VW’s Diesel Scandal Could Hurt Biodiesel

VWA growing scandal that Volkswagen created software to let its diesel vehicles cheat some environmental tests could have implications for the even greener fuel biodiesel. This story from CBS News says VW cheating on diesel with possibly as many as 11 million vehicles doesn’t help the fuel’s greener cousin.

“It’s a shame when someone tries to cheat this test because it’s an important yardstick for us to make sure the car will provide cleaner driving,” [Andre Boehman, professor of mechanical engineering at University of Michigan and a self-described diesel-vehicle fan] said. “It would make me a little more careful in my shopping for which vehicle to purchase, although it may be hard for a consumer to know if vehicles are operating the way” the automaker states it should be.

For some diesel enthusiasts, the idea of driving a car that’s easier on the environment — diesel-engine fuel efficiency can be as much as 30 percent higher than gas-powered cars, and diesel cars can also use biodiesel fuel — is the main draw. The cars were not only billed as virtuous to drive, since they consume less fuel than gas-powered cars, but fun, too…

Current owners of Volkswagen diesel vehicles are feeling burned, with some saying that they bought their cars for their fuel efficiency and minimal impact on the environment, which now appears to be a lie.

“I am very disappointed that VW willfully decided to lie not only to the government, but to its customers,” one car owner wrote on Volkswagen’s Facebook page. “Many of us have been fans of the brand through thick and thin for entire lifetimes. I currently own two diesels and I feel betrayed and cheated.”

Meanwhile, Volkswagen is trying to regain that trust and issued the following statement:

Volkswagen does not tolerate any kind of violation of laws whatsoever. It is and remains the top priority of the Board of Management to win back lost trust and to avert damage to our customers. The Group will inform the public on the further progress of the investigations constantly and transparently.

Oberon, Ford Team Up to Build First DME Car

oberonOberon Fuels, Inc. is partnering with Ford Motor Company and other European companies to build the world’s first dimethyl ether-powered car. This Oberon news release says the 3-year, €3.5 million project will research, analyze and test the potential of DME and oligomethyl ether (OME) fuel in passenger cars and heavy-duty truck engines, and ultimately build the world’s first production passenger car powered by DME for on-road testing.

FVV is a unique worldwide research network of 170 international member companies across the engine supply chain, including researchers, engine manufacturers, component suppliers, and fuel providers. FVV has become the leading forum for pre-competitive joint research projects, for the exchange of knowledge between industry and science, and for training junior researchers for work in the industry.

“We must continue to find ways to meet the growing global demand for liquid transportation fuels with lower-carbon fuels and more efficient, cleaner burning engines if we are to ensure the long term sustainability of our planet,” said Ralf Thee, project manager with FVV. “This is our most ambitious project yet, and we are pleased to be working with partners who share our commitment to innovation.”

DME is a clean-burning, non-toxic fuel that can be derived from renewable sources. Its high cetane number and quiet combustion, as well as its inexpensive propane-like fueling system, make it an excellent diesel alternative for both passenger cars and heavy-duty vehicles. DME-powered engines are expected to benefit from almost soot-free combustion, higher thermal efficiency and excellent cold start properties.

“Ford is committed to helping develop the market for alternative fuels, and DME has exciting characteristics,” said Werner Willems, Ph.D., a technical specialist for powertrain combustion systems with Ford of Europe, and project leader for this initiative. “Not only does DME offer the efficiency and torque desired in a diesel engine, but it can be made from renewable waste streams and reduce the long-term cost of ownership, all of which are important to our customers.”

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.

Two-Thirds of New Vehicles Approved for E15

E15-americasAuto manufacturers explicitly approve the use of E15 (15 percent ethanol blend fuel) in approximately two-thirds of new vehicles, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

RFA’s analysis of model year (MY) 2015 warranty statements and owner’s manuals finds that nearly 63 percent of MY 2015 vehicles will have E15 approval from their manufacturers. E15 is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for all 2001 and newer vehicles — accounting for roughly 80 percent of the vehicles on the road today. When coupled with expected MY 2015 flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) production, it is estimated that E15 will be allowed in close to 70 percent of MY 2015 vehicles. Manufacturers approve the use of up to 85 percent ethanol blends in FFVs.

The RFA analysis revealed several interesting trends:

After approving the use of E15 in some of its 2014 Honda and Acura models, Honda Motor Company has extended E15 warranty coverage to all models in 2015.

All Toyota models in 2015 include explicit E15 approval, up from just a fraction of Toyota models in 2014. Just as in 2014, E15 is approved for use in most, but not all, 2015 Lexus models.

For the fourth year in a row, General Motors approves the use of E15 in all models. Similarly, E15 is approved in all Ford models for the third year in a row. Vehicles from these two automakers alone account for roughly one-third of sales in the United States.

Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Porsche, and Volkswagen also expressly approved the use of E15 in their 2015 models.

The analysis also found that the Chrysler Group failed for the fourth year in a row to approve the use of E15 in owners’ manuals for its models. Despite that, a significant share of Chrysler output is expected to be FFV-capable, meaning E15 is approved for use in those vehicles.

