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

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

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.

Google Transit available for Perth and Adelaide

Way back in March 2008 we got wind of the fact that Google Transit was going to be rolled out in Perth. Well, this week Google announced that the Google Transit Layer is available for Perth and some public transport information is available for Adelaide. Google Transit Layer enables users of Google Maps to source public transport information directly from the map.

Google Transit for Leaderville Station in Perth

Google Transit for Leaderville Station in Perth

Unfortunately, at this stage the Transit Layer shows a different level of information depending on which city you view. In Perth, users can see the layout of the entire public transit system, zoom in on a particular route and click on a bus stop or train station to find out which buses or trains pass through (as shown above).To activate the Transit Layer you click More on the top right of the Google Map and check the Transit box.

In Adelaide you won’t be able to see the network as a layer on the map but can still click on bus stops and train stations to bring up a window with colour-coded routes and a direct link to the Adelaide Metro web site (as shown below). Tram users in Adelaide can also see timetables. As there are no layers to activate you just zoom in to the area of interest until the bust stops, train stations and tram stops become visible.

Google Transit Bus Stop I3 North Tce Adelaide

Google Transit Bus Stop I3 North Tce in Adelaide

This is another excellent tool from Google. If you’ve got time please have a play around with it and let us know what you think in the comments.

Source: Techworld

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

KTM gets conceptual

KTM in partnership with the FH JOANNEUM Gesellschaft have developed a number of concept vehicles ranging from a four wheel off-roader to a hydrofoil boat. My favourite is the oddly named sr 85 deuce, a light weight electric car that makes an Ariel Atom look positively obese.

KTM sr 85 deuce concept

FH JOANNEUM Gesellschaft: KTM sr 85 deuce concept

You can view all six concepts here.

Has the time come for high speed trains in Australia?

Having had a very positive experience using the Inter City Express (ICE) trains to travel around Germany I am a supporter of the service high speed trains provide for the public. It is fast, convenient, safe and cost effective. When powered by renewable electricity high speed trains also have a very low environmental impact. All things being equal I’d always take the train if I had a choice of flying or a high speed train in Australia. Air travel cannot compete with the convenience of boarding a train in one city centre and alighting in another to be greeted with a myriad of other public transport options to quickly get you to your destination.

German Inter City Express train

BusinessWeek: German Inter City Express train

The Very Fast Train consortium first proposed a high speed rail link between Melbourne and Sydney in the late 1980’s. The track was to go via Canberra and East Gippsland and cost around $5 billion. Journey times were to be 1 hour from Sydney to Canberra and 2 hours from Canberra to Melbourne. The proposal ended when the Federal Government did not agree to the tax provisions put forward by the proponents.

The Speedrail consortium subsequently proposed a high speed rail link between Sydney and Canberra. The consortium saw this as the first stage of a possible Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney-Brisbane network. However, this proposal stopped in 2000 when the then Federal Government and the Speedrail consortium could not agree on the level of government financial support required for the project.

On the back of rising oil prices (since subsided) and a greater emphasis on sustainable mobility the Canberra Business Council (CBC) has attempted to reopen the debate on high speed trains with a submission to the Infrastructure Australia agenda. The CBC submission uses the following key points to highlight the benefits of an East Coast high speed train network:

  • Improvements in technology, competitiveness and supply over the past decade.
  • Travel demand on the East Coast. The Melbourne – Sydney air route is the fourth busiest in the world and Sydney-Brisbane is ranks seventh in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Increased economic standard of living for Australians.
  • Use for freight. High speed freight trains are in use in France and soon to expand across Europe.
  • Environmental sustainability and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Energy efficiency.
  • Better social outcomes, quality of life, and reduced social disadvantage for regional centres on the rail line.

To put this into perspective, countries which are extending their existing high speed train networks include Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Japan and South Korea. New high speed train networks are under construction or being planned in The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Vietnam, China, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, Argentina and the USA (in California).

High Speed Rail for Australia, also by the CBC, highlights why Australia should look again at high speed rail. While none of the high speed rail projects listed above match the distances required in for a Melbourne – Brisbane line the technology is readily available and I’m sure Australians would use the service extensively once they understood the capabilities and convenience such a service offers. Unfortunately, history tells us that a project of this magnitude cannot succeed unless the Federal Government has the political will to make it happen.

The establishment of Infrastructure Australia by the current government may give high speed trains a fighting chance. One of the primary functions of Infrastructure Australia is to advise governments, investors and owners of infrastructure on Australia’s current and future needs and priorities relating to nationally significant infrastructure. The above submission by CBC was sent to Infrastructure Australia for evaluation and possible inclusion on the National Infrastructure Priority List. The first of these lists should be handed to the Council of Australian Governments in March 2009.

Source: Net Traveller