Detroit Falls Asleep At The Wheel
David Lazarus thinks US carmakers missing important trend with hybrid-electric vehicles.
Source: SF Chronicle [Feb 06, 2002]
President Bush is pushing for a new breed of cars that run on hydrogen fuel cells, even though the technology for such vehicles does not yet exist and, until it does, the nation will remain captive to Mideast oil interests.
But here's the real kicker: Researchers at the University of California at Davis have already devised a new and improved hybrid vehicle that runs on both gas and electricity -- and nearly doubles average mileage.
However, Detroit so far has rejected the concept, largely for reasons of economic self-interest, so the UC Davis team has been forced to pitch its design overseas. The Japanese and South Koreans are already expressing interest.
"It's really unfortunate," said Andrew Frank, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of the school's Hybrid Electric Vehicle Center. "But I either have to give away the store or let my students starve. I have very little choice."
Having taken decades to regain a semblance of the domination it ceded to Japan in the 1970s, the United States' automobile industry is once again in danger of missing out on a make-or-break trend. And we have only ourselves to blame.
"You could say it's a combination of arrogance and stupidity, as well as our short-term thinking," Frank said. "All we care about is keeping shareholders happy. We don't see the bigger picture, the way they do in Japan."
The Japanese are leading the way, with a hybrid vehicle that runs on gas but also generates electricity, for increased fuel efficiency. Toyota and Honda introduced such hybrids in 1997. Ford plans to bring out a Japanese- style hybrid next year.
What the UC Davis researchers came up with is what they call a "plug-in hybrid." It's different from the Japanese approach, in that the plug-in runs on either gas or electricity, depending on driving conditions.
For city driving, the plug-in would run solely on electricity, producing no emissions whatsoever and offering a range of about 60 miles.
After 60 miles, or if the vehicle tops 60 mph on a highway, the plug-in's gas power kicks in, and it runs like an ordinary car.
A recent study by the Electric Power Research Institute, a Palo Alto think tank, found that plug-in hybrids would cost consumers only about 20 percent more than a conventional, gas-powered vehicle.
The study also determined that plug-in hybrids would cut daily vehicle emissions in half and slash petroleum consumption by more than 75 percent.
So why hasn't Detroit embraced this nifty new technology?
Frank said he contacted General Motors in 1996 and offered to equip one of the automaker's electricity-only vehicles with hybrid capabilities.
GM took him up on the offer and received the converted prototype from UC Davis a year later. Frank said he had high hopes that GM would recognize the benefits of the hybrid system and bring out a new line of high-tech, super- efficient vehicles.
It didn't happen. Time passed and time passed, and eventually, Frank called up GM last fall and asked what was going on. The automaker, he said, had placed the hybrid in storage and was preparing to have it destroyed.
"Basically, the company says that customers won't pay more for better fuel economy," Frank said. "I think they just don't want to make changes in their factories."
Joseph Lawrence, a GM spokesman, told me that the plug-in hybrid was rejected because "the results of the project never met our expectations."
Whatever the reason, GM sets the tone in Detroit, and its abandonment of plug-in hybrids deterred Ford and DaimlerChrysler from pursuing the technology (although Ford may be having second thoughts).
Detroit needs to expand its thinking, said Bob Graham, who oversees transportation issues at the Electric Power Research Institute.
He said it could take 20 years to develop the fuel cells Bush envisions. Plug-in hybrids, Graham argued, could be an "interim technology" that would address the United States' environmental and oil-dependency issues until fuel cells become a viable alternative.
"U.S. automakers are in danger of missing out on a very important trend," he said.
The fear among American researchers is that the Japanese and South Koreans will bring out plug-in hybrids in coming years and target them at the Asian and European markets, where gas is considerably more expensive than in the United States.
Once they become entrenched overseas, the next beachhead, of course, would be the United States. And by then, U.S. automakers would be so far behind that the cost of trying to compete would be prohibitive.
UC Davis' Frank is trying to be optimistic, even though his main source of funding, the U.S. Department of Defense, dried up as soon as the Bush administration took over. "I've been going around the world making presentations," he said. "My suspicion is that Toyota and Honda already have something cooking in their back rooms."
How often must this happen before we learn our lesson?
E-mail David Lazarus at email@example.com.
Indian EV Makers Anticipate Vast Market
EVs seen as important in helping reduce air pollution in Indian cities.
Source: India News Service [Jun 27, 2002]
New Delhi: From motorcycles that run on hydrogen to mini buses and two-wheelers powered by electric batteries, vehicles operating on environment-friendly fuels are set to clean up the air in India's over-polluted cities.
Anticipating a vast market over the next few years, automakers like Mahindra Eco Mobiles Ltd., Scooters Indian Ltd., Ashok Leyland and state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL) are entering the niche area of electric and alternative fuel vehicles.
