Electric Cars Take Over Greenest Vehicles List

Electric cars have taken over this year’s Greenest Vehicles List published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The 19th annual environmental rankings published on greencars.org featured nine electric vehicles (EV). The following vehicles comprise the Greenest List for 2016:

For the third year in a row, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive tops the Greenest List. Toyota’s Prius line continues to perform well, with the new Prius Eco nabbing the 4th spot, while the Prius C and original Prius claim spots #8 and #9. For the first time ever, the Greenest list is completely populated by plug-in and hybrid vehicles; not a single vehicle with only an internal combustion engine appears.

“The 2016 scores are in, and plug-in electric vehicles are outpacing all other vehicle offerings in terms of environmental friendliness. Fortunately, the electricity sector is slated to become cleaner over the life of model year 2016 vehicles, thanks to the Clean Power Plan, and that has bumped up electric vehicles’ green scores this year. Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that how green your electric vehicle truly is depends on the electricity it uses to charge,” said ACEEE Lead Vehicle Analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan.

The newest additions to the list are the Volkswagen eGolf and the Kia’s Soul electric vehicle, which claim the #5 and #7 spots respectively. This year marks the first time a Kia vehicle has earned a top spot since 2009. The improved 2016 Chevrolet Volt also nabs a spot this year (#11) thanks to significant increases in fuel economy and its new streamlined vehicle design.

Modern clean diesels have repeatedly placed well in ACEEE’s annual ranking. However, following the EPA announcement that Volkswagen had cheated federal emissions standards since 2009, greenercars.org suspended its Green Scores for all affected VW, Audi, and Porsche diesel models.

Greenercars.org also identifies practical options in each class among the top widely available, automatic transmission, petroleum-fueled models, since many of the vehicles on the Greenest list are not widely available. The Greener Choices list include the Chevrolet Trax and the GMC Canyon.

Vehicle Manufacturers Increase #Biodiesel Support

NBB's Biodiesel ChevyFrom coast-to-coast B20 is now formally supported by nearly all vehicle manufacturers. Today more than 78 percent of the diesel vehicles coming off production lines are approved for use with B20, as noted during the annual Biodiesel Showcase that took place yesterday during the 13th Annual National Biodiesel Conference.

Some big examples of support include General Motors (GM), Hino and PACCAR along with Ford and Fiat Chrysler. Among U.S. heavy-duty truck segments, which account for more than 87 percent of actual diesel fuel usage, every major engine manufacturer supports B20 in their new engines except for Daimler’s Detroit Diesel, which remains at B5.

Many users are realizing that B20 biodiesel blends offer them a cost-effective and seamless option to help meet increasingly aggressive greenhouse gas and carbon reduction goals. Energy continues to warrant focus on the worldwide stage as a primary way to reduce the effects of climate change and during this week’s conference, biodiesel role in this efforts were highlighted. The Biodiesel Showcase was one of the best visuals of the benefits of biodiesel and a demonstration that consumer choices for biodiesel play a strong role in influencing vehicle manufacturers to continue to increase their support of biodiesel.

Following are three brief videos about vehicles that are approved for the use of B20. You can get the scoop on PACCAR’s “bright yellow truck” by clicking here.

2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Dr. Aydin Sunol, University of Florida

Adrian Ratza, Hino

Mike Fico, Ferman Chevrolet

RFA Comments on DOE’s Innovative “Optima” Program

The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) had a call for information on Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines (Optima). The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) submitted comments stating that the Association agrees that “co-optimization of future fuels and engines is an essential strategy for achieving national objectives related to energy conservation, carbon emission reduction, and energy security.”

rfalogo1The comments were authored by RFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper who noted in the remarks that a significant amount of work is already underway that complements Optima’s goals including lifecycle energy and greenhouse gas analysis of ethanol and high octane fuels (HDFs); evaluation of tools to predict HOF exhaust emissions; infrastructure compatibility and cost analyses; development of standards and specifications; and other activities. The comments also pointed out several areas for further research and collaboration, including actual HOF emissions testing; refinery-level economic analysis; using flex-fuel vehicles as a “bridge” technology to HOFs; and further characterizing the properties of various octane sources.

RFA notes that existing regulatory barriers pose the most significant threat to the commercial introduction of HOFs. According to RFA, “Federal regulatory barriers that must be addressed include: fuel volatility (RVP) regulations; Tier 3 regulations regarding certification fuels; new fuel registration requirements; treatment of biofuels and FFVs in determining compliance with 2017-2025 CAFE/GHG standards (e.g. ‘R-factor’ and ‘F-factor’ values); inconsistent boundaries and approaches to regulatory lifecycle GHG accounting; and tailpipe pollutant (i.e., non-GHG) emissions estimation. In addition, a number of state regulatory barriers need to be addressed to facilitate introduction of HOFs.”

