Alternative Fuels Australia

Archive for the ‘Hydrogen’ Category

BMW Hydrogen 7 to premiere in Australia in January

Posted by Car Geek on December 13, 2007

Hydrogen isn’t something we get to speak a lot about here, so naturally we’re interested when a hydrogen-capable production vehicle makes it way to our shores. In this case, the BMW Hydrogen 7 will be showcased at Federation Square in Melbourne from January 21-28. The display will be part of a BMW exhibition outlining their “EfficientDynamics” technology, including hydrogen, hybrid and diesel vehicles, reflecting their long, medium and short term approaches to reducing emissions.

BMW Hydrogen 7, image courtesy of AutoWeb.

BMW’s Hydrogen 7 vehicle shares many uses a V12 combustion engine, rather than a fuel cell like many other hydrogen vehicles, to produce 191kW of power and a 0-100 km/h time of 9.5 seconds. A full tank of 8 kg of hydrogen allows it to travel up to 200 km, or up to 500 km when using petrol. The car has been seen frequently in the hands of environmentally conscious celebrities, but don’t expect to be able to pick one up from your local dealer any time soon.

If you’re interested in what the automotive industry sees as the future of transportation (or at least one small part of it) and you’re in Melbourne, it’s worth a look – the car isn’t likely to come back to the country for public viewing for a while after this. We’ll be there to get some pictures and information to share with you all.

(Source: BMW)

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Posted in BMW, Hydrogen | 1 Comment »

This year’s Solar Challenge isn’t just about solar power

Posted by Car Geek on October 21, 2007

Waikato University's UltraCommuter experimental vehicle. Image courtesy WSC.

For the past twenty years, the World Solar Challenge has demonstrated the ability to run a car purely from the power of the sun. With climate change and resource scarcity registering as a significant public issue, however, the organisers last year added a new class to the competition that promotes environmentally friendly vehicles that don’t necessarily need to run on solar power. Here’s some of the entrants for this year:

  • Team Ethanol, from Queensland, is using a production Saab BioPower vehicle to aim for its second consecutive Greenfleet Technology Class title. The team will be running on E85 fuel produced in Sarina, in Queensland’s north.
  • The University of Adelaide has entered using its BioBike, a modified motorcycle that runs on pure biodiesel.
  • Bios Fuel Corp will be running a diesel-powered vehicle on a controversial 60/40 combination of waste oil and water. The New Zealand-based team says that their H2W+ fuel is more advanced than ethanol or biodiesel.
  • The Japanese H2Solar vehicle won’t be competing for a title, but the JonaSun team is using the race to demonstrate their technology. The experimental vehicle runs on both solar power and a hydrogen fuel cell.

The race is currently underway, with the first teams expected to make it to Adelaide by the weekend.

Posted in alternative fuels, Biodiesel, Ethanol, Hydrogen, Solar | Leave a Comment »

Adelaide students work on new hydrogen storage method for hybrid fuel cell vehicle

Posted by Car Geek on October 18, 2007

Image from the University of Adelaide. A group of students from the University of Adelaide has developed a one-tenth working model of a hydrogen-powered hybrid vehicle using a novel method of hydrogen storage.

The students, from the Department of Chemical Engineering, were exhibiting their work this week as part of a presentation sponsored by Santos and the Australian Institute of Energy. The team’s fuel-cell hybrid vehicle is a remote-controlled car that uses energy stored in a bank of rechargeable batteries and draws additional power through a hydrogen fuel cell. Rather than use a traditional method of storing gaseous compressed hydrogen in a tank, the students have opted for a safer solid-state metal hydride vessel that eliminates the dangers associated with high-pressure vessels.

Fuel cell hybrid vehicles are already in development and testing by a number of car manufacturers worldwide, such as Toyota and Ford, however most of them use traditional compressed hydrogen storage, which requires an expensive carbon fibre tank.

The exhibition also demonstrated other alternative fuel technologies, such as research into biodiesel from “microalgae” and its associated emissions.

(Source: University of Adelaide via The Advertiser)

Posted in Hybrid, Hydrogen | 1 Comment »

New Zealand conflicted on electric cars, seeks biofuels and hydrogen vehicles

Posted by Car Geek on October 13, 2007

New Zealand is well on its way to becoming one of the most environmentally friendly nations on the planet, especially if its government has its way. The small nation has a plan to half its transport emissions by 2040 by using biofuels, hybrids and electric vehicles, according to an energy strategy released by Prime Minister Helen Clark. The government hopes that battery-electric vehicles will make up 60 per cent of the market share by 2040, and that hydrogen-powered vehicles make up 25 per cent by 2050. The move is aided by New Zealand’s already largely clean electricity, 65 per cent of which is produced by renewable means (a figure they want to increase to 90 per cent by 2025).

