Detroit Bureau on Twitter

Posts Tagged ‘alternative fuels’

CNG May Not Be So Enviro-Friendly After All

New report blames leaks for worsening emissions.

by on Feb.19, 2014

The Ram 2500 Heavy Duty is one of the rare vehicles offering a factory CNG package.

It’s been hailed as a clean, cost-effective alternative to gasoline – as well as coal – but there are some new doubts being raised about the environmental benefits of natural gas.

The fuel has been gaining support, especially in the auto industry, where proponents are pressing to get more manufacturers to offer compressed natural gas, or CNG, options.  And with production rapidly expanding along with the increased of fracking-style drilling, even President Obama is lending his support as a way to reduce both America’s dependence upon foreign oil and the production of global-warming CO2 gas.

Environmental Matters!

But a new study by a group of scientists from various federal labs, as well as MIT, Stanford, Harvard and four other universities is throwing that optimism into question.  If anything, natural gas “is not likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” cautions the study’s lead author Adam Brandt, of Stanford. At best, switching a car from gasoline to CNG is “on the borderline in terms of (the benefits to) the climate,” he says.


White House Moves to Reduce Use of Ethanol

Biofuel law falling short of expectations – even as criticism grows.

by on Nov.18, 2013

A corn showdown?

It’s been a rare hallmark of bipartisanship in recent years, but the Obama Administration is now looking to scale back the once-promising biofuel law enacted during the Bush White House.

The move recognizes that consumers have shown little interest in filling up on ethanol – even as criticism of the renewable fuel grows, some critics contending the law may actually be doing as much harm as good to the environment.

Fuel Your Knowledge!

The law passed in 2007 has required a steady increase in the use of ethanol – almost all of it currently being produced from corn.  Last year, reports the federal Energy Information Administration, 13.3 billion gallons were blended into the nation’s gasoline supply, slightly ahead of the 13.2 billion gallon mandate. But the sale of E85 fuel, which uses 85% ethanol and just 15% of gasoline, has lagged expectations despite significant discounting at the pump.


Hyundai Set to Bring New Hydrogen Car to U.S. in Early 2014

Korean maker betting ultra-clean fuel cells can overcome limits of battery power.

by on Oct.23, 2013

Hyundai is already selling the iX35 hydrogen car in Europe and prepping the little crossover for the American market.

Hyundai is betting heavily on the world’s lightest gas – with U.S. sales of its new hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle set to begin in the U.S. early next year.

Sometimes described as “refillable batteries,” fuel cells produce nothing but water vapor in their exhaust and are one of only a handful of ways to meet the stringent zero-emission vehicle, or ZEV, requirements set for California and other parts of the world. But hydrogen power has its own drawbacks, including the lack of a refueling infrastructure that experts warn could take years – and cost billions of dollars – to overcome.

Gas Up!

“We are studying the market to see which will work better,” Moon-Sik Kwan, president of Hyundai Motor Group’s R&D Division, tells, noting that while Hyundai is focusing on hydrogen, its South Korean partner Kia is preparing a battery-electric version of its little Soul crossover.


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.


EPA Won’t Waive Ethanol Mandate

Critics cited shortages of corn in wake of summer drought.

by on Nov.19, 2012

A corn showdown?

The Environmental Protection Agency has declined to waive a federal mandate setting increased requirements for use of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply despite concerns about shortages of the corn used to create the fuel in the wake of last summer’s nationwide drought.

The agency, which oversees the ethanol rules, rejected a request by eight governors and 200 members of Congress – as well as many farmers dependent upon corn feed — but opposed by corn farmers who have been seeing a spike in prices as demand for ethanol increases. A senior United Nations official also sought a waiver by the Obama Administration to prevent possible food shortages around the world.

Your Trusted Source for News and Reviews!

“We recognize that this year’s drought has created hardship in some sectors of the economy, particularly for livestock producers,” said Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “But our extensive analysis makes clear that congressional requirements for a waiver have not been met and that waiving the (ethanol rules) will have little, if any, impact.”


From Pond Scum to Gas Tank

California drivers now can fill up on algae-based bio-diesel.

by on Nov.16, 2012

An algae biofuel production system.

No, you can’t simply pump the green scum that forms on your swimming pool into your gas tank, but motorists in the San Francisco area now can fill up on a new biofuel derived from algae.

There are plenty of proponents searching for ways to replace petroleum with renewable fuels, though some alternatives, such as corn-based ethanol, have come under fire, especially in the wake of last summer’s nationwide drought. But the biofuel system developed by South San Francisco-based Solazyme, Inc. won’t tap the food supply.

The Last Word!

“We are putting a stake in the ground,” said Matt Horton, chief executive officer of Propel Fuels, which is supplying the fuel to four stations near San Francisco and which would like to expand distribution to “hundreds of stations like this in California.”


Guest Opinion: Natural Gas as The “Buy American” Energy Alternative

One fossil fuel that might make sense even to “greenies”?

by on Jul.13, 2012

A rare public CNG filling stations near Los Angeles.

