promote the sustainable development of the aviation industry.—Dr. Guangqiu Wang, Vice President of COMAC’s Beijing Aeronautical Science & Technology Research Institute

Sustainably produced biofuel, which reduces carbon emissions by 50-80% compared to petroleum through its lifecycle, is expected to play a key role in supporting aviation’s growth while meeting environmental goals. The Boeing Current Market Outlook has forecast that China will require more than 6,000 new airplanes by 2033 to meet fast-growing passenger demand for domestic and international air travel.

Boeing and COMAC have been collaborating since 2012 to support the growth of China’s commercial aviation industry. Their Boeing-COMAC Aviation Energy Conservation and Emissions Reductions Technology Center in Beijing works with Chinese universities and research institutions to expand knowledge in areas that improve aviation’s efficiency, such as aviation biofuel and air traffic management.

Cooper Tire begins testing tires made with guayule component; consortium progress on genomics, agronomics

Wed, 2014-10-22 05:00

Cooper Tire & Rubber Company has completed tire builds using rubber derived from guayule plants and new guayule related materials. The tires are being evaluated by Cooper’s technical team using wheel, road and track tests, which are ongoing, but to date suggest tire performance that is at least equal to tires made of components derived from the Hevea rubber plant.

This development was reported by Cooper to its consortium partners—PanAridus, Arizona State University, Cornell University, and the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS)—as the group met recently in Maricopa, Arizona for its third annual meeting and progress report on their $6.9-million Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) grant, “Securing the Future of Natural Rubber—An American Tire and Bioenergy Platform from Guayule.” (Earlier post.)

Guayule is a perennial shrub native to the southwestern US and northern Mexico, and produces natural rubber in its bark and roots. Natural rubber from Guayule has almost identical qualities compared to natural rubber harvested from Hevea trees—currently the primary source for the natural rubber used in tires.

The consortium received the BRDI grant in 2012 from the USDA and the US Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct research aimed at developing enhanced manufacturing processes for the production of solid rubber from the guayule plant as a biomaterial for tire applications, as well as evaluating the plant’s residual biomass for fuel applications.

(PanAridus replaced Yulex Corporation on the grant team, assuming Yulex’s responsibilities as the primary manufacturer of the guayule material. In January 2013, Yulex had entered a strategic relationship with Versalis, a global leader in elastomers and a subsidiary of Eni. Subsequently, Versalis (Eni) and tire-maker Pirelli entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to kick off a joint research project for the use of guayule-based natural rubber in tire production, with Versalis supplying Pirelli with guayule-based natural rubber. In December 2013, Cooper announced that PanAridus was replacing Yulex.)

The consortium aims to harness biopolymers extracted from guayule as a replacement for synthetic rubbers and Hevea natural rubber used in the production of tires. It is also focused on genomic and agronomic development of guayule and the sustainability impact these biomaterial and bioenergy industries have on the American Southwest, where guayule is grown. The grant period ends late in the second quarter of 2017.

Cooper’s progress in tire technology under the grant has been aided by PanAridus’ success in manufacturing rubber using improved strains of guayule and deploying superior rubber extraction technology.

Cooper, PanAridus and USDA-ARS have worked closely to identify key variables impacting rubber quality and controlling these factors during the rubber manufacturing process, resulting in compounds with properties that behave more like I natural rubber than guayule isolated from other processes.

In addition to the advances in rubber manufacturing and tire technology, consortium members USDA-ARS and Cornell also reported significant progress in defining the guayule genome.

Scientists may eventually be able to identify genes that can be tuned to improve qualities such as rubber yield, plant size, drought tolerance and other positive characteristics.

Related advances have also been made in agronomics by consortium member USDA-ARS, including irrigation and direct seeding. These studies will help determine optimum conditions under which farmers can grow guayule crops to produce quantities sufficient for commercial use. ASU is evaluating the social, economic and environmental impact of the grant activities on all stakeholders with a focus on sustainable business practices.

As the lead company in the consortium, we are extremely pleased with the progress that the group has made to advance guayule technology on all fronts. The team is making rapid progress toward a commercial source of domestic natural rubber, and ultimately, tires made with guayule rubber.—Chuck Yurkovich, Senior Vice President, Global Research and Development for Cooper“