GM Fuel Cell Vehicles Surpasses 3 Million Miles

General Motors’ fleet of fuel cell vehicles has surpassed the three million mile mark running on hydrogen-power. According to GM, some individual vehicles have accumulated more than 120,000 miles and by using hydrogen, the fleet has avoided 157,894 gallons of gasoline consumption. This specially equipped fleet of Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles are part of GM hydrogen-powered Chevrolet EquinoxGM’s 119-vehicle Project Driveway program, which launched in 2007. Since then, more than 5,000 drivers have provided feedback on the functionality and drivability of fuel cell technology.

“Hydrogen fuel cell technology is an important part of GM’s advanced propulsion portfolio and we continue to make substantial progress in furthering this technology,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM’s global fuel cell engineering activities. “These vehicles have operated through seven full winters and a wide range of environmental conditions, proving that fuel cells can meet the demands of real-world drivers.”

GM has announced several fuel cell-related collaborations over the past few years. In July, 2013, GM and Honda announced a long-term collaboration to co-develop next-generation fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems, aiming for potential commercialization in the 2020 time frame. In addition, GM and Honda are working together with stakeholders to further advance refueling infrastructure, which is critical for the long-term viability and consumer acceptance of fuel cell vehicles.

Also last year GM opened a new state-of-the-art Fuel Cell Development Laboratory at GM Powertrain World Headquarters in Pontiac, Mich. In September, 2013 GM and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development & Engineering Center (TARDEC) jointly announced an expansion of their relationship for testing automotive fuel cell technology.

EPA Releases Tier 3 Emission Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its Tier 3 Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standard Program rules. The purpose of the program is to reduce impacts of motor vehicles on air quality and public health. In addition to lower the gasoline sulfur standard, the program is supposed to reduce both tailpipe and evaporative emissions from passenger cars, light-duty truck, medium-duty passenger vehicles and some heavy-duty vehicles. The proposed rule was released on May 31, 2013 and the final rule was signed on March 3, 2014.

EPA_LOGOIn a nutshell, what does this mean for the alternative fuel industry? It means that in some circumstances alternative fuels such as higher blends of ethanol could emerge as next generation automotive fuels. Tier 3 fuels are considered fuels that the automotive industry can “test” to meet the emission standards. The EPA’s rule finalizes an ethanol content of 10 percent (E10) for emissions test gasoline. However, the biofuels industry was lobbying for higher ethanol blends to be approved as test fuels such as E15 and E30. This did not come to pass.

So in other words, an automotive company can test “E15″ and find positive emission reduction results, but since it is not considered a legal “test fuel,” the fuel can’t be considered meeting (or exceeding) the EPA’s emission standards.

“It’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread; but at least there’s dough in the machine,” said Advanced Biofuels USA’s vehicle emissions expert, Robert Kozak. “We didn’t get everything that we wanted but two items are important. 1) The new requirement that vehicles be tested and certified using E10 (10% ethanol blend that is standard fuel across the country); and 2) The opportunity for manufacturers to request approval of another new certification fuel such as high octane/high ethanol E30 (30% ethanol blend).”

The next step, says Kozak, is to begin working with the EPA immediately to approve the next round of text fuels such as E30. Others in the industry agree that E15 and E30 should be legal test fuels but some believe the next step is to sue the EPA because limiting the higher ethanol blends as test fuels will limit the automakers research and deployment of more and better optimized vehicles, such as flex fuel vehicles, designed to capitalize on ethanol fuel blends.

Driving Through the Blend Wall

nec14-autos-panelWe’ve heard a lot about how higher ethanol blends might affect the producers of the green fuel and the impacts to consumers on the other end. But what about the viewpoint of those who have to build the vehicles on which these higher blends would run? Representatives from General Motors and Mercedes-Benz were among the experts on a panel at the National Ethanol Conference discussing “Driving Through the Blend Wall” from the automotive perspective.

