Chevy Offers Van with Biodiesel, E85 Options

chevyvan1Getting close to the end of the year for automakers, which means plenty of them are trying to move what’s left of their 2014 inventory. If you’ve got a big bunch of kids and you’re in the market for some eco-friendly wheels, Chevrolet’s G-Series Express Passenger van might be just the thing to look at right now, with B20 biodiesel-compatible and E85 engine options available.

The powerful Duramax turbo-diesel V-8 is offered in some Express models, delivering best-in-class torque and horsepower. Known by its “LGH” engine code, it is rated at 260 horsepower (194 kW) and 525 lb.-ft. of torque (712 Nm).

Designed to meet more stringent government emissions requirements, the LGH Duramax employs a robust EGR cooling system, along with revised turbocharger tuning that helps enhance EGR performance. It also has a large-capacity selective catalytic reduction system. In fact, the engine features the latest in emission control technology, making it the cleanest Duramax engine ever produced. NOx emissions are controlled via a Selective Catalyst Reduction aftertreatment system that uses urea-based Diesel (Emission) Exhaust Fluid (DEF). The DEF is housed in a 5.83-gallon (20 L) tank and needs to be replenished about every 5,000 miles (8,000 km). Electrically heated lines feed the DEF to the emission system to ensure adequate delivery in cold weather…

A FlexFuel E85 version of the 5.3L V-8 is also available. It delivers the same horsepower and torque as its gasoline counterpart, but runs on E85 ethanol fuel or a mixture of E85 and gasoline. E85 contains 85 percent ethanol, a renewable fuel that is produced domestically.

As I said, this is definitely for a BIG family… or just anyone who needs to haul a bunch of people… as it comes in models able to carry up to 15 people and all their cargo.

DOE Funds EV Everywhere Grand Challenge

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced more than $55 million for 31 new projects to accelerate research and development of critical vehicle technologies that will improve fuel efficiency and reduce costs. These new projects are aimed at meeting the goals and objectives of the President’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge, as well as improvements in other vehicle technologies such as powertrains, fuel, tires and auxiliary systems.

Launched in 2012, the goal of the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge is by 2022 to make the U.S. automotive industry the first to produce plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) that are as affordable and convenient as today’s gasoline-powered vehicles. According to the DOE, in just the last several years, significant cost reductions and improvements in vehicle vehicle_targetsperformance have had a dramatic impact on the U.S. automotive market. PEV sales continue to grow – sales in the first six months of 2014 were over 30 percent higher than the same period in 2013 – and the cost of battery technology has come down by over 60 percent since 2009.

“Investments in the next generation of vehicle technologies will both strengthen our economy and lead to a more fuel efficient, clean energy future,” said Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Improving vehicle efficiency is instrumental to establishing a 21st century transportation sector that creates jobs as well as protects future generations from harmful carbon emissions.”

Through the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance with the DOE, the Department of the Army is contributing an additional $3.7 million in co-funding to support projects focused on beyond lithium ion battery technologies and reducing friction and wear in the powertrain. The Army will also test and evaluate fuel-efficient tires resulting from projects at its facilities in Warren, Michigan.

“Partnering with the Energy Department, we are accelerating the development and deployment of cutting-edge technologies that will strengthen our military, economy, and energy security,” said Dr. Paul Rogers, director the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.

The selections announced are under two major topic areas:

Critical Technologies to meet the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge: 19 projects are aimed at reducing the cost and improving the performance of key PEV components. This includes improving “beyond lithium ion technologies” that use higher energy storage materials, and developing and commercializing wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors that offer significant advances in performance while reducing the price of vehicle power electronics. Other projects focus on advancing lightweight materials research to help electric vehicles increase their range and reduce battery needs, and developing advanced climate control technologies that reduce energy used for passenger comfort and increase the drive range of plug-in electric vehicles.

Fuel Efficiency Improvements in Passenger Vehicles and Commercial Trucks: 12 projects are aimed at improvements including developing and demonstrating dual-fuel/bi-fuel technologies to reduce petroleum usage, accelerating growth in high-efficiency, cost-competitive engine and powertrain systems for light-duty vehicles, and accelerating the introduction of advanced lubricants and coatings to increase the efficiency of vehicles on the road today as well as future vehicles.

Future for Ethanol Blends

ace14-lambertyGetting higher blends of ethanol in the marketplace continues to be frustrating, even with the approval of E15 (15% ethanol).