Companies like TVS and Eicher are waiting for more government incentives before they too plunge in.
Bangalore-based Reva Electric Car Co. has already hit the roads with Reva, a compact two-seater sleek electric car that has received a good response.
Some of the improved versions of electric vehicles by Scooters Indian and Mahindra will soon be plying on the roads of Indian capital with the authorities giving the go-ahead for electric three-wheelers.
Within six months, three fuel cell buses, costing around $1 million each, are expected to join the capital's public transport fleet under a project jointly funded by the U.N. Development Programme and the Japan Economic Foundation.
Three more fuel-cell 100-seater buses, similar to those operating in the U.S. and Japan, will join New Delhi's transport fleet later.
ECD photovoltaic news July 2, 2002
Automakers Critical of New California Emission Bill
Governor Gray Davis said likely to sign bill which would limit CO2 emissions from vehicles.
Source: AP [Jul 05, 2002]
Industry analysts say the California law will set a national trend.
Because more than 2 million cars were sold in California last year, whatever transpires there ripples through the entire industry, said Jim Motavalli, editor of the Norwalk, Conn.-based E: The Environmental Magazine.
Manufacturers can't not sell cars there, so they have to go by California's standards,'' he said.
Whatever California does, they (other states) do, too.''
That's one reason the industry fights so hard in California, said Kris Kiser, vice president of state affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. The industry employs 463,000 people in the state and sells $100 billion worth of cars a year, he said.
Unlike other automotive-centered states, California's industry centers more on research and design, and lack manufacturing facilities that are dominated by strong labor unions. That, Kiser said, means California is an easier target for environmental and consumer legislation the automotive industry might be opposed to.
RTC to Educate People About AFV Benefits
RTC will house an Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Showroom, an AFV Rental/Demonstration Operation, an AFV Servicing Center, an AFV Fueling Station and Alternative Fuels Education Center.
Source: Business Wire [Jul 03, 2002]
Construction is now underway on the nation's first Regional Transportation Center (RTC), a $17.9 million, 60,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility designed to educate people about the benefits of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), according to Steve Bimson, managing director of the San Diego Environmental Foundation.
Located on 1.4 acres at the corner of El Cajon Blvd. and Interstate 15, the RTC is designed to serve as a gateway project in the City Heights Redevelopment Area. Scheduled to open in May 2003, the RTC will house an Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Showroom, an AFV Rental/Demonstration Operation, an AFV Servicing Center, an AFV Fueling Station and Alternative Fuels Education Center.
-- the nation's first Regional Transportation Center located in San Diego, a community that has taken a leadership role in the effort to educate our youth, and the public at large about innovative ways to improve our environment," said Bimson. "When complete, the RTC will be the first of its kind to focus on showcasing the benefits of alternative fuels and the viability of alternative fuel vehicles." "The RTC's innovative educational program will offer area students important insights into the causes and impacts of air pollution," said State Senator Dede Alpert (D-San Diego). "As young people learn about the contributors to air pollution and the value of clean air, they will see more clearly the relationship between their behaviors and their impacts on air quality."
A major tenant of the RTC, the San Diego Environmental Foundation, will operate the AFV Education Center within the facility. Funded in part by a $1.4 million donation from Ford Motor Company, the RTC Education Center is designed to educate middle and high school students about innovative technologies which will improve the environment. The Center's curriculum, developed in partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education, will focus its lessons on alternative fuels (compress natural gas (CNG), liquefied propane gas (LPG), ethanol (E-85), electricity, low-sulfur diesel and biodiesel) and the vehicles that they power. The Education Center will be equipped with the latest multimedia teaching tools. Students will be wowed by an animated presentation projected in multimedia style theater, guided through the Center with a digital visual tour device, and will have fun with interactive computer kiosk demonstrations. It is expected that 20,000 students from the San Diego region will visit the Center each year.
The RTC's signature structure will be the AFV Showroom. This facility will be a stunning example of modern, state-of-the-art automobile showroom design -- efficient, comfortable and high-tech, yet conducive to the fine art of commerce. The showroom floor will showcase Ford Motor Co.'s complete line of AFV's, alongside conventionally powered vehicles. The showroom will be managed and operated by Pearson Ford, a family-owned Ford dealership, which has been in continuous operation for more than 60 years.
Complementing the showroom, will be the AFV Rental/Demo Operation which will expose the general motoring public to the advantages of new fuel technologies by allowing them to drive and experience the new vehicles.
The AFV Service Center will provide both AFV and conventional automobile owners with a convenient location for vehicle repairs. The Service Center will have multiple service bays equipped to service various types of AFVs, both from Ford and other manufacturers.
