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Ford Gases Up with New CNG Models

Maker to offer first light-duty CNG option.

by on Jul.31, 2013

Ford expects to see a surge in demand for cheaper CNG-fueled F-Series trucks.

While the U.S. is literally flowing with new sources of relatively clean and cheap natural gas, the fuel has largely been ignored by the auto industry – but that could soon change as Ford Motor Co. and other manufacturers become increasingly fired up about CNG.

Until now, Ford had relied on aftermarket convertors to service the relatively few customers who have wanted to run their vehicles on compressed natural gas. But the automaker will offer a CNG option on its half-ton, or light-duty, pickup later this year.

Fill Up on News!

Buyers will be able to order the F-150 truck with either a natural gas or LPG option. The options won’t come cheap, with the total costs running as high as about $10,000. But for fleet customers who clock significant mileage each year, the savings should quickly add up since CNG costs barely half as much as regular-grade gasoline.

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Audi Transforming Wind Power into e-Gas for New A3 g-Tron

New model will use synthetic natural gas that recycles CO2.

by on Mar.13, 2013

Audi says the new A3 Sportback g-Tron produces 80% less CO2 than the same car running on gasoline.

Imagine capturing the gases spewing out of your car’s tailpipe and feeding them back into its engine.  In a sense, that’s what Audi hopes to do with the new A3 g-Tron.

The German maker is the latest among a small but growing list of manufacturers introducing vehicles that can run on CNG, a fuel generally hailed as more environmentally friendly than conventional gasoline. But what’s particularly significant about the launch of the A3 g-Tron is how Audi wants buyers to fill up their tanks.

It's a Gas!

Working with Germany’s largest utility EWE, the luxury marque has tapped into a low-cost source of excess power from the wind farms spreading out over the northern corner of that country. In a complex process, a pilot refinery Audi has funded splits water into its fundamental components and then combines the hydrogen with CO2 to create a synthetic version of natural gas.

It will offer as many as 1,500 g-Tron buyers special contracts for this so-called e-Gas, enough for them to each drive about 15,000 kilometers, of about 9,500 miles, annually — each producing a fraction of the CO2 emissions of a regular automobile.

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California Regulators Want 1.4 Mil Zero-Emission Vehicles on Road

CARB wants to cut CO2 emissions on gas models by half.

by on Dec.13, 2011

New California rules would put as many as 1.4 million zero-emission vehicles, like this Mitsubishi battery car, on the road.

The California Air Resources Board has released a new set of policies aimed at cutting vehicle pollution, guarantee consumer access to clean fuels and “foster” the development of zero-emission car technology. The major changes in policies will apply to new vehicles sold through 2025.

The new plans includes the most significant changes to the Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEV) program in its 20-year history—requiring battery, fuel cell, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to account for 1.4 million new vehicle sales in the state between 2018 and 2025,pushing carmakers to increase the introduction of vehicles with alternative powertrain technology. The rules are certain to prove controversial.

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The Clean Fuels Outlet (CFO) rules would require oil companies to install hydrogen refueling stations as automakers ramp up sales of fuel cell vehicles, ensuring consumers have access to fuel for these vehicles. The CFO also requires California to study infrastructure needs for vehicles that recharge from the electric grid. By 2025, California’s plan calls for a 75% reduction in smog-forming emissions from new cars and light truck tailpipes, the near elimination of evaporative emissions, and a reduction in toxic particulate matter.

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Clean Energy to Run CNG Fuel Stations for AT&T

Applications growing for natural gas as an alternative fuel.

by on Mar.31, 2010

CNG seems best suited for fleets rather than individual consumer use.

AT&T’s plans to spend $350 million to purchase compressed natural gas vehicles moved forward today as Clean Energy Fuels Corporation (Nasdaq: CLNE) said it would build and run the CNG fueling stations required.

At 8,000 vehicles, this is the largest corporate commitment to CNG vehicles to date in the U.S., and is part of a $565 million, long-term strategy at AT&T to deploy more than 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles by 2019.