Renewable Fuels Association vice president for technical services Kristy Moore moderated the panel which included Bill Woebkenberg, U.S. Fuels Technical and Regulatory Affairs, Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America; Coleman Jones, Biofuels Manager, General Motors; and Robert McCormick, Fuels Performance Platform Leader, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Woebkenberg pointed out that flex fuels are already here and should be attractive to consumers, considering the high-performance, high-octane features.

“It’s not a filler fuel; it’s a race fuel,” and he believes overcoming consumers’ misperceptions of poor performance is key. But he and his colleague from GM, said carmakers are worried less about the rhetoric that might be swirling around flex fuels and more about what the final rules coming out of Washington might say.

“Automakers are a regulated industry, and we pay a lot more attention to the regulations than we pay attention to the words, because these regulations are the deeds by which we have to live with our business and have to be distinguished from the words we hear,” said Jones.

McCormick offered some insight to their review of 43 studies about ethanol, which should give the rulemakers more information by which those automakers have to live. He said overall they found no failures of E15 in performance.

“The use of E15, in our opinion, is likely to have little impact on 2001 and newer model year vehicles,” he told the audience gathered.

McCormick concluded the panel saying there are paths forward with the higher ethanol blends in the market, for carmakers and consumers alike.

Check out the entire session here: NEC Auto Perspective Panel

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Engine Experts Talk Ethanol

nec14-engine-panelSpecialists in the areas of auto, motorcycle and small engines presented their experience with ethanol fuels in the real world during the National Ethanol Conference.

The panel was moderated by radio host and automotive expert Bobby Likis of Bobby Likis Car Clinic in Pensacola. “In 43 years, more than 200,000 cars have rolled through the doors of my automotive service shop,” said Likis. “Not one of my customers has lost or damaged an engine due to ethanol.” Comments by Bobby Likis, radio host and automotive expert

The panel featured:
Dr. Andrew Randolph, Technical Director with Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines – Comments by Andrew Randolf, Earnhardt Childress
Brian West, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Deputy Director Fuels, Engines and Emissions Research – Comments by Brian West, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bryan O’Neill, Auto Service Consultant and Vice President of the Iron Order International Motorcycle Club, Pensacola Chapter – Comments by Bryan O'Neill, motorcycle expert and advocate

O’Neill’s related that his own ride – a 2012 Victory Cross Country that “runs like a scalded dog” – has run on only E10 “from day one.” Regarding the use of E15, O’Neill made it clear that the bikers he knows are well aware that it is illegal to use that in their rides and they are capable of reading labels at the pump. “We’re bikers and I admit we’ve been known to do some dumb things, but we’re not stupid,” he said. “We know what to pump. It’s that simple.”

O’Neill is the star of a Bobby Likis Car Clinic/RFA video on motorcycles and ethanol.

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC Releases Environmental Ratings has released its 17th annual 2014 Environmental Scores with the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive topping the list with the hightest-ever score of 59 out of 100. The vehicle will be rolled out nationally this year. The GreenerCars initiative is part of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

2011_smart_fortwo-electric-drive-cabriolet_Softtop_RoadsterThe next two “greenest” cars were the Toyota Prius C and the Nissan Leaf. Toyota’s entire family of Priuses performed exceedingly well, with the regular Prius and the Prius plug-in hybrid nabbing spots #4 and #7. Other top scorers for 2014 include the Honda Civic Hybrid (#5), Lexus CT 200H (#6), Honda Insight (#10), and the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid (#12). Making its return to the “Greenest” list after an absence last year is the Honda Civic Natural Gas vehicle (#9).

“We’ve had such an influx of hybrid and electric vehicles in recent years that the race to earn a spot on the “Greenest” list is more competitive than ever, particularly for conventional vehicles. It’s encouraging to see automakers investing heavily in eco-savvy vehicles on the whole,” said ACEEE lead vehicle analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan.

New to the list this year is the Mitsubishi Mirage, Mitsubishi’s new subcompact offering for the American market. The gasoline vehicle takes the 8th spot on the list. The only other non-hybrid gasoline model to make the list this year is the Smart ForTwo which placed at #11.

