Saturday, December 15, 2007

Chrysler/Purdue University program uses poplars for cleanup and fuel feedstock

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In another of Chrysler's experiments with new ways of producing biofuel feedstocks (see also here), they have teamed up with Purdue University to make use of an environmentally contaminated site. Instead of the typical agricultural crops, they have planted poplar trees at a site called Peter's Pond in central Indiana. Chrysler worked with Purdue Associate Professor Rick Meilan develop a new hybrid variety of poplar that can absorb more contaminants from the soil. A second goal of the new hybrid was to make it easier to process the tree into ethanol after harvesting. The trees developed by Prof. Meilan are able to absorb up to ninety percent of contaminants like trichloroethelyne from the soil. The lignin that binds the cellulose together has been modified to allow the cellulose to be more easily broken down.

[Source: Chrysler]

Chrysler Partnership with Purdue University Taps Environmental Powers of Poplars

# Hybrid Poplars Tested at Rural Indiana Site
# Faster Phytoremediation - Using Plants to Clean Up Pollution
# Purdue Researchers Also Developing Poplars for Better Biofuels

Auburn Hills, Mich., Dec 12, 2007 - Chrysler LLC is partnering with Purdue University to test the powers of poplar trees to clean up environmental spills and, in separate work, develop poplars that can serve as feedstock for improved renewable biofuels.

In the first stage of the project, plots of hybrid poplars have been planted at Peter's Pond, the site of an environmental cleanup being conducted by Chrysler in rural central Indiana.

Chrysler's collaborator on the project is Purdue Associate Professor Rick Meilan, who is looking for ways to greatly improve hybrid poplars' ability to clean up contaminants in the environment. Meilan is also part of a team researching altered varieties of poplars that would improve the process of turning harvested plants into bio-ethanol for use in Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs).

"This project supports our most important environmental principles at Chrysler: respect for the environment, returning our former sites to productive use, and promoting the use of clean, renewable, American-made biofuels such as ethanol, in our vehicles," said Deborah Morrissett, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at Chrysler.

Chrysler has invested more than $10 billion over the past two decades to either refurbish existing sites or to prepare vacant sites for productive use.

Chrysler has also produced nearly two million Flexible Fuel Vehicles capable of running on E85 (85 percent ethanol), gasoline or a mixture of the two fuels. The company will produce an additional 500,000 FFVs in 2008.

Meilan is part of a research team that is developing altered poplars with much greater ability to take up contaminants. In their research, Meilan and colleagues found that engineered poplars removed more than 90 percent of pollutants such as trichloroethylene (TCE) from a test solution in one week, compared with just 3 percent of pollutants removed by unaltered poplars. TCE, a commonly used solvent, was found in the soil and groundwater at Peter's Pond.

In addition, the specially-engineered poplars were able to break down the pollutants 100 times faster than the unaltered poplar.

Meilan will plant the specially-engineered poplars at the Peter's Pond site next spring. Their ability to remove TCE from the soil will be compared with the hybrid poplars already planted at the site.

The process of using plants to absorb pollutants from the soil, known as phytoremediation, should work well at Peter's Pond since the remaining pollutants are within 10 feet of the surface and readily accessible to poplars' roots.

"Peter's Pond is the perfect place to take this process out of the lab and test it on a field-sized scale," said Meilan.

Meilan and colleagues are also developing hybrid poplars that can be refined into ethanol more easily. One of the barriers to producing ethanol is lignin, a compound that helps give the plant its strength. However, lignin impedes access to cellulose, the primary source of sugar in the plant to be converted into ethanol. By developing poplars with modified lignin, Meilan hopes to make renewable ethanol faster and cheaper to produce.

If the process works out, it can be readily adapted to many other parts of the world, Meilan noted.

"Poplars grow across a wide geographic range and in many different climates," Meilan said.

"People have had their eye on the poplar for a long time."

Chrysler's FFV Lineup

For the 2008 model year, Chrysler offers 11 products with the E85 Flexible Fuel option:

* Dodge: Dakota, Ram, Durango, Avenger, Grand Caravan
* Chrysler: Aspen, Town & Country, Sebring sedan and convertible
* Jeep: Grand Cherokee, Commander

Chrysler also promotes the use of biodiesel, another clean, renewable, American-made alternative fuel. Jeep(R) Grand Cherokee and the Dodge Ram and Sprinter diesel vehicles are all approved for use with B5 (5 percent biodiesel) fuel and are delivered to customers running on B5.