Best known as the founder and former Chairman and CEO of Subaru of America, Inc., Harvey Lamm is the co-author — with Syd Havely — of the recently-published book, “Getting Traction—The Subaru Story and the Entrepreneurial Mindset.”

At a time when other executives might be enjoying retirement, however, Lamm has begun a new career as Chairman of VNG.Co., a firm hoping to develop a nationwide, retail-oriented CNG fueling network to support fleets, including commercial and government agencies. Lamm is far from the only proponent of CNG and a slowly growing number of manufacturers, notably including Honda, are lending support with new products able to take advantage of the clean and relatively inexpensive fuel. This opinion piece was adapted from Lamm’s new book, now available through

We Brake for News!

One can’t turn on the TV or read the paper without hearing that either the electric car is the vehicle of the future or that rumors of its troubles—technical, mechanical, financial, or sales—are overblown.  All may be true. Technology is a moving target. There is no ‘finish line’ or silver bullet that we can see now for how the nation’s 250 million cars now on the road burning 350 million gallons of gasoline a day or the approximately 15 million cars and light trucks being added each year will be powered.  One thing is certain, though—relying on gasoline alone or electric alone or even hybrid electrics won’t get us to energy independence.  But there is an alternative fuel that will, in combination with oil and gas and electrics and hybrids, and that is a fuel source America is blessed with in abundance—natural gas.


GM, Chrysler Launch Natural Gas Pickup Options

Proponents push for shift to cheap, plentiful petrol alternative.

by on Mar.06, 2012

Supplier IMPCO Automotive will handle conversions of GM vans and pickups to use low-cost, cleaner CNG.

It’s a good week for those who’d like to see American motorists shift from imported oil to the plentiful domestic supply of natural gas.  Chrysler plans to announce today that it will offer an NGV option for its big Ram pickup – following the lead of General Motors which will offer bi-fuel packages for both its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.

Momentum has slowly been growing for natural gas power after years of neglect.  That appears to reflect several factors – notably the increased availability of the fuel from domestic sources, the fact that CNG produces less CO2 per mile than petroleum products, and the rapidly rising cost of gasoline.

News Now!

Until recently, Honda was the only maker marketing natural gas-powered vehicles – notably a dedicated version of the 2012 Civic model. But the list could grow rapidly – though the biggest challenge remains finding ready locations to fill up.

That’s led GM to go the bi-fuel route with the heavy-duty versions of its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.  Motorists will be able to choose between CNG and regular gasoline on the fly.  When one tank runs dry they’ll be able to hot a switch and keep going, something that should be doubly appealing to work truck users who want to hold down costs but avoid service disruptions.


EPA Approves Even Broader Use of Ethanol

Feds say increased alcohol content safe for older cars.

by on Jan.21, 2011

The EPA opens up a beaker of, er, worms with its mandate calling for expanded use of ethanol.

Following up on a controversial decision, last October, requiring the increased use of corn-based ethanol in gasoline by relatively new cars, trucks and crossovers, the Environmental Protection Agency has expanded that ruling to include models dating back to 2001.

The move is expected to generate even more opposition – and potential legal efforts to block the decision.  If allowed the stand, roughly two-thirds of all cars on the road will soon be using E15, rather than older E10 fuel.

The EPA’s announcement, last October, took a Solomon-like stand, calling for the switch to E15 – which is made up of 15% alcohol and 85% gasoline – for cars produced since 2007.  The agency delayed a decision on older models pending further studies to see if the higher ethanol content might result in damage to fuel tanks, fuel lines or engines.  After determining E15 was safe, EPA regulators decided to expand its use for models produced as far back as 2001.

Subscribe Now - It's Free!

But the debate is certain to continue.  In December, a coalition of automakers signed on to participate in a lawsuit aimed at blocking the switch to E15.  Along with marine engine and power tool makers, they contend that the increased level of alcohol, a corrosive, may damage older vehicles not intentionally modified for its use.


EPA Gives Limited Waiver For Use Of E15 Gasoline

Increased ethanol levels okayed – but only for vehicles from 2007 or later.

by on Oct.13, 2010

EPA approves E15 - with strict limits.

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved a controversial proposal to increase the use of ethanol in the nation’s automotive fuel supply – but set strict limits on which vehicles can and can’t use what is referred to as E15.

Initially, only vehicles produced in the 2007 model-year or later will be permitted to fill up on E15, a term that refers to a blend of 85% conventional gasoline and 15% ethanol, an alcohol-based fuel typically produced from grains and other food crops.

Even with that limitation, “That represents more than 1/3 the gasoline consumption today” could be affected by the decision and converted from today’s limit of no more than 10% ethanol, explained EPA Assistant Administrator Regina McCarthy.

And by 2014, as older vehicles head to the junkyard, while newer models take their place, E15 could grow to as much as 50% of the fuel used in the U.S., the EPA official added.

Stay Fueled Up!

The figures actually may grow even larger.  Due to limited resources the environmental agency focused its initial study on relatively new vehicles.  It is hoping to complete an expanded study, covering cars, trucks and crossovers produced as far back as the 2001 model-year, with a decision to come by sometime in November or December, according to McCarthy.