Eco-friendly hydrogen trains to replace ageing dirty diesels PDF Print E-mail

Alstom, which has developed a hydrogen-powered train, above, is in talks with a number of British train operators


Hydrogen-powered trains could be introduced to the rail network under government plans to phase out dirty diesel engines.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said new incentives would encourage companies into using greener trains and indicated that franchises handed to train operators to run passenger services would be rewritten to force them to meet “environmental targets”.

Paul Maynard, the rail minister, said that companies had to consider the use of cleaner energy, including hydrogen and battery-powered trains, as an alternative to diesel.

Japan is betting future cars will use hydrogen fuel cells PDF Print E-mail

Honda and Toyota think the technology’s superior energy density will triumph over batteries

Japan wants the Tokyo Olympics of 2020 to run on hydrogen. Planners envisage fleets of hydrogen-fuelled cars whisking athletes from the village to the venues. They are even pondering the practicalities of a hydrogen-burning Olympic flame to promote one of Japan Inc’s boldest gambles: that hydrogen, not batteries, will become the automotive power source of the future.



Toyota and Honda both have fuel-cell vehicles on the road, betting that despite the greater complexity and cost of the hydrogen technology, its superior energy density compared with batteries will ultimately give it a decisive advantage in range.


Efforts to boost sales of hydrogen cars have hit an unexpected obstacle, however: stringent Japanese regulations that make it cripplingly expensive to build a hydrogen filling station. Fuel-cell cars are no good without somewhere to fill them up, so Japan is engaged in a drastic rewrite of the rules.


“There’s an issue because Japan’s severe regulations push up the construction cost and running cost of a hydrogen station,” says Taiyo Kawai, project general manager at Toyota’s R&D and engineering management division, who has spent a decade working on hydrogen cars. A fuelling station in Japan may cost two or three times the price in Europe.


“Hydrogen was originally used in industry and there isn’t much experience of consumer use,” says Mr Kawai. Japan’s regulations for the gas are designed with a chemical plant in mind. Transplanted into a city centre fuelling station, that produces painfully high costs: as much as ¥500m ($4.5m) for construction and ¥50m a year for operation.


For example, hydrogen cars need a prescribed space around them during fuelling, and parts must use particular grades of steel. Supervisors must have experience of handling hydrogen and other high-pressure gases. Records must be kept of who handles and purchases the fuel. It is a long way from a self-service gasoline stand.


The issue with regulation highlights one of the biggest challenges for hydrogen versus batteries. Whereas the latter can use existing electricity wires, hydrogen needs its own infrastructure. No one wants a fuel-cell car without a fuelling infrastructure, and no one wants to pay for the infrastructure until there are cars to use it.

An enormous expanse of concrete surrounds your new Toyota Mirai or Honda Clarity. All equipment is machined to the highest grades. A smartly clad attendant will rush out of the office to top up your tank with the ultra-light gas.


All the rules add to what hydrogen proponents regard as a damaging perception that the fuel is dangerous, imprinted on the public mind by the Hindenburg airship disaster of 1937, where a hydrogen-fuelled zeppelin crashed and burnt with the loss of 36 lives. Hydrogen is highly flammable but, unlike gasoline, the ultralight gas quickly disperses rather than pooling and burning.


The hydrogen tanks of a Mirai © Bloomberg Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made rewriting the rules a national priority. “To meet our goal of 40,000 fuel-cell vehicles on the road by 2020 we need a plan to accelerate the rollout of hydrogen fuelling stations,” he said in April. “In order to rationalise the regulation on hydrogen stations, please look at this in general, bearing in mind the rules overseas and the comparison with domestic gas stands.”


A pan-government plan for deregulation, published in June, includes dozens of items designed to roll back rules on hydrogen filling stations. Many are meant to take effect next year or in 2019, although that may be too late for the Olympics. Japan’s goal is to increase the number of refuelling stations from about 80 in 2016 to 160 by 2020 and 900 by 2030. Each refuelling station will need to service about 900 vehicles a year to remain profitable and the target is to reach that level by 2030. Government subsidies are expected to expire by about 2020, so energy companies may need to operate money-losing refuelling stations for about a decade before there is a self-sustaining number of fuel-cell vehicles. Getting there will also require reductions in the cost of a fuel-cell vehicle.


The Toyota Mirai retails for $57,500 in the US. Bringing that price down will require larger-scale manufacturing as well as progress on the fuel cell, which uses expensive materials such as platinum. Hydrogen refuelling stations make the whole experience oddly luxurious The ability to reduce costs is likely to be constrained, however, by the complexity of the technology. A hydrogen vehicle has similarities with a gasoline-electric hybrid, combining a gasoline engine and an electric motor, only with a fuel cell replacing the internal combustion engine.