History of Peter's Pond

The property known as Peter's Pond was once used for gravel mining operations.

In the mid-1960s, oils from the Chrysler Transmission Plant in Kokomo were disposed of in three abandoned gravel pits. Cleanup of the site was begun in the mid-1980s, and Chrysler continues to monitor the groundwater and soil today.

Two small areas on the site still have small amounts of pollutants. Chrysler proposed the phytoremediation system using poplars to polish the remaining pollutants from the soil and groundwater.

Ultimately, the plan is to return the Peter's Pond site to farming, a major economic activity in central Indiana.


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China's Changan Auto's first hybrid model: Jiexun-HEV

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In July, we told you Changan would have a hybrid on the market in 2008. Now, Changan Automobile, the fourth largest automaker in China, is showing off the hybrid Jiexun-HEV. The hybrid is expected on the market soon and some will be donated to the Beijing Olympics next year. Here is Xu Liuping, the president of Changan Automobile, at a celebration ceremony, speaking about Jiexun-HEV:

It took us 6 years to develop this hybrid and it marks the beginning of mass production of hybrid vehicles at our company today. ... We will donate 10 Jiexun hybrid vehicles to the Olympics Games next year. ... The volume production of Jiexun indicates that China has grasped core technologies of hybrid vehicles.

Jiexun-HEV is China's first local-brand hybrid vehicle, fuel economy is improved 20 percent (compared to the non-hybrid version) and it meets EU-IV emission standards. Hybrids have not been too popular in China because of the high price but Xu promises the price for the Jiexun-HEV will be sharply lower than the imports and the company will invest 300 million yuan ($40.7 million) into research and getting the car into production.

Changan has also said their hybrids would be available over seas. So, Jiexun-HEV could be on American streets soon. Are you ready for inexpensive, hybrid cars from China?

[Source: Gasgoo via AutoChannel]


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It's not your father's Oldsmobile diesel: checking out modern oil-burners

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2007 BMW 535d

In the U.S. market, drivers who were around in the early eighties might still have some bad memories of noisy, smoky, slow diesel engines. In more recent years - aside from heavy duty pickup trucks - relatively few diesels have been available to American buyers. With gas prices on the rise and new fuel economy regulations on the way, diesels look poised for a comeback. With diesel engines able to achieve twenty-five to thirty percent better efficiency than gas engines of similar output, they definitely have a certain appeal. Combined with levels of refinement unheard of two decades ago and low-end torque that American drivers will love, diesels have huge potential. Huge. A whole range of fifty-state legal diesels will be introduced over the next two years that could lead to significant sales increases. Do you have your eye on one already?

[Source: CNN Money]


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It's Friday: is a cat bus green?

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Recently, Korean scientists created glow in the dark cats and scientists have created glow in the dark rabbits and pigs in the past. Glowing animals are novelties but GMO or Genetically Modified Organisms are actually quite common in our food supply and you often see these foods bannned because of concerns over safety. While not technically possible currently, the creation of genetically engineered vehicles is imagined in science fiction and fantasy (like the cat bus in the anime My Neighbor Totoro, which you can seen in the videos above and below the fold).

A living car would mean efficient production, repair, energy collection and disposal because living systems are much more efficient than traditional technologies. However, the impact on the eco-system is unknown and possibly detrimental. For example, a cat bus might escape, grow wild, change the eco-system and endanger the survival of some species. So, while it would be really cute and furry to ride in a giant cat bus, it's probably not a good idea to create these things until we have a much better idea of their impact on the environment.

[Source: YouTube]


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Videos: Switchbike transforms into a recumbent, the Hour drives a Velomobile

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The video above is the Switchbike, which looks like a regular bike but can transform into a recumbent, lay-back seating type of bike. There is only one and creator Ron de Jong is still looking for someone to bring this concept to production. Below the fold is a video of the CBC show's look at the VeloMobile, a covered, three-wheeled, human-powered vehicle. Hilary Doyle is really funny in the segment with odd observations like "this is a sex toy." Velomobiles are not new vehicles but they are getting a lot press attention recently with our new focus on green forms of transport.

