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Posts Tagged ‘environmental news’

Study Blames 25% of Cars for Over 90% of Pollution

Pollution problems spread farther than expected in urban areas.

by on May.12, 2015

That older car is far more likely to be putting out substantially more pollution than current models, according to researchers.

That beat-up junker in your neighbor’s driveway? It’s likely to produce more pollution during a long day’s commute than some newer vehicles emit driving cross country, according to various researchers.

And a new study out of Canada has tried to quantify the pollution gap. By monitoring traffic in downtown Toronto, scientists found that 25% of the cars they measured produced 95% of the total particulates and 93% of the carbon monoxide.

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“As we looked at the exhaust coming out of individual vehicles, we saw so many variations. How you drive, hard acceleration, age of the vehicle, how the car is maintained – these are things we can influence that can all have an effect on pollution,” author Greg Evans explained. (more…)

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.

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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.


It’s Back to the Future, Says Bill Ford

But will battery cars do better than they did when his great-grandfather was around?

by on Apr.16, 2010

Thomas Edison looks over a battery-powered Ford, favored by some early motorists, including Henry Ford's wife Clara.

Everything old is new again, goes the old refrain, and nowhere is that more true than in the auto industry.  Though they may seem high-tech, primitive navigation systems first appeared in the earliest days of the 20th Century, and fuel-saving CVT transmissions date back even further.

Then there’s the electric vehicle, which has suddenly became the hot topic on this year’s auto show circuit.  But if you’d been around for the first big U.S. car show, a century ago in New York, you’d have discovered there were as many battery-powered vehicles as those running on gasoline.  Even Henry Ford got into the act, producing an electric flivver for his wife Clara, and asking old buddy Thomas Edison to try to come up with a longer-range battery.

“They’ve been around really for the past century or so, but they really haven’t had mass-market appeal,” suggested the industry pioneer’s great-grandson, and now Ford Motor Co. executive chairman, Bill Ford Jr. 

Will they now?  That’s the big question that the Ford heir raised at the close of this year’s annual conference of automotive executives and engineers, the SAE World Congress.

The modern electric vehicle, using the latest in lithium-ion technology, “appears (to be) the biggest came-changer” in the industry, said Ford, during an SAE speech.

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He noted that the maker is lining up five vehicles that can run, at least for moderate distances, on battery power alone – a figure that doesn’t include conventional gas-electric models, like the Ford Fusion Hybrid. 


Green is Mean – and Really Unethical?

New study suggests selfish, dishonest side to environmentalism.

by on Mar.16, 2010

Does driving a high-mileage hybrid encourage motorists to develop "compensatory ethics"?

Ask any California motorist and they’ll tell you about the folks in the Prius hybrids.  For several years, the high-mileage vehicles qualified for special stickers that let them drive in the car pool lanes on local highways, even with just one person onboard.

“And you’d seem to find most of them driving well below the speed limit,” grumps Bill Tabor, an Orange County mid-level manager, who had to squeeze several colleagues into his low-mileage Honda Accord to get the same access.  “It was as if they suddenly were the authority, setting the speed that everyone else would have to drive.”

Frustrating, no question.  But according to a new study, it’s also no surprise.

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People who wear the “halo of green consumerism” may like to be seen as saving the planet, but they’re less likely to be kind to others and surprisingly likely to cheat and steal, according to a study by the Canadian psychologists Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, who published their findings in the journal Psychological Science, under the title, “Do Green Products Make Us Better People?”

Apparently, the answer is not also a resounding no.


GM Adds Battery-Electric Vehicles to Plug-ins, Hybrids, E-REVs

Pure battery cars under development, but timing uncertain.

by on Jan.25, 2010

GM is moving forward on a range of pure battery-powered vehicles, well beyond the little NXR it will sell in India as part of a joint venture.

While General Motors plans emphasize hybrids, plug-ins and so-called extended-range electrics, like the Chevrolet Volt, the automaker is quietly at work developing some pure battery-electric models that could hit the road in the next few years, officials have confirmed to

Senior GM officials are still skeptical about the potential for vehicles relying on batteries along, but they also see the need for what product development czar Tom Stephens describes as a “robust product portfolio” that can address the broadest possible mix of energy alternatives and consumer needs.

The key takeaway, GM officials stress, is that electric power, in one form or another, is rapidly becoming an essentially element in the company’s model mix.

“We have to come up with a robust product portfolio that can take advantage of all (the various) energy alternatives and do it efficiently,” said Stephens.

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Until recently, GM officials prefered to direct the media spotlight towards an array of products pairing battery power and the internal combustion engine, such as mild hybrids like the one first introduced on the Saturn Vue, advanced two-mode hybrid-electric systems, such as the one used in the Cadillac Escalade, and extended-range electric vehicles, or E-REVs, such as the Chevrolet Volt.


Ford Looking at Eco-Performance Options

A battery-powered Mustang?

by on Dec.18, 2009

This specially-developed Ford Focus was developed for Jay Leno's new Green Challenge celebrity race.

This specially-developed Ford Focus was developed for Jay Leno's new Green Challenge celebrity race.

