The Economist wrote about our hydrogen car future. Thinking that battery powered electric cars may not catch on with consumers for quite awhile, automobile manufacturers are beginning to explore the possibilities of hydrogen fuel cells as a zero emission option. Last month Toyota and BMW revealed plans to cooperate on hydrogen fuel cell research. That same week Ford, Daimler and Nissan announced they would team up in a push to bring their own fuel cell technology to market as early as 2017

“…with battery development being much slower than expected (and with Boeing’s 787 woes putting an unwanted spotlight on the problems with lithium-batteries), hydrogen is starting to look like an option again…The German government has provided funding for a network of alternative power service stations across the country that will offer both battery chargers and hydrogen pumps.

Ford, Daimler and Nissan hope their collaboration will send a clear signal to suppliers, policymakers and the industry to encourage further development of hydrogen re-fueling stations and other infrastructure necessary to allow the vehicles to be mass-marketed. Should this call be heard, hydrogen may indeed be a fuel of the future.”

See also The Globe and Mail A fork in the road to the electric future.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg had a post about Hyundai’s new fuel cell car. Hyundai’s fuel-cell-powered Tucson goes 370 miles on a single tank and produces zero emissions. While not available at dealerships yet, it is being leased to city car fleets such as the city of Copenhagen, Denmark.  The company plans on bringing it to market in 2015. However, they will not be cheap.  While the gasoline version tops out at $26,000 with all the bells and whistles, Hyundai is hoping to bring the hydrogen version to market for about &50,000.  That price difference is a lot of gasoline, even at $4 to $5 a gallon in North America.

The Shanghai Daily reported that China thinks the future lies with more efficient internal combustion engines running on gasoline and diesel fuel. A recent guideline issued to China’s Cabinet says the country will focus on developing energy efficient ICE engines and that these engines will make up 50% of total engines in use by 2015. The purpose is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by 6% to 10%.

China will step up efforts to develop energy-saving internal combustion engines and promote their use in coming years to reduce emissions, according to a guideline issued by the State Council. Energy-saving internal combustion engines will account for 60 percent of the total engines in use by 2015.

Climate Spectator wrote about why it is hard to substitute away from petrol with alternative fuels. In a nutshell, greenhouse gas emissions aside, gasoline gives you more bang (and comfort) for your buck.

Energy density and the cost, weight, and size of onboard energy storage are important characteristics of fuels for transportation. Fuels that require large, heavy, or expensive storage can reduce the space available to convey people and freight, weigh down a vehicle (making it operate less efficiently), or make it too costly to operate, even after taking account of cheaper fuels. Compared to gasoline and diesel, other options may have more energy per unit weight, but none have more energy per unit volume.

One thing is becoming very clear.  High petrol prices are not leading to a mass migration to alternative fuel vehicles.  Prices have been ratcheting up for several years now and yet the number of alternative fuel vehicles (eg. electric cars) makes up a miniscule portion of nationwide transportation fleets.  This was the theme of a few posts this week.  The Green Optimistic told us Fuel Prices Don’t Drive Sales of Alternative Fuel Vehicles, Study Suggests. This post reports that when the price of petrol goes up, consumers hunt for more efficient internal combustion engines, not for alternative fuels. Gas2 found An Increase In Gas Prices Does Not Mean An Increase In Electric Vehicle Sales. The higher price of electric vehicles is a detriment as we learned from GLOBAL TIMES in Electric cars still prohibitively expensive for New Zealand market: expert as is the lack of charging infrastructure said Chron in Electric cars: charging forward, or out of juice?

Which is cheaper?   A hybrid, gasoline or diesel powered vehicle?  The National Post has the answer here after testing three Volkswagen vehicles. The conclusion? Diesel engines are better on the highway and hybrids are better in town.  That being said, the post does have some important things to say about the testing methods used to measure fuel economy and the biases that can creep in.  So don’t think the government ratings are always accurate.

Automoblog related the history of the diesel engine since its invention in 1893 by Rudolf Diesel.

Japanese taxi drivers are not enthralled with electric cars we learned from Green Car Reports. Two years ago the city of Osaka introduced a fleet of fifty Nissan Leaf electric taxis. At first tie drivers loved them.  But not so much now. It turns out the batteries don’t hold their charger and are taking longer to recharge.  Not good for a business that demands a ready taxi at all times.

While reliable, comfortable and smooth as ever, high-mileage drivers are finding degredation of the battery packs to be an issue. Where a 60-mile range was once common in regular use, some are finding that cut to as low as 30 miles–and to save energy as much as possible, some drivers are shunning the car’s heater in favor of chemical pocket warmers, and even blankets.

Degredation of the battery pack has also had an effect on the battery’s ability to take a quick charge. A 15-minute charge has turned into a 40-minute one for many drivers. They can’t travel as far, and they can’t spend as much time on the road–and it’s ruining business, for some. Customers requesting longer trips are even being turned down.

The Japanese taxi driver story is an important one in light of the fact that the Nissan Leaf is the world’s most popular EV, recently reaching 50,000 sales globally.

From Green Car Reports we found 2,222 pure electric vehicles were sold in Canada in 2012 with about half the sales taking place in the province of Quebec. This is less than 1% of the total vehicle population in the country.  In the US EVs account for about 0.6% of the total vehicle population.

EcoSeed said the global hybrid vehicle market will generate over 2 million sales this year. This is the conclusion of a recent report from ASDReports entitled Global Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) Market 2013-2023. Hybrid vehicles are powered by a combination of electricity and gasoline or diesel. The authors expect substantial growth for the the global hybrid market as  hybrid technologies are increasingly used to increase fuel efficiency and lower greenhouse emissions.

The Canadian province of Quebec has ordered 475 bybrid (electric-diesel) buses from Swedish bus manufacturer Volvo reported autobloggreen. Quebec has an option to purchase an additional 1200 of these buses which get 30% more fuel efficiency than a regular diesel bus. First delivery will take place in early 2014.

The US state of Virginia became the latest jurisdiction to charge a special fee for EVs to pay the road tax.  The state passed legislation to charge a $100 annual license tax for EV drivers said FredericksburgPatch.



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