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Automobile Industry


British Firm Demos Scalable Process For Creating Hydrocarbon Fuels Solely From Air and Water

Like so many other things once thought impossible, now making consistent and scalable fuel out of just air and water has become a reality - with huge potential for initially the automotive and then other industries.

Among those at the forefront of this new technology is Air Fuel Synthesis (AFS), a British firm which recently demonstrated a small scale prototype at a carbon capture event held by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (MechE).

AFS is currently demonstrating a five liter-a-day small scale, electricity-powered prototype unit that electrolyzes water to make hydrogen that reacts with carbon dioxide to make hydrocarbon fuels.

The company says that, “Any fuel or crude oil-based material can ultimately also be made from synthetic hydrocarbons produced by the AFS process … this includes methanol, gasoline, diesel, lubricants, and waxes as well as plastics and building materials, some of which have other substitutes, but few as useful and versatile as hydrocarbon base”

AFS expects that “the first commercial AFS plant will produce high-spec fuels for blending into motorsport applications” where the company finds the demand for carbon-reduction is particularly strong.

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DOE Brings Online 2013 Fuel Economy Guide Providing Millage Data Across Vehicle Models

The 2013 Fuel Economy Guide has come online as a collaborative consumer information effort developed between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Graphic courtesy of blog.theautopartsshop.com.

The guide is a user-friendly website designed for both shoppers and owners to find information about a multitude of vehicles across models and technologies, including best and worst gas millage, maintenance tips, and tax credits on hybrids, electrics, alternative fuel vehicles, and diesel vehicles.

The platform has multiple menus on fuel efficiency, including the successive list of the 2013 Most Fuel Efficient Cars by EPA Size Class (including electric vehicles) & the 2013 Least Fuel Efficient Cars.

On the top of the Most Fuel Efficient list is the 2013 smart fortwo electric drive convertible, Automatic (A1), with a 122 MPGe city, a 93 MPGe highway, and a 107 MPGe combined, with a $0.96 cost to drive 25 miles.

The electric vehicles are measured in MPGe with 33.7 kW-hrs = 1 gallon of gasoline.

For the Least Fuel Efficient, the 2013 Bugatti Veyron, 8.0 L, 16 cyl, Automatic (AM-S7), received top honors. The Veyron performed at a 8 mpg city, a 15 mpg highway, and a 10 mpg combined, with a $9.18 cost to drive 25 miles.

Another noteworthy list on the site is the Top Ten EPA-Rated Fuel Sippers (2013), which includes electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The vehicles are ranked by their combined rating (weighted by 55 percent and 45 percent highway).

Receiving the top rating on the Top Ten Fuel Sipper list is the 2013 Scion iQ EV (Automatic) with a 138 MPGe city, a 105 MPGe, and a 121 MPGe combined.

Besides the best and worst in fuel economy another great aspect of the web platform is the Top Ten Misconceptions About Fuel Economy, with the top misconception being that, “You have to drive a small car to get good fuel economy.”

The DOE finds that, “Advanced technologies like hybrid drivetrains, diesel engines, direct fuel injection, turbocharging, advanced transmissions, low rolling resistance, tires, and aerodynamic designs are allowing standard-sized vehicles to be very fuel efficient.

“For the 2013 model year, about half of the top ten most efficient vehicles are midsized or large cars and wagons.”

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New Ford Hybrids Showing Record MPGe Rates

The escalating ‘pain at the pump’ over the last few years has proven to be just what the hybrid and electric car industries have needed to increase consumer demand for their vehicles – that, as well as improved performance technologies, and government incentives have also sweeten the deals improving sales.

These trends haven’t gone unnoticed by Ford, which has been working overtime of the last few years to ramp up its hybrid and electric fuel efficiency technologies and drive down its vehicle prices to levels the average consumer can afford – under the $50,000 range.

In the latest news, the 2013 Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid – which was also recently named Green Car of the Year by the Green Car Journal – has been certified by the EPA at up to 108 MPGe city, which according to Ford bests the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid by five MPGe.

The EPA also certified the Fusion Engeri to deliver up to 92 MPGe highway and a combined 100 MPGe, which Ford estimates “could potentially help save consumers an estimated $6,850 in fuel costs compared with an average new car over the course of five years.”