[Source: YouTube]


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A look at Kei cars, those tiny Japanese cars

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Kei cars are a class of small cars in Japan which have a length limit of 3.4 meters, a width limit of 1.48 meters and height limit of 2 meters. The Kei car class was created (and given tax breaks) as a way to beef up the domestic auto industry after the second world war. According to the FAQ, mileage of 40-60 MPG, which you would expect from such a tiny car, is common for these vehicles.

Kei cars are popular in Japan today and, as you can see in the video below the fold, the cars are even popular in Canada where Japanoid Imports are allowed to import them after 15 years. They look like toys and are right hand drive but no one seems to mind. The equivalent car to American or Europe would be the micro or city cars.

I though the cars might be powered by a large metal wind-up key or possibly rolling it backwards storing energy in a spring. Turns out they use 660 cc engine or 47 KW electric engines in a variety of drive trains including gas, full electrics and hybrids.

[Source: New York Times, YouTube]


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It's Friday: radioactive headlights, nuclear powered cars

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The company MPK has created Litrospheres, a new material that's inexpensive and stays lit, with the power equivalent to a 20 watt incandescent bulb, for 12 years without any energy input. As you can see in the above photo, this could be the perfect solution for lighting vehicles, maybe even car head lights. The only problem? It's radioactive. Still, it's just "soft" radiation and the radioactive gases are in tiny sphere so it won't kill you.

This is not the first time the power of the atom was considered for transport. The Ford Nucleon concept had a small nuclear reactor with a easily interchangeable nuclear core. The Nucleon could travel 5,000 miles, much further than any existing battery today.

I think it's time we take a second look at nuclear power.

[Source: Treehugger via Gizmodo]


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It's Friday: New York to Japan in 42 minutes by gliding through the hollow Earth

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The video above describes the idea of a gravity train, which imagines drilling a hole through the Earth to travel to different locations on the surface of the Earth. The gravity train would mean travel times of about 42 minutes from any two locations on the Earth's surface. Of course, digging a hole to China is really hard. Just ask any third grader. But what if the Earth is hollow?

Below the fold is a video of a guy who actually thinks the Earth is hollow. If he is right and all of all of geological science is wrong, then we won't have to drill a very deep hole. Traveling from one point on the surface of the hollow Earth to the another would only require the creation of a giant glider, that would fall through the Earth. So, as soon at the hollow earth theory is proven (don't hold your breath), we should see proposals for transport systems soon after.

[Source: YouTube, Neatorama]


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Opec sees possible lower oil prices soon

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Earlier this year when we spoke to Dr. David Cole, one of the risks that he mentioned of relying solely on fuel economy standards as a way to reduce oil consumption was the threat of oil prices dropping. If nothing is done to help create demand for more efficient vehicles, lower oil prices could keep drivers in their thirstier vehicles. Today OPEC released a report where they estimate slower world economic growth in 2008 easing pressure on demand for crude oil. The organization expects oil demand growth to be steady at an extra 1.3 million barrels per day compared to the 2.1 million barrel per day increase projected by the International Energy Agency.

While this may not be enough to dramatically reduce oil prices, the possibility of that happening at some point remains if OPEC feels threatened. In order to minimize the impact of such volatility on consumers and carmakers, Dr. Cole recommended setting a floor price for crude oil of $40-45 per barrel. If crude prices drop below that level taxes would be imposed to maintain that minimum. Given the recent run up to the $100 per barrel range, the floor could probably be reasonably set at at $75-80 a barrel without imposing too much pain on consumers. The tax provisions that were stripped out the energy bill to ensure passage would have had some of this effect. Of the $21 billion in increases, $13 would have come from repealing tax breaks for oil companies. This would surely have been passed along to consumers which would have the desired effect of raising fuel prices and promoting demand for more efficient vehicles.

[Source: Reuters, via Winding Road]


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Zipcar-Flexcar merger update

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At the end of October, news came that the two biggest car sharing services in the U.S., Flexcar and Zipcar, would merge (and keeping the name Zipcar). In an email update to Flexcar members the other day, Flexcar included a few more details on the merger. Let's take a look at the timeline for the switch:

The first cities to transition over to Zipcar will be San Francisco and Columbus (Ohio). If you are in one of these cities, your welcome packet and new Zipcard should be arriving within a week. In January, Washington, DC, and many of the college towns will make the switch, followed by Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, and San Diego. The final group, Atlanta and Seattle, will transition over in February.