The biggest problem continues to be roadblocks by oil companies, according to American Coalition for Ethanol Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty, who compared the sale and use of E15 to premium gasoline. “If you total (all the) vehicles that could use E15, we’re closing in on 15 million vehicles,” said Lamberty, which is 20% of the vehicles on the road. In contrast, about 12% of total cars are supposed to use premium gas, according to their owners manuals, but only 3% of the gas sold is premium. “Oil companies demand that marketers put premium in their stations … oil companies ban E15 sales,” said Lamberty. Ron Lamberty, ACE Senior VP

ace14-drakeFollowing Lamberty at the ACE annual conference this week, Dean Drake of the DeFour Group talked about the next chapter for ethanol blend fuels.

Drake, who spent 34 years with General Motors, says increasing ethanol blends will require significant cooperation between automakers, government, and the ethanol industry. “Neither oil nor ethanol by themselves are a perfect transportation fuel, largely because of octane,” said Drake. “Gasoline is the king when it comes to energy density, but it also has a fairly low octane rating. Ethanol, while having less energy, has a very high octane rating.”

He talked about the potential for what he calls “eco-performance” fuels. “What we’re talking about here is a fuel that would be widely available that would allow auto manufacturers to build advanced vehicles,” he said.

Learn more here: Dean Drake, DeFour Group

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Volkswagen Focuses on Ultra-Low-Carbon Mobility

Volkswagen of America, Inc. is continuing to roll out plans for its holistic approach to e-mobility. Beginning with the launch of the zero-tailpipe emissions 2015 e-Golf model later this year, Volkswagen will invest in carbon reduction projects to offset emissions created from e-Golf production, distribution and up to approximately 36,000 miles of driving. Volkswagen also named SunPower as the official solar energy partner power provider. Volkswagen believes they will be one of the first high-volume manufacturers to deliver a truly holistic approach to ultra-low-carbon mobility.

volkswagen-egolf-charging-620To help determine its carbon offset projects, Volkswagen has teamed with 3Degrees, a renewable energy and carbon offset services provider. By investing in carbon reduction programs, Volkswagen said they will offset the e-Golf’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that result from its production, distribution and from the estimated emissions produced from keeping the vehicle charged through the initial 36,000 miles of the vehicle’s life. Volkswagen of America chose to include carbon reduction efforts in California and in Texas with projects geared towards forestry conservation and landfill gas capture.

“Volkswagen feels it is important to look beyond the benefits of driving a vehicle without tailpipe emissions and to take a holistic approach to e-mobility,” said Oliver Schmidt, general manager, Environment and Engineering Office, Volkswagen Group of America. “We now have the ability to offer offsets that approximate the emissions created from production, distribution and the initial 36,000 miles of use.”

Volkswagen-supported projects included the Garcia River Conservation-Based Forest Management Project, located in Mendocino County, Calif., to protects and preserves a 24,000-acre native redwood forest, increasing carbon sequestration and storage, while also helping to restore the natural wildlife habitat. The company is also supporting the Big River and Salmon Creek Forests, located in Mendocino County, California, and the McKinney Landfill project, based at a closed landfill in McKinney, Texas.

“Volkswagen is showing leadership by including carbon offsets standard with this e-Golf electric vehicle,” added Steve McDougal, President of 3Degrees. “As more people choose low and no emission cars, Volkswagen is making it possible – and easy – to think comprehensively about the greenhouse gas emissions profile of a vehicle.”

Isuzu to Partner to Develop Algae Biodiesel

isuzu euglenaJapanese car maker Isuzu is partnering with a fellow Japanese company to develop a new kind of biodiesel from algae. This article from Bloomberg says Isuzu and Euglena Co. hope to establish the technology by 2018.

The companies want to develop a type of fuel that can be used on its own unlike existing kinds that need to be mixed with light oil, they said in a statement today.

“As long as we use light oil for diesel engines, emissions of carbon dioxide are inevitable,” Susumu Hosoi, president of Japanese truck maker Isuzu, said at a news conference. “It is important to diversify types of fuel” for resource-poor Japan, he said.

Euglena, a Japanese biotech venture, has been developing jet fuel from algae with airline operator ANA Holdings Inc., President Mitsuru Izumo said at the event.

E85, Biodiesel Vehicles Dominate EcoCAR 2

ecocar2Vehicles running on high blends of ethanol and biodiesel dominated the third year of EcoCAR 2 – a joint competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and General Motors (GM) that challenged 15 college teams to reduce fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and tailpipe emissions, while providing consumers with an acceptable vehicle to drive. A team from Ohio State University were the overall winners, engineering a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu with energy storage, electric drive and an E85 engine.

Over the course of three years, The Ohio State consistently met incremental goals that strengthened their position against the other university teams. Their series-parallel plug-in hybrid Malibu excelled at GM’s Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan, earlier this month, where it was put through a series of strenuous technical and safety tests similar to those used for real-world production vehicles.

