The Green Car Innovation Fund summarised

On Friday the 6th of February 2009 I attended a one of the Green Car Innovation Fund (GCIF) consultation sessions being held around Australia. My motivation for attending was primarily to find out how the Fund was going to work and to try to get an idea of the impact of the fund on the Australian car industry.

First, a little background. The Green Car Innovation Fund Framework Paper was released in December 2008 for public comment. The Government is inviting written submissions from interested parties in the Framework Paper. The closing date for written submissions is 5:00pm (Canberra Time) on Thursday, 12 February 2009. Submissions can be sent to:

The Manager
Green Car Innovation Fund
GCIF@innovation.gov.au

The stated objective of the GCIF is to reduce vehicle fuel consumption or greenhouse gas emissions by enhancing research and development (R&D) and commercialisation of Australian technologies. It is only applicable to the car industry. Technologies for trucks, buses and motorcycles are not within scope. Nor is anything to do with alternative fuel infrastructure. The GCIF provides $1.3 billion in grants over 10 years beginning in July 2009. That said, Holden and Toyota have already been drinking at the well with their small car and hybrid Camry initiatives to the tune of $149 million and $35 million respectively. The funding is planned to be provided on a $1 for $3 basis.  This ratio may change as a result of the consultation sessions. Most agreed that 1 for 3  was useful for large companies but it was not practical for smaller companies and start-ups.

Grants will be allocated on a competitive basis and are open to all Australian companies or individuals willing for form a company. The funding is available via two steams.

  • Stream A is for the Motor Vehicle Producers (MVP) (Ford, Holden and Toyota). Each MVP will have access to a maximum of $300 million.
  • Stream B is open to all Australian companies, consortia or individuals not included in Stream A. A MVP can be part of a consortium in Stream B but it can’t be the lead applicant.

Importantly, despite the Stream A cap per MVP, there is no defined split in the funds available to Stream A and Stream B. The goal is to provide funding to those technologies that will provide the best results. More on that later.

Funded projects must be undertaken in Australia and directly relate to the creation, acquisition, application or commercialisation of knowledge, technology, processes, materials or products which:

  • are new or additional to the applicant
  • significantly improve the fuel-efficiency or greenhouse gas emissions of passenger motor vehicles

Technology can be acquired Internationally and adapted to use in Australia.

The GCIF will support:

  • R&D
  • Proof-of-concept
  • Early stage commercialisation
  • Pre-production development

The criteria against which applications will be judged are:

  • reduction in fuel consuption or greenhouse gas emissions
  • technical merit, extent and calibre of the innovation
  • capacity and capability of the applicant to undertake the project
  • commercial potential
  • contribution to a competitive Australian automotive industry and benefits to the economy

All the criteria seem logical but the most interesting thing I got from the presentation was the emphasis on that last point. While the fund is looking to reduce the fuel consumption or greenhouse gas emissions by 10 – 15  percent against the status quo baseline it is also heavily biased towards creating jobs, improving workforce skill sets, providing benefits to suppliers and growing the automotive industry in Australia. In hindsight that is obvious but I guess I went in thinking the Federal Government might actually be focussed on improving the products from our car industry to give local consumers better products and make the vehicles more competitive in export markets. It seems they are as long as that improvement comes with the creation of more jobs. Further information can be found on the GCIF web site.

An interesting aspect to the presentation that I wasn’t expecting was a politician and an inventor using the opportunity to address those assembled to seek support for their individual projects.

Source: Department of Innovation & AusIndustry presentation

Reading: Fuel for thought

While digging around the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) web site I discovered Fuel for thought, a publication by the Future Fuels Forum 2007. This June 2008 publication informs us how the Future Fuels Forum thinks transport fuels will pan out in our future with modelling from now to 2050.  It is an interesting document and I suggest you read it if you are at all interested in the future of transport fuels in Australia. Click the cover page below to download the PDF (1.5Mb).

challenges and opportunities (PDF)

CSIRO 2008: Fuel for thought - The future of transport fuels: challenges and opportunities (PDF)

Apart from being relatively easy to read and informative for those of us without a scientific or economic background it provides great insight into the conservative information upon which our governments are making decisions that impact your future and mine. It isn’t all conservative mind you. The modelling for a continuing rise in demand for oil and a sharp decline in supply shows we could pay as much as $8 per litre for petrol in the not too distant future and the authors do stress the urgency with which alternatives for oil must be found.