Flexcar says (with good reason) that this merger is a benefit to members, as there will be "more markets, more vehicles, and enhanced technology" available. If you are a Flexcar member and didn't get the email shout-out, you might want to contact Zipcar/Flexcar and make sure they have your correct information on file. Times like these are when errors can happen, and it's good to be proactive and avoid them.

[Source: Flexcar]


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Honda changes its mind on ethanol

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The Wall Street Journal reports Honda is considering ethanol and more natural gas-powered cars. In the past Honda has not been positive on ethanol. Here is Honda's U.S. sales chief John Mendel, speaking in August 2006, when asked about making flex fuel cars:

We're not against it. ... In the list of priorities right now, we haven't moved it up the list. It is less efficient from a fuel-economy standpoint.

Why is ethanol suddenly a priority a little over a year later? The ethanol glut currently in the market and the energy bill's inclusion of an even greater push for biofuels, makes adding a $100 worth of technology to your car a no-brainer.

The Wall Street Journal article also mentions a new affordable Honda hybrid in 2009, which seems to be the CR-Z. The only thing new seems to be that by "affordable," Honda means a hybrid premium under $2,000 which sounds a little higher than the $1,750 premium Honda has said before.

The Wall Street Journal also says Honda is considering diesel for larger cars to comply with new fuel efficiency requirement in the pending energy bill. They would not elaborate on which diesel technology is under consideration.

[Source: Wall Street Journal]


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More info on the Saab-Volvo plug-in hybrid partnership

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The Volvo ReCharge

The other day, we got a tip from Stefan N. about a story he found that discussed a new partnership between Saab and Volvo on developing new plug-in hybrids. I asked him to provide us with a more complete translation of the original article (it was in Swedish) and he then provided us his own English version. Thanks, Stefan!

I've put the full translation after the jump. Here are the highlights:

As we said, Volvo and Saab will put ten PHEVs on the road by 2009 to create a strong Swedish plug-in market, with vehicle testing to begin next year. Using vehicles from these two automakers, technical know-how from Vattenfall and lithium-ion batteries from ETC Battery, the plug-in hybrid project will have a budget of 62 million Swedish crowns (around $9.6 million U.S.) The vehicle models that will be used and other details are being kept quiet. Continue after the break for more.

AutoblogGreen reader Stefan N.'s translation (slightly cleaned up) of this article:

Saab and Volvo in large plug-in project

Saab and Volvo will begin a large scale project on plug-in cars. In the project the two car manufacturers will test 10 plug-in cars in traffic during the next year. "We will be testing larger Volvo models working as PHEV," says Klas Niste at Volvo Cars.

There is a lot of hush hush around this project. But in the corporations' request for subsidies from the energy department, the goal is clear. The corporations wants to create a Swedish market for plug-in hybrids. Or as they write themselves, "Demonstrate how a simple customer-attractive total solution for plug-in hybrids could look like".

Included in the project are Vattenfall and battery manufacturer ETC AB in Nol, Sweden. And what the different corporations are supplying is obvious. Volvo and Saab will provide ten PHEV cars. Vattenfall will provide technical solutions for loading the cars in a efficient way. ETC Battery will provide their lithium-ion batteries.

The project should run through 2008-2010 and the ten plug-in hybrids will be in traffic in 2009. Total budget is 62 million crowns, approx $10 million U.S. and the corporations has been seeking half the budget in subsidies. But to receive 50 percent financing it was demanded that more research and development was included in the project, according to the committee for the vehicle research, which gave clearance for a third of the total budget in subsidies.

-The next step will be that the four corporations return with an application where they assure that they pay for 65 percent of the finances, then it can proceed to the energy development committee, at the Energy department, which will decide on the subsidies surmounting 10 million crowns. I think a decision will be made in January-February and if they keep their promise of 65 percent of the financing they will get an OK, says Gunnar Lindstedt at Vinnova, secretary of the committee who recommends that the project should receive 20 million crowns in support. Both car manufacturers are keeping secret which models will be provided with PHEV functionality. So far the Volvo Cars has only shown the C30 as a PHEV. But, according to Klas Niste at Volvo Cars, there will be larger models included in the project. But what larger models has Volvo developed with plug-in technology? No comments, says Klas Niste.