“From the rise in the number of efficient vehicles in car-sharing and car rental fleets to the myriad advanced technology vehicle choices available to consumers, the leading edge of the U.S. auto market is evolving rapidly,” said Steve Nadel, ACEEE’s Executive Director.

In addition to the “greenest” cars, the list also includes “greener choices” and the “meanest” cars as well. The dirtiest vehicle for 2014 is the Class 2B Ram 2500 followed by the Bugatti Veyron and the Ford E-150 FFV Wagon.

And the Experts Keep On A Comin

The 8th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Trade Show is just around the corner (January 28, 2014) and the list of experts keeps on a comin. The event’s host, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), has announced a new panel, “The Future Engine Technology Enhanced by Ethanol and Biodiesel” that will feature two experts on future engine designs and auto manufacturing. Registration is still open.

IowaRFAlogoThe panel includes Thomas Apostolos, who is President of Ricardo, Inc., a world-leading engine design, technology, and innovation company. Joining Apostolos will be Reginald Modlin, Director of Regulatory Affairs for Chrysler Group LLC, a leading automobile manufacturer.

“Summit attendees will hear how higher blends of renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel will shape the engine designs of the future with the potential to maximize performance while lowering environmental impacts,” said IRFA Managing Director Lucy Norton. “This panel will be an excellent compliment to previously announced speakers including Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and representatives of the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Renewable Energy Lab, and Love’s Travel Stops.”

Attend the 2014 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Trade Show and enter to win a new John Deere Flex-Fuel Lawnmower capable of running on E85. You must be a registered attendee and submit a “Don’t Mess With the RFS” comment to the EPA at the Summit and be present to win.

Chrysler & NextEnergy Explore Battery Power

Chrysler Group has partnered with NextEnergy, a Detroit-based non-profit energy-technology and business accelerator, to evaluate vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology using four all-electric minivans. If the EVs prove to be viable storehouses of electricity, they could provide energy savings by sending surplus power to the grid.

“This program is indicative of our broad-based approach to powertrain development,” said Bob Lee, Chrysler Group Vice President and Head of Engine and Electrified Propulsion Engineering. “Advanced internal-combustion technology remains at the core of our efforts, but the present regulatory climate we live in compels all auto makers to explore V2G_minivan__midalternatives such as electrification. We’re choosing to go the extra mile by also exploring how electric vehicles might mesh with our energy infrastructure.”

The battery-powered minivans are connected to a charging module that, thanks to unique NextEnergy technology, can simulate any electrical grid in the world.

“This, when coupled with Chrysler Group’s powertrain expertise, has enabled leading-edge business-model and technology demonstrations,” said NextEnergy President and CEO Jean Redfield.

Among the scenarios under study is reduced reliance on “spinning reserves” – the expensive practice of having huge generators at the ready to balance spikes in energy demand. According to Chrysler, if EVs were linked together in sufficient numbers and their combined surplus power was sold to utility companies, they could conceivably offset demand surges. The expectation is that tapping such a reservoir would cut costs for utility companies, while also putting money into the pockets of EV owners. Continue reading

MiEV Evolution II Races to Place

The 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) took place recently and the new MiEV Evolution II race car took second and third in class in the electric vehicle (EV) division. The EV was developed by Mitsubishi Motors North American and was driven by two-time Daka Rally winner Hiroshi Masuoka and six-time PPIHC motorcycle champion Greg Tracy.

The race, held on June 30th, commenced in the morning under a calm, clear blue sky; however these ideal weather conditions took a turn for the worse and a downpour of rain hit the track just before the pair of MiEV Evolution II race cars began their runs at the time trial event.

MITSUBISHI MOTOR SALES OF AMERICA, INC. 2013 PIKES PEAK INT. HILL CLIMBBoth Tracy and Masuoka raced in extremely difficult wet conditions, along with limited visibility in the higher sections of the race course, resulting in Masuoka recording a time of 10 minutes, 21.866 seconds, with Tracy following closely behind at 10 minutes, 23.649 seconds. Despite the challenging conditions, the pair broke last year’s second place time in the EV Division of 10 minutes, 30.850, achieved in 2012 by Masuoka piloting the Mitsubishi i-MiEV Evolution on a dry road in optimal conditions.