While the document was written before the global financial crisis really started to bite the bulk of it remains relevant. If you do read it I’d like to know what you think so please leave a comment.

Economical open-rotor aircraft engines being developed for Clean Sky

Volvo Aero will help develop open-rotor aircraft engines for the EU’s Clean Sky project in conjunction with Rolls-Royce and Snecma . Open-rotor engines are essentially large turbofan engines without the ducting around the outside of the fan. In open rotor engines, the diameter will increase to more than double existing turbofan diameters, allowing the engine to work with a larger airflow, regardless of aircraft speed. This means that the energy turning the fan will be utilized more efficiently, thereby reducing fuel consumption by 15 to 20 percent.

Snecma open-rotor engine

Flight Global: Snecma open-rotor engine

Open-rotor is actually not a new concept. In the 1980’s open-rotor engines were developed when oil prices rose to USD40 per barrel. When the oil price later dropped dramatically, plans were shelved. Sound familiar? Volvo say aircraft with open-rotor engines can be in the air by the end of the decade but engineers will have to reduce the noise that is normally contained by the turbofan ducts on modern jet engines.

Flight Global as more information on the open-rotor developments for Open Sky.

Source: Volvo Group, Flight Global

Two words for motorcycle manufacturers – fuel economy

While riding my bicycle through the hills today I started thinking about the poor fuel economy achieved by most motorcycles and what attributes would make up my ideal motorcycle. I think well when I’m turning the pedals so after a bit more thought I came up with the following list for what I think is the ideal motorcycle for daily commuting, a bit of weekend riding and the occasional tour.

Fuel economy: Real fuel economy not just “good for a motorcycle”. If a VW Polo diesel can do 5L/100km I want a bike that does better than 4L/100km. Use the latest direct injection technology if you have to. I’m happy to pay for it, particularly if the resulting emissions meet or exceed Euro V standards.

Range: >400km  Australia is a big country and sometimes there is a loooong way between petrol stations.

Power: Enough. Nobody needs 165hp in a motorbike. They might want it but they don’t need it. Few can use that much power and they shouldn’t be using it on public roads anyway. Somewhere in the order of 60 to 80hp would be fine as long as good power and torque are available throughout the rev range. It has to easily accelerate away from cars at traffic lights. Ideally the power of this imaginary machine would be able to be electronically limited to make it accessible to learner riders. Just re-map the engine control unit when the owner has a full license.

Top speed: Enough. 140 – 150kph is enough in Australia where the maximum speed limit is 110kph in most States. The one stipulation is that the bike needs to be able to cruise comfortably at 120kph with two people and luggage. Overtaking road trains in a safe time frame requires good acceleration and a decent speed advantage.

Engine capacity: Under 600cc to reduce registration costs.

Size: I’m 190cm tall. I just don’t fit on small bikes. So, a medium tall bike that is not bulky is ideal. Something that is comfortable for long legs and gets you head up above the traffic.

Comfort: Good seating position and reach to the handlebars for commuting . A comfortable seat. It doesn’t have to be plush but it does have to be comfortable over touring distances. An effective fairing and screen to minimise fatigue and keep the weather at bay. This is a bike that will be ridden in all weather over a variety of distances. To the corner shop or to the other side of the country.

Handling: On the relaxed side of sporty. Good low speed manners but capable of satisfying on a weekend ride through the hills.

Suspension: Good but it doesn’t have to be fantastic. It does however, need to last more than 30,000km (unlike most motorcycle suspension built to a price) and smooth out Australia’s average roads.

Styling: Classic, rounded and aerodynamic. If someone can prove to me that today’s modern styles are more aerodynamic then I’ll accept modern styling.

Practicality: Belt drive because it is quiet and very low maintenance. A centre stand to facilitate easy home maintenance. Factory fitted panniers and top box.