Fact on the Plug-in project Project description in the application for money from Program council for vehicle research. "The application is regarding financial support to establish a common development and demonstration project for plug-in hybrids between SAAB Automobile, Volvo Car Corporation, Vattenfall AB and ETC AB. With the collaborations the parts want to strengthen the possibilities to create a future Swedish united, political and industrial, force for plug-in hybrids. Plug-in hybrids have a big potential to give a large contribution for Sweden to reach national and international climate goal and lessen the dependence on fossil fuel.

  • To construct and put ten PHEVs on the road by year 2009
  • To evaluate vehicles and infrastructure under real circumstances
  • To demonstrate what a simple customer-attractive total solution for plug-in hybrids would look like
  • To contribute to increased acceptance and insight on the role plug-in hybrids can have to reach national and international climate goals, increase the safety for energy supplies and promote the future of Swedish competition in trade and industry.
  • To contribute to research and development within the area through collaborations with, for example, SHC. The project is investigating the possibilities for SHC to be able to, from the data collected in this demonstration project, 1) evaluate batteries 2) analyze driving patterns 3) verify/calibrate simulationprograms for PHEV and HEV drivelines.
Financing. ... Written by: Kenneth Samuelsson


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Seat Ibiza Ecomotive deliveries start in March 2008, 99 g/km of CO2

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Several months ago we first reported on the new Seat Ibiza Ecomotive. Ecomotive is Seat's branding for their most efficient, lowest CO2-emitting models, similar to parent company Volkswagen's BlueMotion. The Ibiza is actually based on the platform of the Volkswagen Polo, with the Ecomotive model being the Spanish translation of the Polo Bluemotion. Like its German sibling, the Ibiza uses the 1.4L turbodiesel mated with improved aerodynamics and low rolling resistance tires. The bottom line is 62 mpg (US) and 99 g/km of CO2 emissions. That latter figure is low enough for British buyers to qualify for an exemption from London congestion charges. Deliveries start in Britain in March at a price of £10,495.

[Source: Channel 4]


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Ernie Rogers tweaks a VW Bug to get 65-70 mpg

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Think you need a plug-in hybrid to get over 65 mpg? Not if you're Ernie Rogers. He took a Volkswagen New Beetle, made a few tweaks (the obvious "wings" you can see on the back of the Bug) and now can get up to 65 mpg. According to Gas 2.0, sometimes that number gets as high at 76 mpg. These aren't constant results, but they are possible. On a long-distance (2,985 miles) trip from Salt Lake City to Anchorage in 2004, Ernie used just 52.7 gallons of diesel, which means he got 56.6 miles per gallon for the entire trip, and that's not an easy drive.

As stated on his website, Ernie's mission is straightforward: "To promote fuel conservation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by researching, developing and commercializing novel technologies that simply and cost-effectively improve the efficiency of cars and trucks." Some of those novelties are the additions to the rear end, which give the Beetle a better drag coefficient and improves fuel economy by 5 to 8 percent, as Ernie explains here. By adding "lower-rolling-resistance tires, low-friction engine oil, and use of a B5 biodiesel blend fuel," the Beetle's efficiency just keeps creeping up.

Aside from Ernie's Max MPG website, you can also check out Ernie's infrequently updated blog here.

[Source: Max MPG via Gas 2.0, h/t to Thunder]


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Mitsubishi joins Thailand's eco-car project, Toyota submits application

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Add Mitsubishi to the list of carmakers going to Thailand to make green cars. Mitsubishi will spend 20 billion yen (US$179 million) to produce some 100,000 cars cars a year with small engines, high MPG and low CO2 emissions (this means engines that are 1.3 liters or smaller, vehicles that get 20km per liter (56.6 MPG) and emit less than 192 grams of CO2 per mile (120 g/km)). We told you Toyota intended to submit the application November 30th and now, we have news Toyota has submitted their application as well to join the Thai eco-car program and will invest 17 billion yen.