Finishing in second-place in the Electric Division for a second year in a row, team captain and driver Masuoka commented on the race, “Just before the start, since the road became completely wet, we had to swap the tires from slicks to grooved. Even with the grooved tires, the pavement was really wet and the car was sliding around quite a bit. It really was treacherous conditions to drive in, but both cars were able to make it to the top safely. Since we were aiming for the win, the result is quite disappointing. While due to this rain, it is easy to blame the result on our luck, we must also realize our weakness and continue to make improvements for the future.”

A completely all-new design from the ground up, the MiEV Evolution II features a unique quad-motor (two front/two rear) drivetrain, next-generation lithium-ion batteries by Lithium Energy Japan (LEJ), an optimized all-electric version of Mitsubishi’s exceptionally capable Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel drive system and wind tunnel-derived, aerodynamically-enhanced carbon-fiber bodywork.

College Teams to Race with SunPower

Nine university teams will race in the 2013 Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) with solar vehicles powered by SunPower’s Maxeon solar cells. Various FSGP race events will be held from June 24 – 29, 2013 and are open and free to the public.

According to SunPower, the all-back contact solar cells collect and convert more sunlight into energy when compared to cells with contacts on the front. This all-back contact Iowa-State FSGP Teamallows SunPower cells to generate maximum solar power when applied to limited surface areas found on some rooftops, as well as on the hoods of FSGP racecars.

“SunPower’s solar technology continues to be the choice for innovative projects that blaze new trails for renewable energy solutions,” said SunPower CEO Tom Werner. “SunPower cells fueling the Formula Sun Grand Prix cars, and the Solar Impulse airplane that recently journeyed above Texas, utilize the same solar technology that power residential rooftops, commercial applications and power plant installations around the globe.”

Of 12 university teams that registered to compete in this year’s FSGP, nine chose to build and race their solar vehicles with high efficiency SunPower Maxeon solar cells including: Illinois State University; Iowa State University; Missouri University of Science and Technology; Northwestern University; Oregon State University; Principia College; University of Texas at Austin; University of Waterloo; and Western Michigan University.

The FSGP is an annual, three-day race where university teams from around the world challenge their solar vehicles to successfully handle curves, braking and acceleration on a grand prix-style course. This year’s event will be held in Austin, Texas at the Circuit of The Americas™ on an official Formula 1® racetrack for the first time in FSGP history. The University of Texas at Austin Solar Vehicles Team from the Cockrell School of Engineering will act as local university host.

SunPower is an official sponsor and employees will be onsite to assist with race-day logistics.


My Hybrid Rocks!

Joannas C-Max HybridI broke down a few weeks ago and bought a new car. After test driving and researching all the options out there, I landed on the new Ford C-Max Hybrid. The estimated miles per gallon is 47 both highway and in town and I was getting such great gas mileage that after the first two weeks I thought maybe the gas gauge was broken (it was not). I opted to forgo the “plug-in” option because, frankly, I have no where to plug in (hint for more mid-sized cities to start adopting charging stations). Oh, and I liked driving the C-Max better than the Volt and the Prius and my hybrid beat out the Prius in all the biggie car publications.

I was going to call Brad Harrison with Charles Gabus Ford who spent hours having to listen to me talk about the pros and cons of all sorts of vehicles (flex-fuel, electric vehicles, fuel cell, etc.) but I thought he might not realize I was joking. Although he was a great sport Charles Gabus Ford Teamabout selling a car to someone who writes about alternative vehicles (and drives them) every day. Thanks Brad.

The car is fun to drive, has great get up and go, is quiet, so quiet in fact when you are idling you think you’ve stalled, and is approved for the use of E15, 15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline, which I will begin using once it makes its way to my hometown. It’s sporty and I’ve found that when I park places (especially at the gas station) people ask me how I like my car. My answer: My hybrid rocks! (see below for confirmation).