Facing pressure from consumers and regulators alike, Ford Motor Co. is putting a heavy emphasis on downsizing, alternative powertrains and advanced gasoline technology, but the company won’t abandon its traditional emphasis on performance products, such as the Mustang.

Could clean, high-mileage alternative propulsion system deliver both better fuel economy and high-performance?

“Sure,” says Jim Farley, the automaker’s marketing czar and a serious muscle car fan in his rare off-hours.  The good thing about electric propulsion, he points out, is that, “You get 100% of an electric motor’s torque the moment it starts turning, and that’s pretty exciting for customers who want performance.”



As an example, Farley points to the specially-developed battery-powered Ford Focus developed for superstar Jay Leno and used regularly in a celebrity racing segment on Leno’s new nightly TV show.  The bright orange 5-door started out as a conventional version of the European Focus ST hatchback.  Shipped to Michigan, it was given a 141 horsepower, 235 lb-ft electric drive system powered by 98 lithium-ion batteries.


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.”

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That comment reflects THINK’s long-standing goal of returning to the U.S. market.  In a conversation with, 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.)


EPA Names “Environmental Justice” Communities

A local means to improving health from a newly activist EPA.

by on Nov.17, 2009

Helping highlight the disproportionate environmental burdens placed on low-income people.

Highlighting "disproportionate" burdens on low-income people.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced today a national initiative to “address environmental justice challenges” in ten communities through its  Environmental Justice Showcase Communities program.

EPA has committed $1 million of your tax dollars to this effort during the next two years.

“These 10 communities will serve as models for the EPA’s committed environmental justice efforts, and help highlight the disproportionate environmental burdens placed on low-income and minority communities all across the nation,” said Lisa P. Jackson, EPA Administrator.

“By expanding the conversation on environmentalism, we can give a voice to vulnerable groups that haven’t always had a voice on these issues,” said Jackson.

Since 1994, EPA has provided more than $32 million in general funding to more than 1,100 community-based organizations.

EPA says that the selected communities will use “collaborative, community-based approaches to improve public health and the environment.”

EPA will provide $100,000 per project. These demonstration projects will test and share information on different approaches to increase EPA’s ability to achieve environmental results in communities.

The following locations will serve as Environmental Justice Showcase Communities:


Q&A: Nissan EV Director Hideaki Watanabe

Making the case for Zero-Emissions vehicles.

by on Nov.16, 2009

Can Nissan make a profit on the Leaf, even while charging no more than a comparable, gasoline-powered small car?

Can Nissan make a profit on the Leaf, even while charging no more than a comparable, gasoline-powered small car?

Nissan is kicking off a 22-city tour designed to promote the first of four battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, that it plans to bring out over the next several years.

The debut event coincided with the announcement of a new joint venture with Reliant Energy, one of the largest electric utilities in the U.S.  The automaker has been racing to ink a series of joint ventures with utilities, battery producers and even governments, such as Portugal and Israel, in its bid to make electric propulsion not just the darling of environmentalists but a competitive alternative to the conventional internal combustion engine.

While the battery car program is the pet project of Nissan’s hard-charging CEO Carlos Ghosn, the man who has to pull it all together is Hideaki Watanabe, the general manager of the automaker’s advanced propulsion program.  The ebullient executive was on hand during the Zero-Emissions Tour kickoff, in Los Angeles, discussing the program in only faintly accented English, which he honed during a three-year stint in the United States.

Watanabe discussed the challenges of battery technology, as well as some unexpected advantages that, he feels, could attract customers not simply driven by “eco-guilt.”  He spoke with Publisher Paul A. Eisenstein.

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TheDetroitBureau: Everyone at Nissan seems to be, if you’ll pardon the pun, charged up about battery vehicles.  Why, considering so many competitors are still reluctant to comit to the technology?


Nissan May Offer Optional Longer-Range, Higher-Power Batteries

Instead of I-4, V-6 or V-8, buyers may pick size of power pack.

by on Nov.16, 2009

Nissan may eventually offer optional, higher-power, longer-range batteries for the Leaf BEV, shown here with CEO Carlos Ghosn.

Nissan may eventually offer optional, higher-power, longer-range batteries for the Leaf BEV, shown here with CEO Carlos Ghosn.

Would you like to Super-Size that battery?

The typical new car buyer has a myriad array of options to chose from, covering everything from paint color to the quality of the sound system, but one of the most substantial choices usually concerns engine size.  Do you want that fuel-efficient inline-four or a high-performance V-8?

But what happens when the industry begins the conversion to electric power?

When Nissan begins rolling out its new Leaf battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, next year, there’ll be just one powertrain package: using lithium-ion batteries, it will deliver 100 miles of range, 0 to 60 times of less than 10 seconds and a top speed of 90 mpg.

(Click Here for a review of the 2011 Nissan Leaf battery-electric vehicle.)

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But a senior Nissan planner tells that the company eventually give BEV buyers the electric vehicle’s equivalent of choosing engines, offering an array of different battery packs.  That would allow a motorist to choose between a lower-range, lower-cost pack, or batteries delivering perhaps twice the mileage, at a higher price, of course.  And, as battery technology improves, eco-minded motorists might also be offered batteries that would add a bit more muscle to their green machines.