Quality: Made to last 200,000km when maintained correctly and looked after. A dry clutch and separate gearbox oil are a must. It makes no sense to have the clutch in the engine oil and who wants engine oil in the gearbox, particularly when the clutch is in it as well.

Is that too much to ask?

If anyone already makes a bike that matches these criteria I’d be really happy to hear about it. Off the top of my head I can think of two manufactures that could build a bike like this. BMW and Aprilia. Both have suitable engine configurations and both have extensive experience in motorcycle fuel injection systems. Aprilia have an excellent engine and gearbox in their SXV 550 and BMW are using belt drive on their F800 series road bikes.

Car manufacturers are starting to reduce engine power to increase fuel economy. Audi have done it in their S4 and Holden have done it in their V6 and V8 Commodores. Many more will follow and motorcylce manufacturers will need to do the same if they want people to continue buying mid-sized and large bikes for commuting and general transport purposes. If they don’t they may find their market contracts considerably when oil prices go up again.

Will digital trees on your dash make you a more economical driver?

Honda has announced the development of the Ecological Drive Assist System for their 2009 Insight hybrid, which combines three functions to enhance fuel economy.

The ECON Mode optimises control of the continuously variable transmission and engine for more fuel-efficient driving at the push of a button.

The guidance function uses speedometer color to provide real-time guidance on fuel-efficient driving. Green means you are driving economically but if your foot gets a little heavy it turns blue. Why blue? Why not orange or red?

2009 Honda Insight guidance function

Honda: 2009 Honda Insight guidance function

The scoring function provides feedback about current driving practices, as well as feedback on cumulative, long-term fuel-efficient driving.

2009 Honda Insight dash

Honda: 2009 Honda Insight dash

The number of ‘leaves’ displayed indicates the level of fuel-efficient driving performance. When the ignition switch is on, the display scores current driving performance. When the ignition switch is turned off, the ‘leaves’ in the top row display the score for the latest driving cycle (startup to shutdown), while a horizontal bar in the bottom row displays the cumulative lifetime performance.The Multi-Information Display also allows drivers to view fuel economy figures for the past three trips, as well as instantaneous and average fuel economy statistics.

I like my gadgets but I’m not sure I need to see trees growing on my dash to know I’ve been driving economically. I reckon the instant feedback of the guidance function, the ability to see instantaneous fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, average fuel consumption for the past three trips and the cost of filling the tank at the petrol station would cover it!

The dash would be easier to read if it was less cluttered. Ditch the trees I say. What do you think?

PGO Hemera – CNG or not?

French car maker PGO has released the details of the Hemera. The classic Porsche inspired design is due to go on sale in early 2009 but there seems to be some confusion as to the fuel it will use. Autobloggreen is saying the car is:

Powered by a 2.0-liter four cylinder engine from fellow French automaker Peugeot that’s been tuned to run on compressed natural gas.

However the official PGO Hemera brochure indicates the fuel consumed is 95 RON unleaded and that the fuel capacity is 42 litres. No options are listed for CNG. In a car that weighs 980kg it is unlikely to have dual fuel tanks.

The performance and economy figures, based on 95 RON unleaded are reasonable thanks to its light weight. Acceleration from 0 – 100kph takes 7 seconds and it uses 11L/100km around town and 6.5L/100km on the highway.

PGO Hemera

PGO Hemera

MTECH Fuelsaver removed from sale in Western Australia

Imagine my surprise when I found this gem in amongst all the spam a few minutes ago!

Western Australians who have bought the Moletech Mtech Fuel Saver have been advised by Consumer Protection in Western Australia to return to the place of purchase to get a full refund for both the cost of the product and installation of the device. This follows the removal of the device from retail and online sale in Western Australia after tests showed no statistically significant difference in the fuel consumption from a vehicle using the fuel saver and an ordinary vehicle. http://www.docep.wa.gov.au/corporate/Media/statements/2008/October/Questionable_Fuel_Saving_devic.html

This is the catalyst I needed to make a decision on whether the Fuelsaver in the GS (previous posts) stays in the fuel tank. The WA assessment agrees with my less than scientific trial so the Fuelsaver will be removed at the next service.

If you know of any similar actions by consumer protection organisations in other States of Australia, or in any other country, please leave a comment with the details.