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BorgWarner Chief to Feds: Let Consumers Choose

Government promoted electric vehicles over other technologies.

by on Aug.05, 2010

other technologies, particularly diesel, also deserve consideration.

Other technologies, particularly diesel, deserve consideration.

Even though many in the auto industry acknowledge that the federal government’s 2009 bailout saved the domestic industry, they said it’s time for Congress and the White House to stop meddling in the industry.

Industry experts said during a session at the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City that the government’s grants have essentially chosen a powertrain technology rather than allowing automakers and consumers to figure out what works best.

“What we truly need from the U.S. government is a comprehensive energy policy to use as a guide,” said Tim Manganello, president and CEO of BorgWarner, a U.S.-based supplier of drivetrain parts such as turbochargers and transmissions.

The government has in recent years issued grants aimed at developing battery electric vehicles. But Manganello said other technologies, particularly diesel, also deserve consideration, not without self interest of course.


He said diesels have an uphill battle because of outdated negative stereotypes, higher taxes and the government’s push for electric vehicles. But he said that diesel might be a better solution for many Americans, who typically drive long distances where they excel, while electrics have shown poor performance in that area.

Ford to use TRW Electric Power Steering in Europe

Fuel saving technology is migrating from North America.

by on Jun.24, 2010

Energy consumption of an EPS system is less than seven percent of a conventional hydraulic power steering system.

TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. (NYSE:TRW) today announced that it is debuting a larger version of its Electrically Assisted Steering (EAS) system in Europe for the first time with Ford Motor Company later this year.

Ford has been using the fuel-saving steering gear in North America for the past two years on Taurus, Fusion, Flex and Mercury Milan models, as well as Lincoln MKS and some MKTs.

TRW also confirmed that a second major global automotive manufacturer would use this Belt Drive – also called Rack Drive – Electrically Powered Steering (EPS) on mid-size passenger cars beginning in 2012. The Belt Drive system only consumes power when steering assist is needed.

The energy consumption of an EPS system is typically less than seven percent of a conventional hydraulic rack and pinion power steering system. This equates to a fuel savings of 0.3 to 0.4 L/100 km, with a corresponding reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of approximately 7-8g/km (up to 3.5%).


The Belt Drive EPS system supports rack loads of up to 15 kN or higher depending on vehicle kinematics and dynamic requirements. Column Drive systems are typically used on systems with output levels up to 85-100 Nm.


Increased Fuel Economy Will Cost You Dearly

Significant fuel savings are possible with new, available technologies, but the prices are steep - up to $9,000 a vehicle.

by on Jun.14, 2010

The new GM Global Battery Systems Lab is used by more than 1,000 engineers working on electric vehicles and advanced batteries.

Technologies available right now could significantly reduce fuel consumption in passenger cars, and light trucks without compromising performance or safety, or so claims a new report by the National Research Council.

The problem is that technologies endorsed would also increase vehicle costs for buyers by as much as nine thousand dollars.

“Reducing the amount of fuel we use is an important goal for the nation and for the individual consumer,” said Trevor O. Jones, chair of the committee that wrote the report and chair and CEO of ElectroSonics Medical Inc., Cleveland. “These technologies – whether adopted individually or in combination – offer the potential to meet that objective. Consumers will need to consider the trade-offs between higher vehicle prices and saving fuel and money at the gas pump.”


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sponsored this latest study. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.   (more…)

Fuel Economy & Greenhouse Gas Rules Finalized

The most aggressive U.S. standards ever are now in place.

by on Apr.01, 2010

The Administration has delivered a historic compromise in the face of what looked to be overwhelming odds against it.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today jointly established new federal rules that set the first-ever national greenhouse gas emissions standards, and will increase the fuel economy of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the United States.

Starting with 2012 model year vehicles, the rules together require automakers to improve fleet-wide fuel economy and reduce fleet-wide greenhouse gas emissions by about 5% every year.

NHTSA has established fuel economy standards that strengthen each year, reaching an estimated 34.1 mpg for the combined industry-wide fleet for model year 2016.

The rules, with a claimed cost of $52 billion and benefits of $240 billion, are compromised or the results of compromises in several areas, depending on your point of view. The vast majority of buyers will not see fuel economy anywhere near 34 mpg.

Because credits for air-conditioning improvements can be used to meet the EPA standards, but not the NHTSA standards, the EPA standards require that by the 2016 model-year, manufacturers must achieve a combined average vehicle emission level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. The EPA standard would be equivalent to 35.5 miles per gallon if all reductions came from fuel economy improvements.

Perhaps more worrisome from policy and health points of view are exemptions for the  gas guzzling, CO2 belching vehicles that the rich buy.

DOT and EPA received more than 130,000 public comments on the rules proposed in September 2009, and officials said there was “overwhelming support” for the new national policy. This means that automakers will be able to build a single, light-duty national fleet that satisfies all federal requirements, as well as the standards of California and other states.

