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

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Koreans patent seaweed to ethanol

The Korea Institute of Industrial Technology has filed an International patent application for a method of producing biofuel using sea algae.

This is the first time I’ve attempted to read a patent and I’ve got to tell you that most of it makes no sense whatsoever. However, some of it is in plain English.

Abstract

The present invention relates to a method of producing biofuel, more specifically a method of producing biofuel comprising the steps of generating monosugars from marine algae, or from polysaccharides extracted from marine algae by treating the marine algae or the polysaccharides with a hydrolytic enzyme and/or a hydrolytic catalyst; and fermenting the monosugars using a microorganism to produce biofuel. The method of producing biofuel of the present invention solve the problem of raw material suppliance since it uses marine algae as a raw material for biomass, and reduce the production costs by excluding lignin eliminating process that has been required by the conventional method using wood-based raw materials, resulting in economic and environmental advantages.

Description of the Related Art

Compared with other type of land biomass, marine algae are growing very fast (4 – 6 harvest per year is possible in subtropic region) and easy to cultivate using wide arable area of the ocean without using high priced materials such as irrigation water, land, fertilizer, etc. Utilization of marine algae takes advantages of simple production processes for biofuel because it does not contain lignin that has to be eliminated. In addition, the amount of annual CO2 absorption ability of marine algae is 36.7 tons per ha, which is 5 – 7 times higher than that of wood-based. Therefore, if E20 (gasoline containing bioethanol by 20%) is used, the annual greenhouse gas reduction rate will be approximately 27%, which will reduce carbon tax approximately 300 billion Korean Wons, if converted into money value.

Sounds good to me as long as we don’t do the same thing to the oceans that palm oil plantations are doing to rain forests.

If you understand the technical aspects of this particular technology and can translate it into something most of us can understand you can find the patent here. Feel free to contact us with a translation.

Source: New Scientist

Australian Conference on Life Cycle Assessment

Thanks to Tom Worthington at Net Traveller for the following:

The Sixth Australian Conference on Life Cycle Assessment is in Melbourne from 16 to 19 February 2009. Life cycle assessment (LCA), assesses the environmental impacts of products and services. Unfortunately many people will not find out about this worthwhile event, due to the poor web site, so I have extracted some details below to make them more accessible.

From the Conference Program:

One aim of the conference is to build bridges between different environmental assessment methods that have a sustainability focus. This includes:

  • Life cycle assessment • Life cycle costing • Ecological footprints • Materials flow analysis
  • Triple bottom line accounting approaches • Energy and greenhouse life cycle studies
  • Input Output analysis • Uncertainty analysis in environmental assessment

The conference also aims to provide a forum for sharing LCA experience in different sectors such as:

  • Building applications
  • Waste Management
  • Water issues
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Energy and fuel production system
  • Products and packaging manufacture

Keynote Speakers

Andreas Ciroth studied Environmental Engineering in Berlin, Germany; his dissertation (Dr.-Ing.) in 2001 was on error propagation in LCA. Since
then, he has worked as a consultant and software developer, mostly in scientific projects. …

Stefanie Hellweg is Associate Professor for ecological systems design at the Institute of Environmental Engineering of ETH Zurich (Switzerland). …

Hongtao Wang College of Architecture and Environment, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China …

Bo Weidema has more than 30 years of experience in environmental issues, since joining the emerging environmental grassroots movements in 1972. …

For more information see the full summary at Net Traveller

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.

Keep your old car or buy a new more efficient model?

On the Scientific American web site a reader asked a question that has been in the back of my mind for quite a while:

Is it better to drive an older, well-maintained car that gets about 25 miles per gallon or to buy a new car that gets about 35 miles per gallon?

The response was that it is more environmentally friendly to keep your old car running as long as you can. The proviso is that your old car has to be well maintained and continues to run efficiently. The reason is that there are environmental impacts, and quite large impacts at that, associated with the manufacture of new cars. This makes sense but was are the impacts?

Scientific American quote a Toyota analysis from 2004 that concluded that up to 28 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions produced by a car during its life are the result of manufacturing and transport to the dealer. That’s a lot of emissions that can be avoided by keeping your existing car in good working order.

The article makes mention of the extra impact of manufacturing a hybrid vehicle. With a petrol engine and an electric motor under the bonnet the manufacturing of the drive train is more emissions intensive. Add the manufacture of the battery pack and hybrids definitely have some catching up to do once they get on the road.

Source: Scientific American via AutoblogGreen

Victorian Transport Plan released

The Victorian Department of Transport released the Victorian Transport Plan (VTP) earlier this month. Not having a great understanding of Melbourne and Victoria make it hard to assess the VTP but at least Victoria has a plan. The proof will be in the execution.

Highlights include:

  • Up to 70 new trains and 100km of new track for Melbourne’s suburban rail systems
  • Up to 50 new trams
  • Up to 270 new buses and the continuation of the hybrid bus trial
  • Regional rail improvements to boost capacity by 9000 extra passengers and hour
  • Upgrades to regional transport infrastructure (in partnership with the Commonwealth)
  • Improved freight access to Port Melbourne
  • Completing the Melbourne ring road
  • Improving regional rail lines including electrification of existing lines
  • Fostering research into second and third generation biofuels
  • $100 million increase in funding for bicycle lanes and shared paths
  • $5 million public bicycle hire scheme for inner Melbourne
  • Encouraging the use of low emission vehicles
  • Mandatory emissions targets for State Government fleets

Negatives:

  • No transport emissions reduction target set
  • No inclusion of viable alternative fuels such as natural gas

You can download the VTP here (9.2Mb PDF).

You can download maps showing the detail here.

Freight Futures is a companion plan to the VTC dealing specifically with Victoria’s long-term freight network strategy. You can download Freight Futures here (5.3Mb PDF).

CSIRO investigates energy efficiencies for Australian grain growers

CSIRO scientists have been investigating potential opportunities in energy efficiency, regional biodiesel self sufficiency and bioenergy production for Australian grain growers. The research is explained in an article entitled Bioenergy opportunities for grain growers in the December issue of Farming Ahead magazine.

The article explains that there is potential for Australian grain farms to improve energy efficiencies, become self-sufficient in biodiesel and use stubble for energy production. Nitrogen fertiliser was found to be the most energy-intensive input. When combined with diesel fuel use the two account for about 70 percent of total energy inputs when conventional farming methods are used. Amongst others, the researchers examined the use of crop rotation using legumes to replace nitrogen fertilisers and on-farm or regional biodiesel self sufficiency to remove the need for diesel use.

The article concludes that it is possible for grain farmers to significantly reduce their energy inputs but these reductions will require trade-offs in the amount of grain produced. The authors say it is physically possible for most grain farms to achieve self sufficiency in biodiesel but the economics of farm and regional scale biodiesel production are not favourable at the moment.