Last week, representatives from government, environmental groups, and the private sector met in Pennsylvania to discuss clean diesel strategies for continuing air quality improvements in the Mid-Atlantic region. That area includes Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. The Mid-Atlantic Diesel Collaborative is a partnership between leaders from federal and state agencies, regional EPA offices, environmental groups, trucking fleets, engine and equipment makers and other interest groups. Together, they are working to reduce emissions from existing engines and equipment.
Great news, fellow gear heads! Ford has just announced plans to invest more than $700 million into its existing Michigan assembly plants in order to … are you ready? In order to build the new Ford Ranger and a new Ford Bronco in- and for!- the US market! (!!)
Ford’s train-hauling Euro-Ranger has been forbidden fruit to US buyers since its introduction several years ago. Those of us who knew about it stared at pictures of it lustfully, and we hope that it makes its way to US shores largely unmolested by US market “experts”. I say hope because Ford’s plans are just that at the moment: plans.
Investing in new tooling and training to produce the Ford Ranger and Bronco in the US is part of larger deal between Ford and the UAW, which still have to come to terms on the whole deal. If they do, a total of $9 billion will be invested into 22 US plants by Ford, helping to maintain employment of the more than 8500 workers at the Michigan Assembly Plant, alone. If they do start building a new Bronco, it’s more likely to be something Ranger-based, like the Euro-market Ford Everest …
… which would make sense, since the previous Ranger-based Bronco II evolved, eventually, into the Ford Explorer, which has now gone to a more car-like unibody frame.
So, lots of question marks and lots of room for speculation about what the news of a new Ford Ranger or Ford Bronco really means. Regardless, two storied nameplates are returning after a long, long absence, and Ford will amass tons of goodwill for it. Good on them.
This post was retroactively supported by SUVnTrucks.com
Source | Images: Gearheads, Ford.
When Audi announced that it had plans to produce its own synthetic fuel from “water, CO2, and electricity” amid tumbling fuel prices earlier this year, there was more than a little bit of industry incredulity. Recently, however, it seems like Audi and others have had some success with their “blue crude” diesel. Enough success, at least, to entice American automaker Ford into the synthetic biofuel production business.
According to reports out of Europe, Ford (along with Germany’s RWTH Aachen University) has invested 3.5 million Euros into the development of synthetic dimethyl ether (DME) and ether oxymethylene (OME1), and has had enough success with both compounds from atmospherically-absorbed carbon that’s been processed using a catalyst and electricity derived from “wind or solar power”.
Ford has a long history of using innovative and sustainable materials in its cars- from the original 1941 soybean plastic car concept to its more recent work recycling plastic drink bottles into stylish-looking automotive interior components in their concept “PlantBottle” Ford Fusion. As such, it should come as no surprise that Ford’s getting on the synthetic fuels bandwagon- especially if the technology works!
What do you guys think? Will manufactured synthetic fuel buy the internal combustion a few more decades of prominence, or have Tesla and the rest of the battery-building EV crowd already won the war against the the reciprocating engine? Let us know what you think in the comments section at the bottom of the article. Enjoy!
Source | Images: Ford, via Motorpasion.
Chinese cuisine is famous for its fried delicacies. Multiply that passion for fried food by over a billion people, however, and you end with (literally) tons of used cooking oil being generated every
day minutes. Aircraft giant Boeing has a plan for all that oil, though- it’s turning China’s excess waste oil into a clean, renewable source of jet fuel.
The latest plan- which follows up on Boeing’s commitment to biofuel made in the Middle East– will turn more than 500 million gallons of waste cooking oil, commonly referred to as “gutter oil” in China, into sustainable aviation biofuel at a new facility that the aviation firm (in conjunction with the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China, or, “COMAC”) showed off to investors last week.