The collaboration of federal agencies also allows for clearer rules for all automakers, instead of three standards (DOT, EPA, and a California standard), and was a clear victory for the Obama Administration that negotiated it after decades of gridlock and legal maneuvering.

The joint rules are also a sign of the decreasing political influence of automakers, which had long blocked fuel economy increases, and recognition of a growing green sentiment among voters.   (more…)

Wirelessly Charged Electric Vehicle Runs in Seoul

Previous attempts at removing the power plug have failed.

by on Mar.18, 2010

The OLEV is powered by electricity from an electrical charging strip 5 cm under the road.

A wirelessly charged electric vehicle went into service  last week at the Seoul Grand Park in Gwacheon, traversing a 2.2 kilometer-long circular route through the zoo.

Known as on-line electric vehicle (OLEV), the jitney is  powered by electricity from an electrical charging strip planted about 5 cm under the road surface, with a 13 cm gap between the road surface and the vehicle.

It is in pilot operation at the theme park, replacing diesel powered shuttle trains that ran on diesel fuel.

The OLEV, developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), is charged wirelessly over a 400-meter long stretch of electrical strip. A special electrical strip creates a magnetic field that generates magnetic force, which is sent wirelessly to the vehicle and converted into electricity.


Similar vehicle demonstrations from other companies have failed in the United States and elsewhere.

The first KAIST OLEV was built and the electrical strips were laid in January. Numerous safety evaluations and test runs to improve efficiency have been conducted since then.   (more…)

Milestones: Ten Million Flex-Fuel Vehicles in Brazil

U.S. ethanol policy is muddled when compared with Brazil’s.

by on Mar.08, 2010

It's said that using biomass, cheap farm waste, could radically alter the economics of ethanol. The lower cost could end taxpayer subsidies, though the farm lobby holds powerful sway in the "pay to play" Washington scene.

Brazil’s 10 millionth flex-fuel vehicle was built last week, ready to be fueled by sugarcane- derived ethanol from an industry that is not government subsidized.

In the U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing inefficient corn-derived ethanol to the tune of almost $4 billion annually ($0.45/gallon federal production subsidy, plus state and local incentives), and the farm lobby and agribusiness are pushing for more taxpayer feed to be put into the trough by way of increasing the amount of ethanol beyond the 10% that is legally required to be blended into fuel.

That might be OK, except that ethanol is roughly 33% less fuel efficient than gasoline; so it’s another cost increase in the middle of the Great Recession. And at current prices the higher blend of U.S. made ethanol, E85, which could really help limit oil imports from terrorist supporting regimes, is not competitive with gasoline.

Worse, protective tariffs effectively stop the importation of ethanol that makes economic sense, but not political sense in pay-for-play Washington. (Click Here)

The production subsidy for ethanol applies to both domestic and imported ethanol, but the United States charges importers of ethanol a tariff of 54 cents per gallon and an ad valorem tariff of 2.5% of the value of the imported ethanol. This means countries such as Brazil that can produce ethanol much more efficiently than the U.S. are effectively blocked from selling it here. This protectionist policy also applies to other global markets.

Alternative Views!

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) represents the top producers of sugar and ethanol in the country’s South-Central region, especially the state of Sao Paulo, which accounts for about 50% of the country’s sugarcane harvest and 60% of total ethanol production.

In 2008, Brazil produced an estimated 565 million metric tons of sugarcane, which yielded 31.3 million tons of sugar and 25.7 billion liters (6.8 billion gallons) of ethanol, making it the number-one sugarcane grower and sugar producer in the world, and the second-largest ethanol producer on the planet, behind the United States.   (more…)

Solar Electricity From a Porsche Warehouse

The equivalent energy for 500 households will be made.

by on Feb.15, 2010

Porsche estimates 1,780 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) will be saved every year.

Porsche AG, Stuttgart, is making a 40,000-square-meter area on the rooftop of its central spare parts warehouse in Sachsenheim (Baden-Wuerttemberg) to install and operate approximately 8,500 photovoltaic modules there.

When completed, the system will generate nearly two million kilowatt hours per year — the equivalent to the average energy consumption of approximately 500 four-person households.

The latest development is consistent with a European trend toward solar power generation, boosted by government incentives.

Goldbeck Solar GmbH, Hirschberg an der Bergstrasse, starting later will install  in February the photovoltaic cells and operate the powerplant a few weeks later.

The electricity will be fed into the grid of the energy provider E&W Eichwald GmbH, Bietigheim-Bissingen.

“Progressive environmental protection and conservation of resources isn’t only a Porsche priority in production. Our central spare parts warehouse provides the ideal conditions for ecological energy generation,” says Wolfgang Leimgruber, Member of the Executive Board for Production and Logistics of Porsche AG.


Porsche estimates that approximately 1,780 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) will be saved every year.

It claims the photovoltaic system in Sachsenheim will be one of the most modern and efficient in the Greater Stuttgart area.