The AFV Fueling Station is designed to efficiently accommodate the fueling requirements of all AFVs. Six types of alternative fuels will be available at the AFV Fueling Stations, including compress natural gas (CNG), liquefied propane gas (LPG), ethanol (E-85), electricity, low-sulfur diesel and biodiesel. Gasoline will also be available to fuel bi-fuel, flex-fuel and conventional automobiles.
The RTC has received financial support from Pearson Ford, Ford Motor Company, U.S. Department of Energy, California Air Resources Board, City of San Diego via a HUD grant, and other organizations.
For more information on the Regional Transportation Center, visit the RTC website at www.rtc4afv.com.
About The San Diego Environmental Foundation
Established in 1998, the San Diego Environmental Foundation's mission is to educate the general public on actions they may take to reduce environmental degradation and to support environmental projects that benefit San Diego's environment. The Foundation's Board of Directors consist of academic, community and business leaders committed to environmental initiates. In additional, an Advisory Board of politicians, professors and environmentalists assist in formulating and implementing the Foundation's projects. For more information, call (858) 350-1774.
Buses in Carpinteria, CA near Santa Barbara from:
Ebus is an electric-bus manufacturer headquartered in Downey, Calif. Current production models include 22-foot transit buses, shuttle buses and vintage trolley replicas with all-electric or hybrid-electric propulsion systems. All classes of vehicle are completely ADA compliant with low-floor platforms and space for 22-seated passengers. Anti-lock brakes are standard equipment. A battery management and cooling system designed to facilitate fast/opportunity charging is available as an option, as well as a wide range of accessories and configurations. The Ebus Hybrid-electric vehicles feature the Capstone Microturbine and provide the cleanest power plant available.
Ebus has built buses for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Georgia Power in Atlanta, and the cities of Santa Barbara and Anaheim, Calif. Digital photos and video are available upon request. For more information, visit the Ebus Website at: >www.ebus.com.
SUV Bumpers fail 5mph crash test:
Source: AP [Jul 02, 2002]
WASHINGTON (AP) - Bumpers on three of four small sport utility vehicles performed poorly in 5 mph crash tests performed by the insurance industry, according to results released Tuesday.
The 2002 models of the Honda CR-V and Land Rover Freelander performed the worst. The Honda sustained a total of $6,607 in damage and the Freelander $6,470 in four separate crash tests by the Arlington, Va.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Also getting a poor rating was the 2002 Saturn VUE, which suffered $3,389 in damage.
The only vehicle in the batch to get a
good'' rating was the redesigned 2003 Subaru Forester, which sustained only $1,421 in damage.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, http://www.highwaysafety.org
US Voters Want Strict CO2 Cuts
78 percent of survey respondents say they believe global warming is a serious problem now or will be in the future.
Source: Reuters [Jul 15, 2002]
WASHINGTON — Three-fourths of voters surveyed want the U.S. government to require power plants and industry to cut emissions linked to global warming and not rely on voluntary cuts endorsed by the White House, according to a poll released by an environmental group on Tuesday.
The Zogby survey of 1,008 likely U.S. voters across the nation was commissioned by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an activist group that backs a Senate proposal for strict cuts in industrial emissions of carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas blamed for increasing the Earth's temperature. Hotter temperatures could eventually raise sea levels, increase catastrophic wildfires, and kill some species of plants and animals, according to scientists.
Some 76 percent of those surveyed said the U.S. government should set standards requiring power plants, oil refineries, and other industries to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Another 16 percent said they supported a voluntary approach, while 8 percent said they were undecided.
The Bush administration has proposed a plan that would require cuts in pollutants sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury by 2018 but would rely on voluntary action by industry to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. A Senate proposal would mandate deeper cuts for all four pollutants by 2008.
"This poll shows that the president's head-in-the-sand stance on global warming is also distancing himself from the public," said Alden Meyer, a lobbyist for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "We have the technology to reduce our dependence on dirty, outdated energy sources that cause global warming."
The survey also showed 78 percent of respondents said they believe global warming is a serious problem now or will be in the future.
The Bush administration has rejected any cap on carbon dioxide emissions, contending that such a move would be too costly to U.S. industry. Last month, the administration quietly released a report that affirmed the probable harmful effect of greenhouse gases linked to industry, but President George W. Bush dismissed it as a product of the "bureaucracy."
The United States, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has refused to participate in the international Kyoto Treaty to curb carbon emissions.
On Monday, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham gave the White House several recommendations to improve a voluntary federal registry of greenhouse gas emissions by companies. The proposals would require independent verification of emission cuts reported by companies and would develop accounting rules for crediting farmland and forestry projects that absorb or sequester carbon dioxide. The proposals also would provide tradable credits for companies that cut emissions.