The new fuel is expected to cut the two companies’ carbon emissions by 50-80 percent, compared to petroleum-based fuels. That’s huge! “We are very happy to see the progress that has been made … in aviation biofuel technology,” said Dr. Guangqiu Wang, Vice President of COMAC’s Beijing Aeronautical Science & Technology Research Institute. “We will continue to work with Boeing in energy conservation and emissions reduction areas to promote the sustainable development of the aviation industry.”
You can check out the Boeing/COMAC official (joint) press release, below, and let us know what you think of the commercial/military future of aviation biofuels in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Kia has a brand new Optima hybrid with an efficient diesel engine in the works, but don’t expect it in the U.S. anytime soon.
The Kia Optima Mild Hybrid (AKA T-Hybrid) features a 1.7-liter turbo diesel four-cylinder engine coupled with an electric motor and a 48V lead-carbon battery pack. Using what is called a mild-hybrid system; the electric motor does not propel the car on its own, but rather allows the turbodiesel engine to be turned off whenever the car is coasting, braking, or stopped. This system replaces the conventional alternator while regenerative braking recharges the battery.
The Kia Optima Mild Hybrid is expected to debut at the Paris Motor Show, soon and with its debut the official efficiency figures will be made public.
While no news has come out about mass producing the Optima Mild Hybrid, speculation is that it will not come to the U.S. But why? Kia does have a strong presence here; however it seems that the goal is to introduce the hybrid to the European market first where efficiency standards are a bit more lenient towards diesel emissions, and the use of diesel fuel is less of an issue than it is here in the U.S.
All in all, this is a use of new technology for Kia and hopes are high that the end result will generate enough buzz to take the Kia Optima Mild Hybrid from the motor show to the road soon.
Source: Green Car Reports
A team of researchers from Utah State University has taken an 80s compact Dodge Rampage pickup and turned it into a biodiesel-powered land speed racer. This isn’t just any biodiesel though; it was created using a unique combination of algae and safflower seeds.
Racer Steve Menendez and UTU research Michael Morgan teamed up on this unique project, which they brought to the Bonneville Salt Flats to set a new biodeisel-powered world record. While there is no official biodiesel class, unofficially the modified Dodge Rampage hit 135 MPH on the salt flats, beating the previous unofficial record by some 30 MPH using a 20% blend of the algae/safflower seed biodiesel. The B20 blend apparently worked perfectly.
This unique fuel is fed into a 1.5 liter Volkswagen turbodiesel engine powering the front wheels. Yes, the Dodge Rampage (a 1984 vintage in this case) is a front-wheel drive compact truck, one of the few to ever grace American shores, and Menendez appears to have kept it that way for his land speed run if this dyno video from last year is any indication.
Using algae as a means to create biodiesel is nothing new, as millions of dollars have been poured into research to create an easy-to-farm renewable fuel. Unfortunately cost still remains a major factor with algae fuels, though the US Navy has been using a jet fuel blend to power a small fleet of aircraft. Biodiesel racing is also a growing trend, with college students and big truck drivers alike embracing greener biofuels to sate their need for speed.
I give this algae-powered Dodge Rampage two green thumbs up.
Source | Image: Deseret News
Despite being a relatively small part of the overall US new car market, sales of diesel cars, trucks, and SUVs are climbing – and could exceed 10% of the total US car market by 2020!
Those numbers come courtesy of Steve Kiefer, GM’s vice president of global power train development who spoke yesterday at the 2014 Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Michigan. “The Chevrolet Cruze diesel (is just) the first of many diesel-powered passenger cars General Motors will offer in the United States,” Kiefer said to the assembled group. And, while he would not go into specific product plans, he did say that “(GM) will continue to introduce more diesels as appropriate and as the market accepts them.”
Currently, GM offers diesel versions of its Sonic compact and upcoming Chevy Trax/Buick Encore small SUV in other markets, and has already promised the US a diesel-powered version of the upcoming Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon mid-size pickup trucks. And, while I’d love to see a premium, diesel-engined version of the next Buick Verano (a mechanical sibling of the Chevy Cruze diesel we tested last fall) take on the entry-level TDi Audis, I don’t think GM is getting quite that serious about taking Buick upscale.
