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

CSIRO successfully commercialises the UltraBattery

This will be old news for some but a reader has just pointed out that the UltraBattery (previous post) has been successfully commercialised by the CSIRO.

CSIRO has exclusive sub-license agreements with East Penn Manufacturing Company and The Furukawa Battery Company to manufacture and distribute the batteries. East Penn Manufacturing Company will service the automotive and motive power sector throughout North America, Mexico and Canada while The Furukawa Battery Company will release the technology in Japan and Thailand.

The following links provide more detail.

CSIRO press release

Furukawa UltraBattery page (good images, diagrams and technical data)

East Penn press release

Information on The Furukawa Battery Company site also suggests larger UltraBatteries are being developed for wind power applications.

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


  • 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).

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?

Locally produced four-cylinder Holden due in 2010

Holden and the Prime Minister held a combined press conference today at the Holden plant in Adelaide to announce the production of a new front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder car at the Elizabeth plant. The new car will be designed and engineered at Port Melbourne in Victoria and will commence production in the third quarter of 2010.

The car will be produced as a result of a co-investment agreement between the Federal Government, Holden and the South Australian Government. The Federal Governement will contribute $149 million under the $6.2 billion New Car Plan for a Green Future which is designed to transform the Australian automotive industry to produce fuel-efficient, low-emission vehicles. It is understood the South Australian Government will be contributing $30 million.

The new car will be built on the General Motors global Delta small car platform. The initial models will feature direct-injection petrol and diesel engines. Hybrid engines and engines powered by alternative fuels, including LPG and E85 and CNG, have been mentioned as possibilities for future models.

Mercedes to launch the S 400 BlueHYBRID in 2009

Mercedes Benz are planning to market the S 400 BlueHYBRID in 2009. They say the hybrid technology in this car has been made possible by lithium-ion battery technology they have developed and patented.

The integration of the lithium-ion battery into the S Class climate control system enables the battery to work at optimal temperatures of between 15 and 35°C. This makes it Ppossible for the battery to provide long service life and maximum performance.

According to Daimler the main advantages offered by the new lithium-ion battery are its compact dimensions and its superior performance compared to conventional nickel-metal hydride batteries.

Mercedes S 400 BlueHYBRID

The S 400 BlueHYBRID consumes only 7.9 liters of gasoline per 100km. This results in very low CO2 emissions of only 190 grams per kilometer, a very low value for this vehicle class and power class, making the S 400 BlueHYBRID the world’s most economical luxury sedan — unrivaled by any gasoline, diesel, or hybrid drive system offered by any competitor.

Daimler says S 400 BlueHYBRID drivers will still enjoy impressive performance:

  • 220kW of power
  • 375 Nm of torque
  • zero to 100 km/h in 7.3 seconds
  • electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h

Source: Daimler