“The EcoCAR 2 competition has been an incredible journey and learning experience for everyone at Ohio State, and that’s what really matters – winning the top spot is just a bonus,” said Katherine Bovee from Ohio State. “We are all excited to take everything we have learned into the workplace after graduation.”

The team’s unique design achieved 50 miles per gallon gas equivalent (MPGGE), while using 315 Watt-hours per mile (Wh/mi­) of electricity. The vehicle impressed the judges with stellar numbers and even lessened the amount of criteria emissions by half, compared to the base vehicle.

A B20 biodiesel and plug-in hybrid from the University of Washington took second place, while another E85 plug-in hybrid from Penn State University placed third.

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

Most Top Selling Cars Approved for E15

jagIf you’re in the market for a 2014 F Type X152 Jaguar and want to use 15% ethanol blended fuel in it, you are in luck. It is one of the 70% of the Top 20 best-selling cars approved by automakers to use E15 in 2014 models, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.

Maybe you would prefer a Mercedes C Class Coupe, or a Range Rover L405. They are approved for E15 as well, as are all Ford, GM and Volkswagen 2014 models.

See the complete list of makes and models 2012, 2013, 2014 approved for E15 use at ChooseEthanol.com.

New GM Trucks to Offer CNG, Biodiesel Options

2015silverado1General Motors is offering some pretty clean options in a couple of its 2015 pickup trucks. This story from NGTNews says the latest Chevy Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD pickup trucks will have compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel system options, as well as being able to run on B20 biodiesel.

“Because HD customers tailor their trucks to their specific needs, the 2015 Silverado and Sierra will offer a choice of three fuels – gasoline, diesel [including up to 20 percent biodiesel] or compressed natural gas,” said Jeff Luke, executive chief engineer for trucks, during the vehicles’ unveiling at the State Fair of Texas last week.

The standard engine in both the Silverado HD and Sierra HD is GM’s 6.0-liter Vortec V-8. Customers can select a bi-fuel version of this engine that uses either CNG or gasoline.

“And you can now get CNG capability in all three cab configurations – regular, double and crew cab – and on both 2500 and 3500 models,” Luke said.

The American-made trucks running on the American-made fuels will be able to do the heavy lifting truck customers demand, featuring a payload of nearly 7,400 lbs. and a conventional trailering rating of 19,600 pounds. The Duramax diesel engine, capable of running on B20, comes in the beefy 6.6-liter, 397 hp/765 lb.-ft. size.

Ford Explains Ethanol Program to ACE Members

ACE13-uniteandignite-DiCiccoKnowing what automobile makers what and need for fuel and how those companies are moving forward in their green energy programs is some good information for the recent attendees at last week’s American Coalition for Ethanol’s (ACE) “Unite and Ignite” conference in Des Moines, Iowa.

“We’re committed to supporting biofuels by providing a range of products that provide biofuel capability in line with consumer demand. And that is key,” explained Dominic DiCicco with Ford Motor Company during the conference session titled, Automaker Perspective: Outlook for Higher Ethanol Blends and Octane. He added that Ford is dedicated to green fuels, but there must be a payoff for Ford in the form of better car sales of the greener fuel vehicles. “Consumers need to recognize value in their vehicle purchases.”

He continued that limited market impact, or at least the perception of limited impact, of E85 is keeping consumers from moving toward the higher ethanol blend, and thus, keeping Ford from making more vehicles E85 compatible. He went on to explain how compression ratios and octane ratings affect an engine’s performance, and that is a big hurdle for ethanol producers and marketers to overcome. Dominic concluded that there needs to be better coordination between car makers, ethanol producers, government regulators and fuel retailers.

“We have to figure out where do we want to take this infrastructure and market moving forward,” Dominic said.

ACE members seem to be up to his challenge telling him, “You tell us what you need, and we will then partner with you to do that.”

Visit the ACE 26th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album.

Biodiesel-Ready Chevy Cruze Gets Even Cleaner

cruze-diesel1Chevy’s Cruze is already a pretty clean burner, as it takes the green fuel biodiesel. Now with the 2014 Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, the company says the advanced 2.0L engine with its variable-swirl intake system creates a “perfect storm” of air and fuel that helps enhance performance while reducing emissions.

“Variable swirl helps put the ‘clean’ in Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel. It increases the mixture-motion of air and fuel in low-speed, low-load driving, like when you’re doing the commuter crawl to work every day,” said Mike Siegrist, 2.0L turbo diesel assistant chief engineer. “It contributes to Cruze Diesel’s great fuel economy, and helps give drivers the most torque for the least amount of fuel at the lowest emission and noise levels.”