However, the media and private companies aren’t quite as sold on electric cars as the government just yet. EVs have copped considerable criticism from New Zealand’s Dog and Lemon Guide, an influential car magazine. Author Clive Matthew-Wilson attacked the cars for being high cost, range-limited and in constant need of recharging. The author also said that the light-weight materials used for EVs such as carbon fibre, also used in a number of conventional vehicle components such as spoilers, were expensive to make and “incredibly toxic”. The comments (however questionable they may be) have prompted Meridian Energy, a power company that was planning to import a small number of electric cars for a trial, to review the plan, though it currently has no intentions to scrap the trial entirely.

NZ Energy Minister, David Parker, has rejected the claims of Dog & Lemon, saying that much of the technology going into electric vehicles is already used in conventional cars and that the energy used to power them would be largely renewable.

“The Prime Minister recently announced a target of 90 per cent renewable energy in the electricity sector by 2025, so we are set to see amounts of renewable electricity available increasing over time,” he said.

“New Zealand is fortunate to have so much renewable energy available at economic prices; the uptake of technologies such as electric cars will see an increasingly sustainable transport fleet.”

(Sources: NZ Herald, The Age)

Posted in Biofuels, Electric vehicles, Hydrogen, Neighbouring endeavours | 3 Comments »

Australian scientist heads up solar biofuels consortium

Posted by Car Geek on October 9, 2007

Algae bioreactors. Image from the Solar Bio-Fuels Consortium. Algae could potentially be used to create more than just biodiesel, if one Australian researcher has his way. Associate Professor Ben Hankamer, from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, is leading an international consortium which is focused on generating fuels such as methane, biodiesel and hydrogen from algae and sunlight.

The Solar Bio-Fuels Consortium is a collaborative research effort by academics from the University of Queensland, as well as numerous universities in Germany and Imperial College in London, England, with the aim of developing methods of renewable biofuel production that do not suffer from the drawbacks of traditional crops such as corn. The group conducts “bio-discovery, structural biology, molecular biology, microbiology, genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabonomics, culture optimization and bioreactor scale-up within a coordinated research program”, according to their website.

Algae naturally capture sunlight and use its energy to split water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen, however this process is not efficient enough to make it commercially viable.

The Consortium uses this natural reaction, but is developing ways of enhancing its efficiency to a level where the process will be economically viable. This will be done with the help of a $286 000 Australian Research Council grant received last week.

“We have conducted detailed feasibility studies that show that, once key technical milestones are overcome, this technology could achieve economic viability, which will increase further with the introduction of carbon trading schemes and the predicted rise in the oil price,” Associate Professor Hankamer said.

“We have focused on micro-algae as a source of hydrogen because they have several advantages over traditional bio-fuel crops.”

The concept may also prove beneficial for Australia as a desalinising method to provide clean water to drought-stricken parts of the country. Algae that can feed on salt water produces hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be combusted and condensed to clean water without the salt content, combining clean water production with carbon-neutral electricity generation.

The technology could also be used in conjunction with existing coal-fired power plants to absorb much of the carbon dioxide emitted, feeding the algae and effectively “reusing” the greenhouse gas. The algae can then be used to generate hydrogen with no carbon emissions, as well as other biofuels. This process is a substantial improvement from current hydrogen generation methods, which use methane as a feedstock and generate carbon dioxide.

(Source: UQ News)

Posted in Biofuels, Carbon sequestration, Hydrogen | 2 Comments »

Brief hiatus for this week

Posted by Car Geek on September 11, 2007

Updates will be sparse for the remainder of this week while I’m travelling, however the site will be running full steam ahead next week. In the meantime, keep a close eye on the Frankfurt Auto Show (currently underway), because there’s some great ideas coming out of there: the Opel Flextreme, which is based on the same E-flex plug-in hybrid platform at the Chevrolet Volt, emits only 40g of CO2 per 100km, thanks to its diesel recharging engine; the Volvo ReCharge plug-in hybrid, with a flex-fuel engine; and the Hyundai i-Blue fuel cell concept car.

See you next week!

Posted in Diesel, Ethanol, Hydrogen, Hyundai, PHEV, Site, Volvo | Leave a Comment »

WA to wrap up its hydrogen bus trial

Posted by Car Geek on September 7, 2007

Perth's H2 bus, image from Australian Institute of Energy. Western Australia’s hydrogen fuel cell bus will be retired in early September after covering 260,000 km as part of the Transperth fleet. The WA Planning and Infrastructure Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, said that the buses have saved more than 300 tonnes of greenhouse gases that would have otherwise been emitted using standard diesel buses (although it is not clear whether this includes greenhouse gases emitted during production of the hydrogen, which was made at BP’s Kwinana refinery).