RFA stated the “chicken and egg” phenomenon was a substantial barrier to the deployment of co-optimized engines and HOFs, characterizing the phenomenon as one where “automakers are hesitant to invest in manufacturing HOF-optimized vehicles until HOFs are substantially available in the marketplace, and…fuel producers are reluctant to invest in infrastructure to produce and distribute HOFs until HOF-optimized vehicles are substantially available.” RFA said a primary objective of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was to “eliminate the ‘chicken or egg’ fuel/engine situation by specifying biofuel volumes that must be consumed far in advance, providing substantial lead time for affected industries to implement plans.” RFA stated that the EPA’s “unlawful reinterpretation of its statutory waiver authority and its reduction of RFS volume obligations has raised serious concerns about the future viability of the RFS as a tool for driving the transition to HOFs and optimized SI engines.”

2015 Sees Record Car Sales, Most Approved for E15

U.S. car sales in 2015 hit record sales according to statistics from Autodata. Increased sales have been spurred by cheap gasoline prices coupled with low interest rates. In total, 17.5 million cars and light trucks were sold last year to the tune of $570 billion.

According to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), a majority of these vehicles sold are approved for the use of E15 (15 percent ethanol; 85 percent gas). In 2016, an even more cars and light trucks are expected to be approved for E15 use by automakers.

E15 at the pump

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

RFA estimates that E15 was identified by auto manufacturers as an approved fuel for slightly more than 60 percent of model year (MY) 2015 vehicles sold – nearly 10.7 million cars and light trucks. This number is expected to grow in 2016, as strong sales are expected to continue and more than 70 percent of MY2016 vehicles carry the manufacturers’ explicit endorsement of E15. Recent analysis by RFA showed that Fiat Chrylser, General Motors, Ford, Toyota/Lexus, Audi/Porsche/Volkswagen, Honda/Acura, Jaguar, and Land Rover all clearly identify E15 as an approved fuel for MY2016 vehicles.

“With each passing day, the number of automakers approving the use of E15 vehicles on U.S. roadways continues to grow,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “As we begin 2016 three important trends are worth noting: first, vehicle sales show no signs of slowing down; second, an even larger percentage of new cars, pickups, and SUVs are explicitly approved by their manufacturer for E15; and third, the oldest vehicles in the fleet— model years 2000 and older not EPA-approved for E15 use —are being scrapped at an accelerated rate. This means that someday in the not-so-distant future, nearly every car, truck, or SUV in the country will be unambiguously approved by the auto manufacturer for E15 and we can put to rest the false notion that carmakers don’t allow the use of E15.”

While automakers only began identifying E15 as an approved fuel for new vehicles following registration of E15 as a legal fuel in 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the use of E15 in all vehicles built since 2001. This means more than 85 percent of the vehicles on the road today are legally approved to use E15.

General Motors Texas Plant to be Wind Powered

Wind will be soon be powering General Motors’ (GM) Arlington Assembly plant (Texas). Enough renewable energy will be produced to build nearly 125,000 trucks a year. The 115 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy will be enough to manufacture more than half of the plant’s annual vehicle output – the plant produces more than 1,200 vehicles per day. The wind power project should be online during Q4 2016.

GM Wind_Info_finalGM signed a power purchase agreement with EDP Renewables North America for its first U.S. wind power project– 30 MW of energy from the planned 250 MW Hidalgo Wind Farm in Edinburg, Texas. Fifteen of the wind farm’s 261-foot-tall turbines, whose blades span the size of a football field, will generate the energy GM will use.

“Our investment is helping accelerate the proliferation of clean energy in Texas and the use of wind as a reliable, renewable source of energy,” said Jim DeLuca, GM executive vice president of Global Manufacturing. “Our sustainable manufacturing mindset benefits the communities in which we operate across the globe.”

EDP Renewables North America CEO Gabriel Alonso, added, “We are pleased to enter into this agreement with General Motors and look forward to providing clean and more economical energy for GM’s Arlington Assembly plant in the coming years.”

Beginning in the first quarter of 2016, wind energy will help power three GM Mexico facilities. Once on line, the company will exceed its commitment to use 125 MW of renewable energy by 2020. GM’s investments in renewable energy to date have yielded nearly $80 million in savings.

Pacific Ethanol CEO on Bobby Likis Car Clinic

likis-koehlerPacific Ethanol CEO Neil Koehler will be a guest on “Bobby Likis Car Clinic” tomorrow, November 21, at 11:40 am Eastern time.

Koehler will brief Car Clinic listeners and viewers on the actions required to make strides in energy independence, including the importance of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalizing the rule for the renewable volume obligations of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), set for November 30.

“It’s my job as consumers’ go-to source for truth-based automotive information to deliver the facts to you, so you can make best-of-decisions,” said Likis. “Neil Koehler will tell it like it is regarding the RFS.”

Pacific Ethanol is the leading producer and marketer of low-carbon renewable fuels in the Western United States. With the addition of four Midwestern ethanol plants in July 2015, Pacific Ethanol more than doubled the scale of its operations, entered new markets, and expanded its mission to be the industry leader in the production and marketing of low carbon renewable fuels.

To view Koehler’s interview in its entirety, visit WatchBobbyLive.com on Saturday, November 21, at 11:41a ET.