Not yet, anyway.
What about you guys? What GM products would you like to see get torquey, efficient, possibly bio-fuels capable diesel engines under their hoods? Let us know, in the comments. Enjoy!
Lawmakers in D.C. have to act fast if they want to save The U.S. Highway Trust Fund according to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. The fund is expected to run dry in August, and at risk are more than 700,000 jobs, the stoppage of close to 112,000 projects, and of course the crippling of our nation’s already-crumbling infrastructure.
The U.S. Highway Trust Fund was established in the 1950s with the goal of financing the U.S. Interstate System and maintaining that system. The money for the U.S. Highway Trust Fund comes from 18.3 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel and other related excise taxes. The Federal government hasn’t raised the gas tax since the early 1990s.
As cars have become more fuel efficient and politicians have been stifled from raising gasoline taxes,the Trust Fund has suffered a severe lack of funding. As it stands right now, the Highway Trust Fund is on track to drop below $4 billion by July, and below $1 billion somewhere between August and October. That’s very bad news for America’s already aging infrastructure and the 700,000 jobs connected to the U.S. Highway Trust Fund.
This is a big problem, and even more so a sign of our rapidly forward moving times. As more fuel efficient cars hit America’s highways, the government was slow to react with an incremental raising of the gas tax, and now we all could potentially feel the pinch. Progress is great, but this is one of the unintended consequences of more efficient (or even gasless!) vehicles.
Officials on Capitol Hill are scrambling for a quick fix, ranging from a onetime tax charge on the overseas earnings of American companies to raising the gas tax. President Obama is pushing for a four-year, $302 billion bill that would raise $150 billion through taxes on corporation’s overseas earnings by closing certain loopholes, but that is likely a temporary fix, and one many lobbyists are sure to fight.
The best solution would be to levy an even heavier tax on tractor-trailers and the companies that run them, as these massive vehicles do a bulk of the damage to our nation’s infrastructure. By some estimates, big trucks cause as much as 160,000 times more damage to road surfaces than the average car, and there have been calls to raise the Heavy Truck Use Tax. But again, lobbyists.
Whatever the decision is it has to come quick and be forward thinking — hopefully not just be some band aid that simply extends the agony of the American infrastructure.
A UPM bio-refinery will begin production this year with hopes of producing 100,000 tonnes of wood-based BioVerno biodiesel annually. Opening this year in Lappeenranta, Finland with a staff of around 200, it is the world’s first commercial scale bio-refinery to produce wood-based biodiesel.
Crude tall oil is a byproduct of the pulp making process at the UPM Kaukas pulp and paper mill, located on the same site. The oil is purified, hydro-treated and distilled to create BioVerno, a biodiesel capable of being used in all current diesel engines. While making crude tall oil may not be a groundbreaking technology, the Lappeenranta bio refinery is still a positive milestone in the timeline of eco-friendly fuels.
Recent tests found that a mix of 20% BioVerno and 80% fossil diesel will run “just as well as any regular diesel,” according to UPM. These results were based on four VW Golf 1.6 TDI cars driving 20,000 km (3,000 km over the average Finlandian’s annual mileage) with additional rounds planned involving the use of busses in the Helsinki area.
While places like Beijing are looking for solutions to their overwhelming smog problems, BioVerno may provide a partial solution. Evergreen coniferous trees perform photosynthesis year-round and species such as the Maiden Hair Tree, or Ginko Biloba as it is more commonly known, grow up to 18 inches a year in their native China. BioVerno probably won’t solve the gas crisis, but the use of coniferous could be used to increase oxygen production while providing an additional source of fuel, allowing all of us to breathe a little easier.
The Biofore Concept car wants to knock plastic off of its pedestal in the car manufacturing business, replacing the petroleum-based product with wood and other bio-composites.