Final guidelines for the voluntary program will be issued by January 2004 as part of the administration's goal to reduce the greenhouse gas "intensity" of the U.S. economy by 18 percent by 2012, Abraham said.
ZAP Announces Electric Car Rental Program
ZAP will operate the rental management company, handling all insurance and processing.
Source: PR Newswire [Jul 15, 2002]
SEBASTOPOL, Calif., July 15 -- Working in conjunction with Global Electric Motorcars, LLC, a DaimlerChrysler Company, ZAP (OTC Bulletin Board: ZAPZ) announced today it will be renting neighborhood electric vehicles throughout California.
ZAP will be soliciting rental agencies and other locations for the program. Neighborhood electric cars are a new category of 25 MPH automobiles designed for short trips in urban areas, planned communities, commercial zones or tourist districts. The smaller, low-speed electric cars are a new alternative in places concerned with air and noise pollution, high fuel prices, traffic congestion or parking shortages.
Those interested in participating in the rental program can get special incentives, including a 10 percent federal tax credit, accelerated depreciation, share in the rental income as well as being secured by ownership in the electric car.
ZAP will operate the rental management company, handling all insurance and processing. Rental companies that participate can receive vehicles at no cost as well as share in the rental income. The first location opened this week on Balboa Island in Newport Beach, California, with more tourist locations expected in the coming weeks. For more information on ZAP's new electric car rental program, visit www.zapworld.com or call 800-251-4555.
On July 1, ZAP completed mergers with Voltage Vehicles and RAP Group, Inc., two companies involved in automotive marketing and distribution. Publicly owned ZAP markets many forms of advanced transportation, including automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles, scooters, personal watercraft, hovercraft, neighborhood electric vehicles, commercial vehicles and more. Founded in 1994, ZAP helped pioneer the market for light electric transportation.
First Wind-generated Hydrogen Storage Contract Awarded
Wind-generated hydrogen to fuel vehicles from the California Fuel Cell Partnership and SunLine Transit Agency.
Source: PR Newswire [Jul 12, 2002]
IRVINE, Calif., July 11 /PRNewswire/ -- QUANTUM Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of IMPCO Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: IMCO, QTWW), announced today that it was recently awarded a contract to provide the hydrogen fuel storage system for a wind-generated hydrogen refueling station being developed for the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
The goal of this project is to provide wind-generated hydrogen to fuel vehicles from the California Fuel Cell Partnership and SunLine Transit Agency. This will be the first hydrogen fuel facility powered by wind energy. Only hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar, provides the opportunity for zero emissions from "well to wheels."
ISE Research is the prime contractor for the project and SunLine Services Group is the host site. Wintec Energy, Ltd., will dedicate the output from wind turbines to power an electrolytic "fueler" from Stuart Energy USA. This "fueler" will generate and compress up to twenty-five kilograms of hydrogen that will be stored in QUANTUM's ultra lightweight TriShield(TM) tanks. The compressed hydrogen will be stored at pressures up to 6000 psi.
"QUANTUM's involvement in this project is one element of our recent hydrogen refueling infrastructure initiatives," said Alan Niedzwiecki, President and COO of QUANTUM Technologies, Inc. "This project demonstrates the important role that hydrogen storage plays for more widespread and rapid commercialization of hydrogen as a fuel from initial production to on-board vehicle storage."
QUANTUM designs, manufactures and supplies integrated fuel systems to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of fuel cell applications and alternative fueled vehicles. These fuel cell applications include transportation and industrial vehicles, stationary power generation and portable power generation. Alternative fuel vehicles include cars, trucks and buses powered by internal combustion engines that operate primarily on natural gas or propane. QUANTUM's advanced fuel systems comprise the storage, monitoring, control and injection of gaseous fuels to improve efficiency, enhance power output, and reduce pollutant emissions from fuel cell systems and internal combustion engines. QUANTUM's fuel systems enable fuel cells and internal combustion engines to operate on hydrogen, natural gas or propane. More information about QUANTUM can be found on its website at www.qtww.com .
Certain matters discussed in this press release contain forward-looking information that involves risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from current trends. These include the growth of the alternative fuels and fuel cells markets, OEM automotive product sales, competition, the company's ability to design and market advanced fuel metering, fuel storage or electronic control products, the company's ability to meet OEM specifications, and other such risks as cited in the company's Form S-10 and IMPCO Technologies, Inc.'s Form 10-K and other documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
For further information, please contact: Investor Relations, Dale Rasmussen, Investor Relations of IMPCO Technologies, Inc., Seattle Office, +1-206-315-8242, or Andy Abele, Director of Business Development of QUANTUM Technologies, Inc., +1-949-399-4527, firstname.lastname@example.org.