Two other vehicles in Ford’s electrified lineup – the Focus Electric and the C-MAX Energi – have also received EPA ratings of 100 MPGe or more.

The Focus Electric has an EPA estimated rating of 110 MPGe city, 99 MPGe highway, and 105 MPGe combined.

Falling slightly shorter, but still impressive on performance, the C-MAX Energi has an EPA estimated rating of 108 MPGe city, 92 MPGe highway, and 100 MPGe combined.

Ford said that it has been pushing hard on developing its electrified vehicles based on industry research showing increased consumer demand with “for the first time ever, electrified vehicle sales capturing nearly four percent of the total industry in November.”

Ford has also seen its own electrified sales jump, reporting that the company “achieved its best electrified vehicle sales month ever in November with 7,157 units sold.”

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Commercial Hybrid Vans Reach 20% Higher Fuel Savings Than Conventionals, Says Energy Report

As part of a multi-year research project to evaluate and improve alternative fuel technologies in the commercial sector, the U.S. Energy Department in cooperation with the United Parcel Service (UPS) just published a real-world performance study of the company’s hybrid electric delivery vans with impressive double-digit results.

UPS Hybrid Electric Vehicle. Photo courtesy of worktruckonline.com.

The performance study was conducted by a team from the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which collected and analyzed in-service fuel economy maintenance, and other vehicle performance data from 11 hybrid and 11 conventional step vans operated by UPS in Minneapolis.

“During the on-road portion of our study, the hybrid vans demonstrated a 13 to 20 percent higher fuel economy than the conventional vans, and up to a 45 percent improvement in ton-miles-per-gallon” said Michael Lammert, NREL project engineer, adding that this wide range in fuel economy was dependent on the drive cycle.

The data collection began in early 2010, culminating in a 18-month evaluation study using 11 model year (MY) 2010 Freightliner P100 hybrid step delivery vans and 11 MY 2010 Freightliner P100 conventional step delivery vans on both urban and highway routes. The two groups switched assignments during the study to provide a more balanced review of the vehicles performance.

Regarding the Minneapolis facility where the evaluations were conducted, the study reported that:

It was not necessary to modify the Minneapolis facility in any way to implement the hybrid vehicles into the fleet.

Drivers were given training on the operation of the hybrids, but no restrictions or special accommodations were made for their use; however, UPS did assign the hybrid vans to urban routes rather than rural routes to make the best use of the hybrid drive train.

The hybrid vans featured hybrid propulsion systems, including: 44 kilowatt electric motors, lithium ion batteries, and regenerative brakes that capture energy normally lost during braking to power the electric motor.

In terms of fueling, the Minneapolis facility has on-site fueling, and the vehicles were fueled by the drivers as needed, using an internal fuel card system. The drivers then logged their fueling events on their electronic tablets, and the records were uploaded to a central database.

For fuel performance, the study found that overall the hybrids demonstrated a greater advantage on the more urban, low speed, high stops-per-mile routes, and a lower advantage on the longer highway routes with less dense delivery zones.

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Audi R8 e-tron Sets Electric Speed Record on German Track, Comparable To Top Gas Speeds

The R8 e-tron has set a world record for a production car with an electric drive system on the Nürburgring Nordschlefe, which is one of the toughest, if not the toughest test tracks in the world.

Race driver Markus Winkelhock test drove the high-performance, all-electric-drive sports car around the 20.8 kilometers track in 8:09.099 minutes.

Winkelhock made a statement evaluating the car’s performance saying, “Of course, the R8 e-tron is a production car, not a race car with the assistance of aerodynamics. But with its low center of gravity and rear biased weight distribution, it brings with it a lot of sporty qualities.”

“The torque with which the electric motors propel the car uphill beats everything that I know – even if they hardly make any noise in the process, which at the start was really a completely new experience for me. In places where I really need traction, the torque vectoring – the displacement of the torque between the power wheels – really helps me,” continued Winkelhock.

The R8 e-tron reached speeds on the Nürburgring test close to the top speeds of gas-powered cars. To get an idea, the Gumpert Apollo Sport – powered by a 515 kW (700 hp) Audi V8 gasoline engine – has a record time of 7:11.57, about a minute faster than the R8’s 8:09.099.

The drive system of the R8 that Winkelhock drove will correspond “in every detail” with the production model that will come out on the market at the end of this year, said Audi.

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