“AT&T’s commitment to alternative-fuel vehicles reflects our long-term goal to minimize dependence on imported sources of fuel and explore new automotive technologies,” said Charlene Lake, AT&T chief sustainability officer.

Last year at the start of the program, AT&T purchased 600 Ford E-Series vans converted CNG fuel from Dallas-based BAF Technologies, which is owned by Clean Energy. The CNG vehicles will be used to provide and maintain communications services for AT&T customers.

Proponents of CNG claim that the fuel results in lower emissions since natural gas contains less carbon than any other fossil fuel, and, therefore, produces lower CO2 emissions per vehicle mile traveled.

However, natural gas contains  methane, another principal greenhouse gas. Methane traps more than 20 times as much heat as carbon and accelerates climate change. Proponents claim that the increase in methane emissions from the use of natural gas is offset by a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions compared to other fuels.   (more…)

EV Maker THINK Back in Production

First THINK City urban battery cars roll off new line in Finland.

by on Dec.10, 2009

The First THINK City battery cars roll down the line at a new plant in Finland that also produces Porsche Boxsters.

First THINK City cars on the line in Finland.

Struggling to recharge its business after a brush with bankruptcy, the Scandinavian battery car maker, THINK, has resumed production of its little electric two-seater at a new assembly plant in Finland.

The 18-year-old company has struggled for most of its existence.  But company officials – and THINK’s new investors – are betting that the growing demand for high-mileage and alternative fuel vehicles will help turn the company’s fortunes around.

In the near-term, the City will be the key to a turnaround.  There are currently “around 2,300” backorders for the subcompact battery-electric vehicle, THINK reports, the “majority” going to various European municipal governments and utility partners.

Catching up on that backlog will be the responsibility of THINK’s new lead shareholder, Valmet Automotive, best known for running a specialty automotive assembly complex in the tongue-twisting Finish town of Uusikaupunki.  That facility assembles both the Boxster and Cayman, for Porsche, and will next year launch production of the Fisker plug-in hybrid, the Karma.

A separate line today began rolling out the City, with key customers to begin taking delivery before Christmas,says Richard Canny, the maker’s CEO.  “our first priority is to deliver to these customers now that our vehicles are rolling off the production line again. Our next priority is to build on this order book with continued expansion in Europe and around the world.”

Charge Up!

Charge Up!

That comment reflects THINK’s long-standing goal of returning to the U.S. market.  In a conversation with TheDetroitBureau.com, earlier this year, Canny noted his hopes of modifying the current City model to meet American expectations.  Among other things, that will require increasing the little vehicle’s range from around 112 miles to 15, and boosting top speed from 62 miles per hour to 75 mph.

(Click Here for a review of the THINK City battery car.)

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Shift to Alternative Fuels Continuing

Recession, low gas prices can't halt switch.

by on Feb.06, 2009

Making a better case for alternative fuels

Making a better case for alternative fuels

Recession or not, the auto industry, or at least elements of it, are setting course for a greener future.

Ricardo Inc. of Van Buren, Mi., the American arm of the British engineering firm Ricardo plc, has announced it has developed technology that optimizes ethanol-fueled engines to a level of performance that exceeds gasoline engine efficiency and approaches levels previously reached only by diesel engines.

The technology, called Ethanol Boosted Direct Injection or EBDI, takes full advantage of ethanol’s best properties – higher octane and higher heat of vaporization – to create a truly renewable fuel scenario that is independent of the cost of oil.

“Developing renewable energy applications that can lead to energy independence is a top priority at Ricardo,” said Ricardo President Dean Harlow. “We’ve moved past theoretical discussion and are busy applying renewable energy technology to the real world. The EBDI engine project is a great example because it turns the gasoline-ethanol equation upside down. It has the performance of diesel, at the cost of ethanol, and runs on ethanol, gasoline, or a blend of both.”

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