The project, which received $13 million in state and federal government funding, was part of an international trial involving Hamburg, Stuttgart, Luxembourg, Stockholm, London, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Reykjavik, Madrid, Porto and Beijing, said Ms MacTiernan. “Most of the cities have finished their trials, while Beijing is close to finishing and Hamburg and Amsterdam have continued on to a fourth year with nine and three buses respectively.”

It is not known if or when the hydrogen fuel cell bus will return to Perth roads.

(Source: Australasian Bus News)

Posted in Hydrogen, Public transport | 2 Comments »

Will Australia import more efficient technology?

Posted by Car Geek on September 1, 2007

While pressure mounts considerably for auto companies in the US to clean up their act, and an impressive range of new technologies make their way on to the market to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, there is still some question about whether or not these innovations will find their way into Australian cars.

General Motors, the US owner of Holden, has recently announced a wide range of fuel-saving innovations to their vehicles, ranging from hybrid powertrains to diesels, direct injection engines and cylinder deactivation. Some models released under the Holden badge in Australia even have hybrid counterparts in the United States, such as the Saturn Vue (known as the Captiva MaXX here). However, despite a recent shift in focus within Holden towards being part of the global GM group rather than considering itself a separate entity, the Melbourne-based car manufacturer has made no suggestions one way or another about importing some of GM’s technology for use in its Australian-made or imported vehicles. Spokesman John Lindsay admitted to the existence of “some (VE Commodore) mules running around with hybrid systems in them”, but said that there are no plans to bring a hybrid Commodore to production at this stage. Similarly there seems to be no move to use more conventional engine technology such as direct injection in their Australian-built engines, let alone much hope for radical projects such as the Chevy Volt to make their way to our shores. Paradoxically, Holden exports a version of the Commodore Omega that is capable of using a 24% ethanol blend to Brazil (under the Chevrolet brand), but will not endorse the use of ethanol concentrations above 10% for its Australian vehicles.

The situation seems paralleled at Ford, with the US branch currently looking into longer-term solutions such as hydrogen-hybrid Focus and HySeries experimental vehicles, as well as an existing range of ethanol-capable and hybrid vehicles and powertrain developments such as continuously variable transmission.  Ford Motor Company Australia recently made the tough decision to close its production of the “Barra” engine at Geelong in favour of importing the more efficient Duratec engine from Detroit, which is a significant move for the industry, however the company has made it clear that the likelihood of seeing a Ford-badged hybrid on Australian roads in the near future is remote.

With the Australian market too small to cost-effectively innovate on a large scale, the auto industry’s best hope is to exploit its global partnerships and import technology to help reduce fuel consumption and emissions from Australian vehicles, but it’s likely that the cultural shift required for the industry to embrace such globalisation may take some time.

(Source: Drive, Carsguide)

Posted in alternative fuels, Ethanol, Ford, Holden, Hybrid, Hydrogen | 2 Comments »

Analysis: Australia’s future fuel

Posted by Car Geek on July 5, 2007

If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to take the opportunity to step back from each individual step that we’ve been focusing on here to take a look at the broader perspective.

In 2005, Australia consumed:

    – 18,712 million litres of petrol (15,856 ML of which was used in passenger vehicles)
    – 8690 million litres of diesel fuel (5,636 ML of which was used in rigid or articulated trucks)
    – 1564 million litres of LPG/CNG fuel

Current indicators are that fossil fuel use has increased in the 18 months since this data was recorded; alternative fuel use in transport was not significant enough to appear with these statistics at the time. In terms of fuel production:

    – Non-renewable fuel production has increased 446% in the last 30 years
    – Renewable fuel has increased 28% in the same period

Clearly these are not the markers of a country that has embraced alternative and renewable fuels, as much of the world is doing. This is both a weakness and an opportunity for us: although we have so far given up the chance to be a world leader in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, we have been able to observe a very rapidly maturing field of fossil fuel replacements and make a sensible decision about which is best for the Australian environment. If you’re interested in knowing who the primary contenders are, read on.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in alternative fuel, Biodiesel, Biofuels, Electric vehicles, Ethanol, fossil fuels, Hybrid, Hydrogen, Legislation, Nuclear power, renewable fuel | 5 Comments »

Rio Tinto and BP work together on clean coal

Posted by Car Geek on May 18, 2007

Rio Tinto, one of Australia’s largest mining companies, and BP have joined forces to create an emission-free coal power system. The system is expected to create hydrogen gas from coal, with the resultant carbon emissions being buried in underground cavities such as those of emptied oil and gas fields. The hydrogen gas is then used to create electricity or in industrial and commercial applications. The project is similar another BP joint venture, where it is working with GE in Scotland to create hydrogen from oil and sequester the carbon emissions in underground cavities. The products of these systems are well-suited to future automotive applications, either using the electricity generated or directly using the hydrogen gas, for zero-emissions transport.


Posted in Carbon sequestration, fossil fuels, Hydrogen | Leave a Comment »