The Thai government program involves giving tax breaks (a 50 percent cut in the excise tax, no income tax for 8 years and machinery imports duty free) to car makers to build eco-cars in their country, if they invest a significant amount in a plant. Thus far, the program has attracted Toyota, Honda, Suzuki, Nissan and even Ford is rumored to join the program. Honda has already invested 6,700 million baht (about $220 million US) in Thailand auto production facilities. Suzuki and Nissan are expected to invest 9,500 million baht ($313 million) and 5,550 million ($183 million). Thailand has also invited smaller car companies like Tata to make the air car in Thailand for a paltry $39M investment.

I guess this proves, finally, that big corporations like giant tax breaks.

[Source: Asia Pulse]


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Carbon Catalog update, now it's twice as good

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The Carbon Catalog website opened up back in September and since then has gotten about twice as informative, doubling the amount of data available on carbon offset organizations. The idea behind the Catalog is to provide a non-partisan, one-stop, ad-free resource for information on carbon offset projects and providers. As founder Gideon Greenspan recently wrote in to AutoblogGreen, "With little in the way of regulation and big discrepancies in pricing, carbon offsetting has met with a shaky start. We are hoping to help change that."

The Carbon Catalog now lists over 60 carbon offset providers and almost 200 carbon reduction projects from around the world. A lot of automakers (VW, Land Rover, and car rental agencies, for example) use carbon offsets to increase their green effect, and it doesn't hurt to keep Carbon Catalog in your bookmarks to see how the offset programs the automakers use rank.

Carbon Catalog contributors recently started up their own blog and not too long ago Greenspan was interviewed on Treehugger.

[Source: Carbon Catalog / Gideon Greenspan]


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VIDEO: It's the production BMW X6 and it's a diesel!

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At September's Frankfurt Motor Show, BMW showed off a concept version of their new X6 crossover. The X6 is expected to launch in 2009 and will be built at BMW's Spartanburg, South Carolina assembly plant alongside the X5 and X3. Aside from the coupe-like roof-line of the X6, the other distinguishing feature of the vehicle was the first BMW application of the Two-Mode hybrid system. At the 2007 Detroit show, BMW featured diesel engines prominently and it had been expected that the first U.S. applications would be in the the X5 and 5-series. A promotional video featuring the production X6 has now surfaced and, as the camera scans details of the new vehicle, it lingers prominently on the X-Drive 35d badge. Like the X5, the X6 will almost certainly be sold with the diesel overseas, The question is will US buyers get a chance to sample the X6 35d? How about the first diesel-Two-Mode-hybrid application? We can only hope. The video is after the jump.

[Source: YouTube, via CarScoop]


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NASCAR hears the word: green means go

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The "NASCAR dads" (one of the silly names the U.S. media has given to a supposed voting block) aren't known for their environmentalism, but that may change. Not too long ago, we wrote about the possibility that NASCAR will shift to ethanol and how Toyota was showing the Prius to the NASCAR crowd. The green message is now coming from the legendary NASCAR driver Robert Yates.

At the MIA's Energy Efficient Motorsport Seminar in Orlando earlier this month, Yates said that "it is time to get rid of the carburettor," which, as the MIA's press release put is, means "it is time American motorsport became more energy efficient."

And why not? There are plenty of ways to go fast without burning gasoline. Diesel trucks modified by Gale Banks, for example, break speed records, and Banks joined Yates in asking NASCAR to think green. You can read more in the MIA release after the break, but getting NASCAR dads to get turned on to the green car message is not going to be an easy task. Having Yates and Banks do the talking is one way to get it heard.

[Source: The MIA]


Retiring NASCAR legend Robert Yates surprised many with his comments at the MIA's Energy Efficient Motorsport Seminar, that formed part of the Advanced Engineering Technology Conference (AETC) in Orlando on December 5.

Robert, whose son Doug has assumed control of the family NASCAR team for next season, has carried the torch for 'maximum horsepower' throughout his career. Yet, as he put it, 'it is time to get rid of the carburettor' - ie it is time American motorsport became more energy efficient.

The spellbound 150 delegates also heard from acknowledged turbo-diesel engine expert Gale Banks, the builder of a 220mph drag/road racing truck, who asked quite simply, 'why does the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series not go turbo-diesel'?