Volvo to offer Plug-in Hybrids across the Range

Swedish maker plans electrification of entire line by 2020.

by on Jan.22, 2010

The start of the hybridization of the entire line.

Volvo’s plan to offer a plug in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) on one of its larger car lines by 2012 is just the beginning of an ambitious program to spread the technology to its entire lineup by the end of the decade – if not sooner – according to insiders working on future products at the Swedish company.

The Volvo plan arises from CO2 emissions reductions dictated by stringent European Union regulations. These are twice as tough as the controversial CO2 reductions that are now being implemented in the U.S., which call for a 35.5 mpg fleet average in 2016.

Plans for exports of PHEVs and BEVs are still flexible, executives say.

At the lighter end of the line, starting with the C30 BEV, a pure battery electric vehicle, will also be offered in Europe at the same time.

Plans for exports of PHEVs and BEVs are still flexible, executives say, and are dependent on the price of fuel, as well as government taxation and subsidy policies governing the marketing of electric cars.

The vast engineering development, manufacturing and sales programs required for electrification are being undertaken against the background of a depressed, profitless global industry, where loss-making Volvo Car is being sold by its parent, Ford Motor Company, to the Chinese maker Geely.

Successful and, more importantly, profitable implementation of electrification now appears key to the survival of all auto companies given the current regulatory environment, which shows no signs of decreasing demands for more fuel efficient and therefore less CO2 belching vehicles. The fact is companies and customers no longer will control their own fates as things are now shaping up. Regulation will dictate a large part, if not all of the market,  and survival of companies will depend on how they can comply with an unprecedented amount of government direction.

Smaller companies such as Volvo face a larger challenge in surviving, arguably, if nimbleness as well as possible exemptions and/or company friendly regulation are not ultimately more decisive factors.

Viewed one way, the Volvo commitment to hybrids is a stunning reversal of the traditional disdain that European makers expressed about this  Japanese developed technology. All European, and for that matter U.S., automakers are well behind current developments in the ongoing hybridization of the auto industry,  which has been underway for more than a decade now.


Loopholes in Proposed CAFE Rules Under Attack

As gas prices rise, Public Citizen criticizes industry credits.

by on Oct.22, 2009

As always, the devil will be in the final rule details after lobbyists shape the regulations.

As always, the devil will be in the final rule details after lobbyists shape the regulations.

“The auto industry must not be allowed to compromise The Obama administration’s fuel economy, and greenhouse gas standards,” says Lena Pons, Policy Analyst of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division.

Under the proposal, which was announced with great political fanfare last September, automakers would have to raise the average gas mileage across their fleets to 35.5 miles per gallon and reduce carbon dioxide to 250 grams per mile by 2016.

The exact regulations that would put this in effect are now part of a complex rulemaking process at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is expected to go on until next spring.

No Loopholes!

No Loopholes!

Therein lays the controversy, as lobbyists for the industry seek special exemptions for vehicles that will undermine the intent of the program. Pons says that the proposal must be improved before it is finalized because it offers auto manufacturers too many opportunities to evade proposed fuel economy gains.


Renewable Fuel Fight Over Agricultural Subsidies and Emissions Continues as EPA Works on Rules

Should taxpayers be subsidizing agribusiness to produce fuels?

by on Aug.07, 2009

EPA Adminstrator Jackson

At stake here, ultimately, is billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to agribusiness, and even the future of the whole bio-fuel industry in the U.S.

The EPA made public this morning an independent review of how it should calculate the life-cycle effects of renewable fuels on air pollution.

Normally this would be an arcane economic debate over methodologies, time periods, and at what rate to calculate/discount the value of gains over time. But at stake here, ultimately, is billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to agribusiness, and even the future of the whole bio-fuel industry in the U.S.

So a controversy has been growing among various self-interested factions since the EPA, under the Obama Administration, reversed its Bush-directed self and said greenhouse gases are a health problem, which will be addressed.

A contentious rulemaking process is now well underway.

From an automotive point of view there are two central issues. The first is how to decrease emissions and our dependence on imports of foreign oil from terrorist supporting countries. The second is a subset of the first: what if the biofuels we are using —  ethanol, biodiesel, natural gas — really cause more emissions than they save? That’s why how the EPA calculates the life cycle emissions effects is of such concern to subsidized businesses, the agricultural lobby and various clean air special interest groups.

The U.S. is already under Congressional mandate to use increasing amounts of renewable fuels. Under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, EPA is responsible for revising and implementing regulations to ensure that gasoline sold in the United States contains a minimum volume of renewables. The Renewable Fuel Standard program will increase the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into gasoline from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. (At one point the goal under President Bush was 35 billion/2017.)

The new RFS program regulations are being developed with what the EPA euphemistically says is a “collaboration with refiners, renewable fuel producers, and many other stakeholders.”

Translation: Big bucks are at stake here, and lobbying will be intense.