It wasn’t that long ago that large chunks of cars were built out of wood, but metal and plastic quickly proved more popular. UPM and the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences have joined forces to create this wood-centric car concept. Inside the Biofore the changes are easily visible all around the cabin. UPM Grada, a thermo-formable wood material, is used to construct pieces such as the cabin floor, center console, door panels and knee guards on the back of front seats.
Many other pieces of the body and interior trim pieces have been made of UPM Formi, a biocomposite made of a mix of mostly renewable fibers and a minimal percentage of plastics. UPM intends to show that the use of environmentally unfriendly plastics in the manufacturing of automobiles can be sustainably replaced with its Formi and Grada materials.
The Biofore is powered by a bite-size 1.2L diesel engine that even runs on UPM’s own wood-based bio-diesel, UPM BioVerno, which they claim can be used across all current diesel engines. So not only is it made of wood, but its powered by wood as well.
A study on the plastics that are incorporated into today’s cars found that the average vehicle contains about 330 lbs. of plastic, or between 10-15% of its overall weight. The study also found that “although up to 13 different polymers may be used in a single car model, just three types of plastics make up some 66% of the total plastics used in a car: polypropylene (32 %), polyurethane (17 %) and PVC (16 %).”
Before bringing up the obviously long life span of these plastic products, it’s important to mention that some plastics (PVC being the worst) have been found to give off numerous toxic materials as they take up our landfills.
With that brief PSA out of the way we can move on to the more visible problem with plastic, its lifespan. Even the most “environmentally friendly” plastic, Polyethylene Terephthalate, takes a minimum of 5 years to breakdown under perfect conditions, while others never degrade and may be permanent fixtures in the dumps they end up in.
The EPA reports that in 2012, 32 million tons of plastic waste was generated in the US, with only 9% being recycled. The 15 million cars sold in the US last year add up to almost 5 billion pounds of plastic sold in the American auto industry last year alone. Recent efforts such as the Biofore and University of Illinois’ attempts to turn plastic bags into diesel fuel will help emphasize how important it is to look for new ways to reduce our reliance on plastic.
America’s farmers have it pretty tough these days. Despite being on the front lines of food production and explaining over and over again that climate change and fossil fuel volatility- NOT ethanol production– is what’s to blame for rising food costs, a lot of people just don’t get the message. That’s where this great 60 second video comes in.
The actual text of the video goes like this …
In 1960, the average US farmer fed just 26 people. Today, that farmer feeds 155 people, growing more on every acre every year.
And that’s not all — America’s farmers produce feed for cows and pigs and chickens… and grow enough to fuel our cars and trucks with cleaner, renewable fuels. That’s more than 13 billion gallons of renewable fuel powering our cars and 34 million tons of animal feed in 2012 alone.
How do they do it? Through innovation and technology, farmers are growing more crops on the same land, more sustainably. From soybeans to corn to wheat, yields are up by as much as 64% since 1980, and they continue to rise. Water use? Down by up to 75%. Soil erosion? Down between 30% and 60%. Energy use to grow crops? It’s been cut by half.
And now, farmers are diversifying by using land not suitable for crops to grow more feedstocks (non-edible plants like switchgrass that can be made into advanced renewable fuel). More food, more feed and more fuel, more efficiently. And we’re just getting started.
Source | Video: Fuels America.
The landscape of American energy is changing. Fracking has opened up once inaccessible resources at great cost to the American public and environment. The question now is what can be done with all this shale gas? Some people want to export it, but that requires changes to American laws.
The issue of easing the crude oil export ban here in the U.S., and adjusting ethanol quotas are quickly becoming hot-button policy issues. There’s a lot of money at stake here, and predictive analysts in the oil market have been hit with surprise after surprise ranging from the boom caused by fracking technology to the attempted reduction of ethanol use through the tailoring of outdated mandates. Now that American crude oil could hit the open market, all bets are off.
Right now American oil exports are in the limelight. The U.S. has been under an export ban since the Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s. This ban is now, in some political sectors, being seen as outdated policy, and there are signs of this ban slowing being slowly dismantled. Already the ban allows American oil to export to Canada, and with the ongoing crisis unfolding in Ukraine the U.S. allowed some U.S. oil to be exported to Europe.