Ford Hauls Bad Guys Away with Biodiesel and E85

fordptv1Ford is doing its part in helping clean up the streets while also cleaning the environment. The automaker has introduced its new 2015 Ford Transit Prisoner Transport Vehicle, or Transit PTV, capable of hauling up to 12 prisoners at a time and able to run on biodiesel or E85 ethanol.

“Transit PTV is the latest example of Ford’s deep commitment to helping provide law enforcement agencies with capable vehicles,” said Jonathan Honeycutt, Ford police marketing manager. “This concept proves Transit is upfit-ready and designed to Built Ford Tough standards.”

Transit is available in three roof heights, two wheelbases, three lengths and four body styles. It provides a range of powertrain choices with a lineup that includes two gasoline engine options, an E85-capable 3.7-liter V6 and an available 3.5-liter EcoBoost® as well as an available 3.2-liter Power Stroke® diesel [able to run on B20 biodiesel].

Ford is known for its police vehicles, with the Transit PTV joining Ford’s Police Interceptor sedan and utility vehicle, Special Service Police Sedan, F-150 Special Service Vehicle and Expedition Special Service Vehicle in the company’s law enforcement vehicle lineup.

The only people who probably won’t like the Transit PTV would probably be, well, the prisoners it hauls.

Chevy Offers Van with Biodiesel, E85 Options

chevyvan1Getting close to the end of the year for automakers, which means plenty of them are trying to move what’s left of their 2014 inventory. If you’ve got a big bunch of kids and you’re in the market for some eco-friendly wheels, Chevrolet’s G-Series Express Passenger van might be just the thing to look at right now, with B20 biodiesel-compatible and E85 engine options available.

The powerful Duramax turbo-diesel V-8 is offered in some Express models, delivering best-in-class torque and horsepower. Known by its “LGH” engine code, it is rated at 260 horsepower (194 kW) and 525 lb.-ft. of torque (712 Nm).

Designed to meet more stringent government emissions requirements, the LGH Duramax employs a robust EGR cooling system, along with revised turbocharger tuning that helps enhance EGR performance. It also has a large-capacity selective catalytic reduction system. In fact, the engine features the latest in emission control technology, making it the cleanest Duramax engine ever produced. NOx emissions are controlled via a Selective Catalyst Reduction aftertreatment system that uses urea-based Diesel (Emission) Exhaust Fluid (DEF). The DEF is housed in a 5.83-gallon (20 L) tank and needs to be replenished about every 5,000 miles (8,000 km). Electrically heated lines feed the DEF to the emission system to ensure adequate delivery in cold weather…

A FlexFuel E85 version of the 5.3L V-8 is also available. It delivers the same horsepower and torque as its gasoline counterpart, but runs on E85 ethanol fuel or a mixture of E85 and gasoline. E85 contains 85 percent ethanol, a renewable fuel that is produced domestically.

As I said, this is definitely for a BIG family… or just anyone who needs to haul a bunch of people… as it comes in models able to carry up to 15 people and all their cargo.

DOE Funds EV Everywhere Grand Challenge

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced more than $55 million for 31 new projects to accelerate research and development of critical vehicle technologies that will improve fuel efficiency and reduce costs. These new projects are aimed at meeting the goals and objectives of the President’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge, as well as improvements in other vehicle technologies such as powertrains, fuel, tires and auxiliary systems.

Launched in 2012, the goal of the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge is by 2022 to make the U.S. automotive industry the first to produce plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) that are as affordable and convenient as today’s gasoline-powered vehicles. According to the DOE, in just the last several years, significant cost reductions and improvements in vehicle vehicle_targetsperformance have had a dramatic impact on the U.S. automotive market. PEV sales continue to grow – sales in the first six months of 2014 were over 30 percent higher than the same period in 2013 – and the cost of battery technology has come down by over 60 percent since 2009.

“Investments in the next generation of vehicle technologies will both strengthen our economy and lead to a more fuel efficient, clean energy future,” said Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Improving vehicle efficiency is instrumental to establishing a 21st century transportation sector that creates jobs as well as protects future generations from harmful carbon emissions.”

Through the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance with the DOE, the Department of the Army is contributing an additional $3.7 million in co-funding to support projects focused on beyond lithium ion battery technologies and reducing friction and wear in the powertrain. The Army will also test and evaluate fuel-efficient tires resulting from projects at its facilities in Warren, Michigan.

“Partnering with the Energy Department, we are accelerating the development and deployment of cutting-edge technologies that will strengthen our military, economy, and energy security,” said Dr. Paul Rogers, director the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.

The selections announced are under two major topic areas:

Critical Technologies to meet the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge: 19 projects are aimed at reducing the cost and improving the performance of key PEV components. This includes improving “beyond lithium ion technologies” that use higher energy storage materials, and developing and commercializing wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors that offer significant advances in performance while reducing the price of vehicle power electronics. Other projects focus on advancing lightweight materials research to help electric vehicles increase their range and reduce battery needs, and developing advanced climate control technologies that reduce energy used for passenger comfort and increase the drive range of plug-in electric vehicles.