I took my hybrid on its first road trip to the Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis, Missouri MyHybridRocksand when I finally filled her up, had 500 miles for the tank. Take that big oil! I see why they are constantly attacking the biofuels industry – with better fuel economy, more fuel choices at the pump mixed with hybrids and all electric vehicles, they are going to have to strategize about how to diversify their companies in the new green age. Or how about this – the renewable energy companies could take their place and some day we’ll be telling our kids about the days when Big Oil was king. Bye-bye- king, the queen is taking the throne.

But I digress as I often do when I’m excited. So now that I am a hybrid owner, I feel I’m entitled to tell Ford (and the other autos) how to make my car just a bit better. Please make your next hybrid E85 compatible (85 percent ethanol/15 percent gasoline). Then we’d really be driving!

BMW Boasts Largest Hydrogen Fuel Cell Fleet

BMW Manufacturing has expanded its use of Plug Power hydrogen fuel cells at its Spartanburg, South facility to power all material handle trucks and forklifts. The company now has 272 units in its fleet, making it the largest such fleet in North America. In 2010, BMW installed a storage and distribution area for BMW's Plug Power GenDrive hydrogen systemhydrogen supplied by Linde Industrial Gases near its 4-million square foot production facility and then equipped 100 forklift trucks and pallet jacks in its X3 assembly hall with Plug Power’s GenDrive hydrogen fuel cell system.

“BMW’s ongoing commitment to clean production is evident in our recent expansion of our hydrogen fuel cell program,” said Duncan Seaman, BMW Group, Head of Market Operations, Americas. “We appreciate Linde’s partnership in supporting the expansion, making our entire operation more sustainable.”

GenDrive hydrogen fuel cells are an alternative to lead-acid batteries in the $20 billion global material handling market. According to Plug Power, use of the fuel cells lowers operational costs, produces zero emissions and improves reliability. Fuel cell usage also eliminates the need for large battery storage and charging rooms, freeing up valuable production space and removing any lead and sulfuric acid contamination from the work environment. Since battery charging is no longer required, total electricity demand is reduced and the fees associated with battery recycling and disposal are eliminated.

“The expansion of BMW’s hydrogen fuel cell material handling fleet in Spartanburg makes BMW one of the world’s largest users of hydrogen fuel cells at a single site,” added Andy Marsh, CEO at Plug Power. “This milestone is significant because it demonstrates that a GenDrive solution can profitably scale to bring enormous benefits to the organization including increased productivity, cost savings and carbon-footprint reductions.”

SEAD Searches for Most Energy Efficient EV

The Clean Energy Ministerial’s Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) initiative is in search of the most energy efficient electric motor in the world. The SEAD Global Efficiency Medal competition will recognize the most energy efficient motors on the market as well as new technologies that have the potential to greatly reduce energy use in the future.

SEAD Global Efficiency MedalAccording to the International Energy Agency, electric motors account for over 40 percent of world electricity consumption. They are by far the largest consumers of end-use electricity and are responsible for more than 6,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually–equivalent to the yearly emissions of more than 1 billion cars.

“Electric motors are in everything from small appliances to large industrial equipment,” said Kavita Ravi, SEAD initiative lead. “The competition will allow manufacturers to distinguish themselves as producers of the most energy-efficient products and help consumers save energy and cut back on electric bills.”

By recognizing and promoting the world’s most energy-efficient electric motors, the SEAD competition will help buyers make informed purchasing decisions that can lower energy bills and spur greater innovation among manufacturers. SEAD Global Efficiency Medals will be awarded in four regions:  Australia, India, North America and Europe. Winners will be announced September 1, 2014.

Ethanol Supporters Disappointed in Florida Bill

A bill repealing Florida’s Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) was signed into law Friday by Gov. Rick Scott to the disappointment of many ethanol and other biofuel supporters.

deb-mayfieldState Representative Debbie Mayfield of Vero Beach, led the opposition to the repeal of the requirement which was passed in 2008 when her late husband Stan Mayfield chairman of the Florida House energy committee. “We said that we were going to be a renewable energy state,” said Mayfield.