Said the MIA's Chris Aylett, who chaired the seminar, "It was very rewarding to hear these renowned, died in the wool American racers preaching the green message. Our aim with these conferences is to help motorsport to become more relevant and therefore secure its place in the energy efficient world of the future. It is clear the tide is turning, but there is a long road still to travel."

The AETC conference ran immediately prior to the PRI Show, where the MIA was hosting 16 UK motorsport exhibitors and assisting a further 19 visiting UK companies. Said the MIA's Peter Coleman, "PRI remains by far the biggest motorsport show in the world and the feedback from our UK exhibitors was extremely positive. Some reported up to 750 visits to their stands and firm orders for as much as £600,000. Many managed to hold 100-150 meetings during the event and recorded dozens of serious contacts. Most felt the MIA offered very good value for money and there was much praise for our VIP Industry Reception, which was felt to have resulted in a host of useful contacts. Most of the companies are already planning a return to PRI next year."


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Continental/A123 battery pack not turning up till after the holidays

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Our friend Lyle over has a couple of new stories up that deserve a little clarification. For those unfamiliar with the site, it's content is pretty self explanatory from the title. There is usually a pretty lively discussion going on there regarding the most anticipated new car from Detroit in many a year. First up is the issue of the first battery pack delivery from Continental/A123. LG Chem/CPI have already delivered two packs to GM's battery lab. GM had hoped to receive the first A123 pack by the end of this month. It now looks like that won't be happening until early January.

Being a single company, coordination of these efforts is actually easier for LG Chem and CPI because they use common systems. As a relatively new partnership, Continental and A123 are still getting their ducks in a row so they are a little behind. At this point GM is expressing no concerns about A123 and feels everything is well in hand. One thing to recall is that pretty much everyone in the auto industry including suppliers shuts down for the week between Christmas and New Years so anything that doesn't get done by next Friday will just have to wait until January 2nd. Having worked on the supplier side of such prototype delivery programs for 17 years, I can say that this is not at all unusual.

The other subject Lyle posted about the charging ports. In a story on the Wired blog, Marty Jerome reported that the production Volt would have charging ports on both front fenders. Marty attended an episode of the Volt road show in San Francisco this week. GM spokesman Rob Peterson was also there and spoke briefly to Marty. According to Rob, the port on the passenger side is strictly ornamental and the intent for the production car is to only have a driver side port. Presumably Marty saw the passenger side copy and assumed it was a functional port since the cutaway renderings of the car show that one being functional. Unfortunately that is not the case.

[Source: GM-Volt, Wired, General Motors]


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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Daimler is the "most successful participant" in Shanghai Bibendum

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Daimler earned 23 "distinctions" with its Mercedes-Benz and smart brands at this year's Michelin Challenge Bibendum and, with that, is calling itself the "most successful participant" at the event. Daimler entered seven vehicles in the contest in a field of around 80. Some of the brand's highlights include:
  • The Mercedes-Benz E 300 Bluetec took ifirst place in the 170-kilometer production car rally and was noticed for it's acceleration, maneuverability and local pollutants.
  • The Mercedes-Benz A-Class F-Cell, the smart fortwo cdi, the Mercedes-Benz F 600 and the Mercedes-Benz E 200 NGT were all noted for having low CO2 emissions (tank-to-tire).
There's more after the jump.

[Source: Daimler AG]

Daimler Scores Overall Victory in This Year's Michelin Challenge Bibendum
Nov 20, 2007 15:11 ET

- A total of 23 distinctions for Mercedes-Benz and smart

- Top marks in environmental compatibility and performance

STUTTGART, Germany, Nov. 20 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- With a total of 23 distinctions, Daimler AG emerged as the most successful participant from this year's Michelin Challenge Bibendum in Shanghai. Seven cars from the Mercedes- Benz and smart brands faced up to the competition in the different disciplines of the globally most important event in the field of sustainable mobility. Some 80 participating cars were put to the test in the categories of acceleration, maneuverability, noise pollution, local pollutants, fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions (tank-to-tire). In addition, the Mercedes-Benz E 300 BLUETEC, which made its European debut only recently, finished in first place in the 170-kilometer rally for production cars. Distinctions for the best design went to the smart fortwo cdi in the production car category as well as to the Mercedes-Benz F 600 in the prototype car category.