With all of this oil now flowing, the issue of transportation is also on the minds of policy makers. The Jones Act, a law that forces all domestic freight to be carried on U.S.-flagged, U.S. crewed, and U.S. built vessels, has caused waves of tension about the cost of just repeatedly shipping oil from Texas to the East Coast. Additionally, American rail lobbyists have been making the rounds to promote greater use of rail in the shipping of oil in newer, safer tanker cars.
Nothing is going to happen overnight though. 2014 is an election year, so neither party is likely to make any drastic changes to the oil export bans here in the United States. However, international relations and political pressure at home might be enough to at least begin the process of dismantling the export, which probably means higher prices for us, and higher profits for the oil companies.
What remains to be seen is what this effect will have on the United States. There is no clear answer coming from Washington, with some elected officials claiming that lifting the ban will hurt the average American, and open the country up to the impact of foreign oil influences. Others say that exporting the oil would drastically reduce the national debt and of course, “create jobs.” In any event, the political policies of the past are starting to catch up with the rapidly changing technologically driven world we live in today.
It’s tax season again, and that means the annual plea from the Obama Administration for eliminating $4 billion in annual federal tax incentives for the oil and natural gas industry. This year there was an additional request however, earmarking that money for advanced alternative fuel technology research. Does it stand a chance of passing?
Every year around tax season, President Obama asks that the taxpayer subsidies that go to oil and gas companies be repealed. The logic being that since these companies are making record breaking profits, they don’t need subsidies. Seems logical to. In addition to abolishing the subsidies, the President also asked to cut tax credits for oil and gas produced from marginal wells.
Notably different this year was Obama’s request for $2 billion for alternative fuel research projects – with the $2 billion coming directly from royalties from oil and gas development on federal land. The federal land catch is an interesting tactic, as companies are lining up to start drilling on federal lands containing once-unreachable natural gas and oil pockets through fracking.The proposal also included new inspection fees totaling $48 million for onshore oil and gas drilling on federal lands, though obviously some people are wary of opening places like George Washington National Forest to fracking.
Unfortunately, these annual proposals are mostly symbolic in nature. Congress is responsible for writing and passing government spending bills, not the President. Will we ever see the corporate handouts to oil and gas companies ended?
Source: Platts.com | Image: Argonne National Laboratories
Republican U.S. Senator from Alaska Lisa Murkowski has suggested that the United States use its home grown oil and gas as a diplomatic tool, and that the increased production of American oil and gas needs to be used as strategic assets globally. In other words, we use our oil resources as a means of bending other countries to our will.
Senator Murkowski’s comments were in reaction to the developing crisis is the Ukraine, which has had an impact on crude oil prices. While it’s true that the United States is in the midst of an of a natural gas boom, thanks to the wide spread use of fracking, our supplies are hardly so secure that we can threaten to turn off the spigot on other countries.
If more American oil and gas were to enter the global market, it could cause global prices to drop by opening up another supply chain. We could also levy sanctions on countries like Russia, which isn’t playing very nice right now in Eastern Europe. Currently, rules and regulations held at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Energy Department prevent exports of unprocessed American crude with, exceptions for Californian crude and oil from Alaska and sales to Canada.
Senator Murkowski is stumping for the removal of these restructions, as well as asking the government’s Energy Information Administration to conduct further analysis of the impact of authorizing more crude oil exports. At the same time, two Senate Democrats have expressed concerns that if such restrictions were removed, Americans might end up paying more that the pump. Flooding the market with cheap American crude oil could also cause other unfriendly countries, like Saudi Arabia or Venuezuala, to tighten their own supplies, keeping the amount of oil in circulation low, and prices high. Oil, it seems, is a double-edged sword.
The answer is unclear and will remain that way for some time – 2014 is an election year and neither party is going to be making any policy assessments concerning exporting America’s oil and gas.