The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) supported the repeal, but long-time member and strong ethanol supporter Bobby Likis says they did not speak for him. “The automotive industry, businesses and consumers SEMA is purported to serve will regret this action, which is not based on facts but rather on misinformation, myths and interests spear-headed by a few,” said the automotive technician and talk show host, adding that those supporting the repeal ignored the interests “of the consumer, advancing technology, independence from foreign oil and American business development and financial success.”

“As this country struggles to comeback from recent economic hardships, it is sad to watch a state legislate away good paying jobs in the renewable energy sector and the abundant economic opportunities that come along with them,” said Bob Dinneen of the Renewable Fuels Association and Tom Buis with Growth Energy in a joint statement, noting that the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) supersedes any state law. “This toothless legislation might win favor with Big Oil supporters, but it has closed the door on job creation by the biofuels industry and sent investors packing for more visionary states. This is most definitely a lost opportunity for people of Florida.”

New Solutions for Electric Vehicles

Volvo Electric Road Test1As gas prices continue to jump up at the pump, the future of electric vehicles is looking bright. The Volvo Group is working on improving electric vehicles and looking for more solutions for vehicles to operate on renewable energy. The company has proposed a future where trucks and buses and continuously supplied with electric power but without batteries. Rather, power lines are built into the surface of the road.

Mats Alaküla, Volvo Group’s expert on electric vehicles and professor at Lund University notes that a challenge is supplying a vehicle with electrical power when needed. “In city traffic, there are currently various solutions and we are researching many others. We have field tests in progress where our plug-in buses are equipped with a battery that can be charged quickly when the buses are at bus stops.”

However, Alaküla notes that using batteries to power trucks and buses traveling long distance will not work. These vehicles stop infrequently and would need so many batteries there would be no room for loads or passengers. This is why the company is searching for a solution to constantly provide power to a truck or bus from an external source through its participation in a large Swedish research project with the support of the Swedish Energy Agency.

The method currently being developed and tested by the Volvo Group, together with Alstom, entails two power lines built into the surface of the road along the entire length of the road. A current collector in contact with the power lines will be located on the truck. With this method, electric vehicles could be continuously supplied with power without carrying large batteries explains Alaküla. The power line will be built in sections and one section is only live as the truck passes.” Continue reading

Florida Bill Would Repeal Ethanol Requirement

hearing-bobbyA bill has been introduced in the Florida legislature that would repeal the state’s Renewable Fuel Standard Act.

Currently, the Florida law requires that all gasoline sold or offered for sale by a terminal supplier, importer, blender or wholesaler in Florida contain 9-10 percent ethanol, or other alternative fuel, by volume. Legislation to repeal that requirement was considered by the Florida House Regulatory Affairs Committee on Friday and Pensacola automotive technician and radio host Bobby Likis was there.

However, Likis was only was able to say that he opposed the bill before the hearing had to be ended for lawmakers to go to the floor. “I’ve answered over 100,000 questions live on air, many of which have addressed the ethanol issue with regard to engine damage,” said Likis, host of the syndicated Car Clinic Network. “I strongly oppose the bill.”

Likis, who is a strong advocate for ethanol, says he is prepared to do what he can to prevent the legislation from passing in Florida.

fl-hearing-1Also testifying against the bill was Patrick Ahlm with Alginol Biofuels, an industrial biotechnology company working towards the production of fuel from algae headquartered in southwest Florida. “We’ve raised $190 million since we were founded in 2006 by Florida residents,” said Ahlm. “Our focus right now is on operating our pilot scale facility in Ft. Myers.”

Alhm said they are looking toward a commercial facility. “Our technology does not require farm land, food crops or fresh water,” he said. “We respect the issues around mandates and traditional ethanol but when we go into the investment community, this sends a very bad signal about continuing to grow in Florida.”

Because the committee ran out of time, the bill sponsored in the Florida House by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach will be carried over to the next meeting.

Listen to the ethanol bill portion of Friday’s hearing: Florida hearing