The distinctions at a glance

-- Mercedes-Benz E 300 BLUETEC
Four distinctions overall (categories: acceleration, maneuverability and local pollutants, as well as winner in the production car rally)

-- Mercedes-Benz E 200 NGT
Four distinctions overall (categories: acceleration, local pollutants, fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions)

-- Mercedes-Benz A-Class F-Cell
Three distinctions each for the two participating cars (categories: local pollutants, fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions)

-- Mercedes-Benz F 600
Three distinctions overall (categories: local pollutants and CO2 emissions, as well as Design Award in the prototype car category)

-- smart fortwo mhd (micro hybrid drive)
Two distinctions overall (categories: noise pollution and local pollutants)

-- smart fortwo cdi, operating on synthetic BTL (SunDiesel biofuel)
Four distinctions overall (categories: noise pollution, fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions, as well as Design Award in the production car category)

This year, the Challenge Bibendum was staged in Shanghai from November 14 until 17. It is the world's most important forum for sustainable mobility. Its more than 3,000 participants include motor manufacturers, suppliers, energy companies, private and institutional research and development operations as well as some 450 international journalists. During this event, over 80 vehicles incorporating the latest technologies are tested under everyday operating conditions and evaluated in a large number of different categories.

Modular powertrain strategy for future mobility

The Daimler fleet at the ninth Michelin Challenge Bibendum reflected the company's powertrain strategy which is systematically geared to mastering the challenges which will arise in future private transport: ever more restricted access to cities, more stringent emission limits and ever scarcer resources versus the growing demand for individual mobility. This calls for a variety of drive concepts which are tailored to the individual applications.

The internal combustion engine will remain the Number One automotive drive system in the years to come - which is why Daimler is systematically working on its continuous improvement. The efficient and clean diesel engine, for instance, is particularly suitable for long-distance motoring. With the DIESOTTO, Mercedes-Benz demonstrates how the gasoline engine can be made even more economical in the future. When required, both diesel and gasoline engine can be combined with a hybrid module which additionally reduces fuel consumption and thus emissions in city traffic.

Alternative drive systems such as fuel cell or battery will complement the portfolio for specific applications - matched to the customer's requirements. Zero-emission vehicles powered by fuel cells or batteries are, for instance, a viable proposition for motoring in conurbations. On long distances, the fuel cell can in addition bring its advantages in terms of range to bear. Over and beyond this, Daimler promotes the development of high-grade and alternative fuels such as BTL (biomass-to-liquid), a second-generation biofuel.

Further information from Daimler is available on the internet at:


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Montana ZENN dealer Eco Auto talks to Electric Cars Are For Girls

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Readers who click through all of the links that we offer you in a day might remember Ron Gompertz, the owner of Eco Auto, Inc. He was mentioned in an article on MSNBC about eco-car dealers in the U.S. Lynne Mason over at Electric Cars Are For Girls has gotten hold of Gompertz for a lengthy Q&A on what it's like to sell EVs and other green cars in Bozeman, Montana. Gompertz sells ZENN, Miles, Evader scooters, SNUGG electric bicycles, and Smart cars, and will ship them to you no matter where you live in America. How does he feel about the two NEV makers on his list? Gompertz told Mason that, "For electric cars, we chose the Zenn and the Miles. They're both excellent quality electric cars that you can plug in like a cell phone, and both easily adaptable to Montana's 35mph NEV speed limit."

Read the whole thing over at the girly EV site.

[Source: Electric Cars Are For Girls]


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Porshce's lightweight technology eyed by VW and Audi

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The lightweight technology in Porsche's upcoming Panamera is being coveted by Volkswagen. Porsche Chief Designer Wolfgang Dürheimer told Automobilwoche that VW and Audi made it clear that they are interested in using the new materials for their own vehicles once Porsche became a significant VW shareholder. Since VW also has technologies that Porsche might want and the two have co-developed a hybrid transmission, working together on lightweight body panels, etc., is only natural, says Dürheimer. Porsche and VW will "increasingly work together in appropriate areas such as development to cut costs for all partners," he told the magazine.

[Source: Automotive News Europe]


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