Fuel Efficiency Improvements in Passenger Vehicles and Commercial Trucks: 12 projects are aimed at improvements including developing and demonstrating dual-fuel/bi-fuel technologies to reduce petroleum usage, accelerating growth in high-efficiency, cost-competitive engine and powertrain systems for light-duty vehicles, and accelerating the introduction of advanced lubricants and coatings to increase the efficiency of vehicles on the road today as well as future vehicles.

Future for Ethanol Blends

ace14-lambertyGetting higher blends of ethanol in the marketplace continues to be frustrating, even with the approval of E15 (15% ethanol).

The biggest problem continues to be roadblocks by oil companies, according to American Coalition for Ethanol Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty, who compared the sale and use of E15 to premium gasoline. “If you total (all the) vehicles that could use E15, we’re closing in on 15 million vehicles,” said Lamberty, which is 20% of the vehicles on the road. In contrast, about 12% of total cars are supposed to use premium gas, according to their owners manuals, but only 3% of the gas sold is premium. “Oil companies demand that marketers put premium in their stations … oil companies ban E15 sales,” said Lamberty. Ron Lamberty, ACE Senior VP

ace14-drakeFollowing Lamberty at the ACE annual conference this week, Dean Drake of the DeFour Group talked about the next chapter for ethanol blend fuels.

Drake, who spent 34 years with General Motors, says increasing ethanol blends will require significant cooperation between automakers, government, and the ethanol industry. “Neither oil nor ethanol by themselves are a perfect transportation fuel, largely because of octane,” said Drake. “Gasoline is the king when it comes to energy density, but it also has a fairly low octane rating. Ethanol, while having less energy, has a very high octane rating.”

He talked about the potential for what he calls “eco-performance” fuels. “What we’re talking about here is a fuel that would be widely available that would allow auto manufacturers to build advanced vehicles,” he said.

Learn more here: Dean Drake, DeFour Group

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Volkswagen Focuses on Ultra-Low-Carbon Mobility

Volkswagen of America, Inc. is continuing to roll out plans for its holistic approach to e-mobility. Beginning with the launch of the zero-tailpipe emissions 2015 e-Golf model later this year, Volkswagen will invest in carbon reduction projects to offset emissions created from e-Golf production, distribution and up to approximately 36,000 miles of driving. Volkswagen also named SunPower as the official solar energy partner power provider. Volkswagen believes they will be one of the first high-volume manufacturers to deliver a truly holistic approach to ultra-low-carbon mobility.

volkswagen-egolf-charging-620To help determine its carbon offset projects, Volkswagen has teamed with 3Degrees, a renewable energy and carbon offset services provider. By investing in carbon reduction programs, Volkswagen said they will offset the e-Golf’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that result from its production, distribution and from the estimated emissions produced from keeping the vehicle charged through the initial 36,000 miles of the vehicle’s life. Volkswagen of America chose to include carbon reduction efforts in California and in Texas with projects geared towards forestry conservation and landfill gas capture.

“Volkswagen feels it is important to look beyond the benefits of driving a vehicle without tailpipe emissions and to take a holistic approach to e-mobility,” said Oliver Schmidt, general manager, Environment and Engineering Office, Volkswagen Group of America. “We now have the ability to offer offsets that approximate the emissions created from production, distribution and the initial 36,000 miles of use.”

Volkswagen-supported projects included the Garcia River Conservation-Based Forest Management Project, located in Mendocino County, Calif., to protects and preserves a 24,000-acre native redwood forest, increasing carbon sequestration and storage, while also helping to restore the natural wildlife habitat. The company is also supporting the Big River and Salmon Creek Forests, located in Mendocino County, California, and the McKinney Landfill project, based at a closed landfill in McKinney, Texas.

“Volkswagen is showing leadership by including carbon offsets standard with this e-Golf electric vehicle,” added Steve McDougal, President of 3Degrees. “As more people choose low and no emission cars, Volkswagen is making it possible – and easy – to think comprehensively about the greenhouse gas emissions profile of a vehicle.”

Isuzu to Partner to Develop Algae Biodiesel

isuzu euglenaJapanese car maker Isuzu is partnering with a fellow Japanese company to develop a new kind of biodiesel from algae. This article from Bloomberg says Isuzu and Euglena Co. hope to establish the technology by 2018.

The companies want to develop a type of fuel that can be used on its own unlike existing kinds that need to be mixed with light oil, they said in a statement today.

“As long as we use light oil for diesel engines, emissions of carbon dioxide are inevitable,” Susumu Hosoi, president of Japanese truck maker Isuzu, said at a news conference. “It is important to diversify types of fuel” for resource-poor Japan, he said.

Euglena, a Japanese biotech venture, has been developing jet fuel from algae with airline operator ANA Holdings Inc., President Mitsuru Izumo said at the event.