U.S. Toyota Makes Cars with ‘Green’ Gas

Toyota will soon be manufacturing cars with “green” gas. The company announced its efforts to nearly eliminate all CO2 emissions from its factories and vehicles and will achieve this, in part, with electricity produced from methane. The “green” gas, also known in some instances as renewable natural gas, is a byproduct of trash decomposition from the nearby Central Kentucky Landfill.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 12.26.51 AM“We will generate one megawatt (1 million watts) per hour at the site,” said Toyota’s environmental strategies manager Dave Absher. “That’s enough annual energy generation to produce approximately 10,000 vehicles. The system can eventually be scaled up to 10 megawatts per hour.”

Toyota has announced aggressive global emission reduction goals for all of its production plants as well as for the cars they produce. This year the company launched the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and has made the technology available for use by other automakers. In addition, they are developing manufacturing technologies that also use hydrogen as a power source within their plants. The company has also integrated other renewable energy power sources including wind, solar and locally produced renewable energy. Toyota hopes to reach its zero emissions goal by 2050.

“The landfill gas generator represents the kind of thinking that our company is asking us to do to reduce our carbon footprint over the next 35 years,” said Kevin Butt, Toyota’s general manager for environment strategies. “It’s a small step, but a significant one. These types of changes to our manufacturing operations coupled with other global initiatives will help us reach this very aggressive goal.” Continue reading

E15 Approved for 2016 Fiat Chrysler Models

2016-jeep Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) had approved the use of E15 (15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline) in its model year 2016 Chrysler/Fiat, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles.

According to the new owners manuals for the vehicles, “Non-Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFV) are compatible with gasoline containing up to 15% ethanol (E15).” The decision means that FCA joins General Motors and Ford in covering E15 in its warranty statements. GM started covering E15 with its MY 2012 vehicles, while Ford joined a year later with its MY 2013 vehicles. More than 12 percent of the vehicles sold so far in the United States in 2015 have been FCA vehicles.

“FCA’s decision to join GM and Ford provides clear evidence that the tide on E15 has turned,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “FCA customers will be afforded a benefit that will likely lower their weekly motor fuel bill: the freedom to choose what fuel to put into their vehicles.”

RFA has been concerned about FCA’s reluctance to embrace E15 for the past three years, and Dinneen specifically called on Chrysler to approve E15 during his State of the Industry address at this year’s National Ethanol Conference.

IBB Features Mechanic Training Program

The Biodiesel for Diesel Technicians,” is currently available for free at community colleges in Iowa and surrounding states complements of a federal grant. The class has been supported by the regional Clean Cities along with the Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB) and was developed by the National Biodiesel Board and IBB together.

Instructor Jerry Burns signs students up for training. Photo Credit: Iowa Biodiesel Board

Instructor Jerry Burns signs students up for training. Photo Credit: Iowa Biodiesel Board

“This training program helps mechanics better understand how biodiesel works in diesel engines, particularly in today’s New Technology Diesel Engines, and advise their customers about the true impacts of using biodiesel blends,” said Grant Kimberley, IBB executive director. “This program is mission critical to the long-term success of biodiesel becoming ingrained in our domestic fuel supply.”

Upcoming free training sessions are scheduled for:

  • 6:00 – 8:30 pm, June 11, 2015 at Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon, Iowa, and
  • 8:00 – 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 – 3:00 pm, June 16, 2015 at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa.

The course offers the latest information about:

  • Original Equipment Manufacturer support for biodiesel
  • Fuel quality
  • Service requirements
  • Impacts on technology found on new diesel engines

The Biodiesel for Diesel Technicians program received Automotive Service Excellence accreditation in June 2012. Since its founding, the program has served as a model for a number of other organizations across the country. Click here for registration information.

Tesla Partners with College of Marin

During a presentation at Tesla Design Studios in Los Angeles the company unveiled a new Tesla battery that has home, commercial and utility-scale storage applications. College of Marin is the first community college to partner with Tesla to install the new battery storage products on campus.

The college received $5.3 million in government incentives to help cover the costs of site prep, installation of the lithium-ion battery pack, liquid thermal control system, and software that receives dispatch commands from a solar inverter. Concrete slabs will be installed behind the Student Services Building at the Kentfield Campus and near the Main Building at the Indian Valley Campus.

Tesla home batteryVice President Greg Nelson expects installation to begin in mid-May and last until the end of June. Once the stationary batteries are operational, Nelson estimates the cost savings to be anywhere from $100,000-$150,000 annually for the College.

“Leveraging existing relationships made this new partnership possible. Through collaboration with our friends at Marin Clean Energy, we were able to meet the program qualifications and embark on this new venture with Tesla that has been nine months in the making,” said Nelson. “This takes College of Marin to the next stage of energy conservation, moving the College forward as a leader in sustainability. I believe this program will grow, creating opportunities for other community colleges throughout the country.”

“We are proud to partner with Tesla and others in this innovative pilot project,” said Board of Trustees President Wanden Treanor. “College of Marin is honored to help prove the potential for this new energy source while at the same time generating considerable savings to the College’s energy bill. It is another step toward realizing a promise we made to the residents of Marin.”