GPS-enabled Software Boosts Hybrid Vehicle Efficiency

Mechatronics meets the plug-in hybrid this month at IEEE Spectrum Online:

Drivers use all manner of data these days to travel efficiently, and vehicles should follow their lead, according to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee mechatronics expert Yaoyu Li. He predicts that vehicles privy to data in the latest GPS-enabled electronic navigators — which download real-time traffic data to update route suggestions on the fly — will provide substantial fuel savings in the decades to come.

That’s because:

An uninformed plug-in is almost certain to discharge its battery power either too quickly or too slowly. If it simply uses the battery until it is discharged, it will lack an electric option for later stop-and-go situations where running the internal combustion engine is inefficient. Alternatively, if the plug-in acts like a conventional hybrid and lives in the moment, blending its electric and gasoline energy based on the driving conditions that second, it is likely to arrive at its destination with leftover battery charge. Either way, the plug-in will have consumed more gasoline than necessary.

Continue reading “GPS-enabled Software Boosts Hybrid Vehicle Efficiency”

Dark Clouds Over Clean Diesels

GM-Opal\'s turbo-diesel Agila © GM CorpDiesels are returning to auto showrooms nationwide. Major automakers will offer them from this fall for the 2009 model year, equipped with vastly improved emissions control devices that make them a lot cleaner than the diesel image. But their main attraction — fuel economy — is rapidly fading. The cost of diesel is rising more rapidly than gasoline, while there is increasing skepticism about their impact on climate change.

I explore the environmental implications of diesel in “Dark Clouds Over Clean Diesels”, a web-exclusive news piece on Spectrum.com. The short take: diesels still emit more soot than gasoline-fueled vehicles and the bad news on soot just keeps getting worse. Estimates of mortality from breathing fine particles is still rising, and there are top climate scientists who believe that soot is also a serious contributor to global warming. It could be second only to CO2, even outpacing methane.

Interestingly, while the U.S. and Canada prepares for a new generation of diesel cars and light trucks, European car buyers are moving in the opposite direction. A German automotive research center recently forecast a sharp decline in diesel’s share of the European car market over the coming decades, thanks to the cost of adding tailpipe controls and tough competition from gasoline-powered engine technology. From a current market share of 53% (compared to 3% in the U.S.), the study predicts diesels to drop to 38% of Europe’s car market in 2015 and to 30% in 2020.

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Tech Talk on Plug-in Hybrids

IEEE Spectrum Tech TalkGoing forward, some of Carbon-Nation’s posts will now be copublished via IEEE Spectrum’s Tech Talk blog, beginning with this report on California plug-in mania: “Plug-in hybrids win big in ZEV tweaks” (full text follows)

Plug-in mania has an influential new fan: the California Air Resources Board, which looks set to elevate plug-ins several notches in its zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandate.

The ZEV directive requires car manufacturers to market ultraclean and emissions-free vehicles (or buy credits earned by others making such vehicles). The California Air Resources Board unleashed intense lobbying this winter among battery EV start-ups, major automakers, hydrogen fuel-cell developers, and coalitions promoting plug‑in hybrids when it promised to tweak the level of credits earned by various technologies. From the Air Resources Board staff proposal released late last week, plug-ins appear to be the big winners.

Presently the ZEV credit ratios favor fuel cells and offer relatively little help for plug-ins. The staff proposal would change this by enabling manufacturers to meet most of their ZEV requirements through 2014 with plug-in hybrids and hydrogen combustion vehicles. While not pure ZEVs like battery EVs and fuel cell vehicles, the California regulators bet that manufacture of plug-ins will yield components and infrastructure that will hasten the day when the pure EVs go mainstream.

“The goal continues to be to accelerate the development of pure ZEVs,” says Air Resources Board member Daniel Sperling, director of the University of California, Davis, Institute of Transportation Studies. Sperling says promoting plug-in hybrids is the “only realistic way” to push car makers forward in light of the continued high cost of batteries and fuel cells.

Sperling and his fellow Air Resources Board members will take up the staff proposal after a public hearing in Sacramento scheduled for March 27-28.

Meanwhile, Arizona regulators seem to be feeling considerably more bullish about the viability of pure electrics. The Arizona Republic reports that Airzona’s Department of Environmental Quality has drafted rules mandating that 11 percent of all cars sold in the state must be ZEVs from the 2011 model year. In 2018 the mandate would jump to 16 percent.

This post was created for Tech Talk – Insights into tomorrow’s technology from the editors of IEEE Spectrum.

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