The all-new 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo DieselIn Cruze’s variable-swirl intake manifold, each cylinder has two separate intake ports, with one of them controlled by a valve. During variable swirl, each throttle valve varies how much it opens to create mixture-motion of air and fuel within each cylinder. General Motors’ Powertrain team devoted countless hours to calibrating the actuator to precisely open and close the valves for optimal performance.

This technology and other innovations has made the Cruze the leader in its segment in highway mileage, seeing a whopping 46 miles per gallon out on the highway and range of more than 700 miles per tank – better than any non-hybrid or gasoline-powered passenger car vehicle in America.

RFA Comments on Proposed Tier 3 Rule

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week regarding the proposed rule on Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards.

Kelly Davis, RFA Director of Regulatory Affairs, says they support the timely implementation of the Tier 3 standards especially the proposal to establish E15 as the certification test fuel beginning in 2017. “We really hope that these don’t get held up,” she said. “The E15 certification fuel is something the industry has been waiting on a long time, including the automotive industry, to more reflect what’s really in the marketplace.”

However, there are a few areas of concern for ethanol producers. “We will accept the 10 part per million sulfur limit but we don’t want to have to be in what they call the refinery program that requires the amount of testing and expertise for the batch testing facility,” Davis explained, since denaturants are the sole source of sulfur in denatured fuel ethanol (DFE).

Davis says RFA also believes that existing standards and specifications for “flex fuels” are sufficient and EPA should not subject these fuels to the same type of standards applicable to gasoline, since they are concerned that may discourage FFV production due to potential difficulty in meeting NMOG+NOx standard bin levels. RFA also commented EPA should provide equal RVP treatment for E10 and E15 and that E16-E50 blends should be treated as alternative fuels.

Kelly explains the more technical details of RFA’s comments on the proposed rule in this interview: Interview with RFA's Kelly Davis

Biodiesel-20 Ready Chevy Cruze Tops Hybrids in MPG

chevycruze1The latest Chevy to hit the streets, the new 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, capable of using B20 biodiesel blends, is being touted as getting better mileage that some hybrids out there. This company news release points out the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel gets an industry best EPA-estimated 46 MPG on the highway, better than any non-hybrid passenger car in America:

“We harnessed generations of diesel expertise to adapt our world-class global engine for the North American market,” said Gary Altman, chief engineer, Chevrolet Cruze Diesel. “The Cruze Diesel is the best diesel passenger car out there. Chevrolet is redefining the meaning of great fuel economy with this car.”

Cruze Diesel also beats its rivals in performance with a segment-leading estimated 148 horsepower (110 kW) and estimated 258 lb-ft of torque (350 Nm), and can go 0-60 in about 8.6 seconds. Its advanced 2.0L turbo-diesel engine has an overboost feature capable of increasing torque to an estimated 280 lb-ft (380 Nm) for short bursts of stronger acceleration when needed, such as entering freeway traffic.

While Chevy touts the Cruze Diesel as its cleanest diesel passenger car engine, generating 90 percent less Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) and particulate emissions when compared to previous-generation diesels. Just think how much cleaner it will be when you use clean-burning biodiesel in it.

Car Makers Take Stage at Ethanol Conference

nec13-car-panelRepresentatives from General Motors, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz talked “Future Fuels and Higher Octane” at the National Ethanol Conference last week in Las Vegas.

Kristy Moore, Vice President, Technical Services, Renewable Fuels Association moderated the panel and said the manufacturers are facing some real challenges.

“They are under significant pressure to create a vehicle that meets these regulatory requirements and meets a 54.5 fleet economy MPG by 2025,” adding that consumers don’t want to give up the size and convenience their SUVs are giving them now.

Coleman Jones, Biofuel Implementation Manager, General Motors, pointed to Brazil, where that country made the regulatory and tax changes in favor of E100 vehicles but faced some real challenges when oil prices fell dramatically, and consumers became worried whether they could get the high-blend fuels and use those vehicles. That’s when automakers recognized being flexible was the way to go. “In 2003, General Motors and Volkswagen introduced flex-fuel vehicles. These proved to be spectacularly successful in the marketplace. This is what the customer wanted.”

Matthew Kevnick, Senior Principal Engineer, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing N.A. talked about how his company will be incorporating E15 into its owners manuals. Honda North America’s Vice President of Government and Industry Relations, Ed Cohen, said they want electric and fuel cell vehicles. Stuart Johnson, Senior Manager, Volkswagen Group of America, told the gathering they are releasing a full line of gasoline engines and incorporating FFVs, while Bill Woebkenberg, U.S. Fuels Technical and Regulatory Affairs, Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc., said his company is interested in higher octane with higher level blends of ethanol.

Listen to the panel discussion here: NEC 13 Car Panel


2013 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album


2013 NEC Golf Tournament Photo Album