The trump card is range. Toyota claims a 312-mile driving range for the Mirai and there is scope to add to that by increasing the pressure at which hydrogen is stored in the vehicle’s tanks. “We see fuel-cell vehicles as the ultimate eco-car,” Kiyotaka Ise, Toyota’s head of advanced R&D, told the Financial Times in an interview last year. “Everyone is saying electric vehicles [are the future] but there is still a long way to go. EVs are far easier to make than FCVs . . . Toyota is putting huge effort into fuel-cell vehicles.”

Toyota’s fuel-cell big rigs are ready to haul cargo PDF Print E-mail
Toyota’s fuel-cell big rigs are ready to haul cargo
After completing 4,000 "development" miles at the port of Los Angeles, Toyota's Project Portal hydrogen fuel-cell big rig is ready to start transporting cargo from that port and the one in Long Beach to rail yards and warehouses beginning on October 23.

After completing 4,000 "development" miles at the port of Los Angeles, Toyota's Project Portal hydrogen fuel-cell big rig is ready to start transporting cargo from that port and the one in Long Beach to rail yards and warehouses beginning on October 23.

The class 8 Toyota truck is capable of producing more than 670 horsepower with 1,325 pounds of torque -- more than enough for even the heaviest Amazon delivery. The semi began its testing at the ports back in April, with Toyota partnering with drayage (transporting goods over short distances) provider Southern Counties Express. As the trial progressed, more and more cargo had been added until the two companies decided the truck was ready to become part of the proper fleet of vehicles later this month.

Powering the truck are two fuel stacks from Toyota's fuel-cell Mirai sedan and a 12kWh battery. The automaker says the big rig is capable of transporting 80,000 pounds and has a range of about 200 miles per fill-up. That's more than enough to move cargo around the Los Angeles area. Plus, it can quickly be put back on the road thanks to the fact that hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles can be refuelled as quickly as traditional gas-powered car.

While automakers have been touting their long-term electric vehicle plans, many of them have been simultaneously working on fuel-cell vehicles as a way to hedge their bets. A hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle can refuel as quickly as a gasoline vehicle, but like an EV, produces no CO2. It seems like it would be a seamless transition from traditional driving, or at least more so than what's expected from electric vehicles, which need to be plugged in and charged for hours to fulfill their range promises.

At issue is the lack of a robust hydrogen fuel-cell refueling infrastructure. Toyota and other automakers have worked closely with third parties to set up stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and the north east. Anywhere else, and you're basically out of luck. But if programs like Toyota's Project Portal prove to be a hit, it might be just the boost the fuel-cell infrastructure needs for mass adoption.

Enerkem Commences Commercial-Scale Production of Ethanol from Waste PDF Print E-mail

 Canadian waste to liquid fuel and chemicals specialist, Enerkem Inc, has started the commercial production of cellulosic ethanol at its plant in Edmonton.

According to the company the facility is the first commercial-scale plant in the world to produce cellulosic ethanol made from non-recyclable, non-compostable mixed municipal solid waste.

Enerkem explained that advanced biofuels play a vital role in the transition towards sustainable mobility by producing transportation fuels that replace a portion of gasoline.

It added that its technology not only provides a clean transportation fuel, but also disrupts the traditional waste landfill and incineration models..

The company has been producing and selling biomethanol since 2016, prior to expanding production to include cellulosic ethanol with the installation of its methanol-to-ethanol conversion unit earlier this year.

"The commercial production of cellulosic ethanol at our facility in Edmonton marks a landmark moment for our company as well as our customers in the waste management and petrochemical sectors, and confirms our leadership in the advanced biofuels market," said Vincent Chornet, President and Chief Executive Officer of Enerkem.

Enerkem said that the growing global market is expected to reach 124 billion litres per year by 2030 according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

"We will now progressively increase production in Edmonton, while preparing to build the next Enerkem facilities locally and around the world," concluded Chornet.

A video about the process can be viewed below.

Read More
Enerkem’s Waste Based Biofuels Approved for Sale in Europe
Biomethanol from Canadian waste to biofuels and chemicals producer, Enerkem’s, commercial scale Alberta in Edmonton has obtained certification from the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification system.

Enerkems 38m litre Waste to Biofuel Facility Inaugurated in Alberta, Canada
Canadian biofuels firm, Enerkem has officially inaugurated its first full-scale municipal waste to biofuels and chemicals facility in Edmonton, Alberta.

Chinese Deal for Waste to Biofuel & Chemicals Firm Enerkem
Enerkem, has signed an agreement with Shanghai Marine Diesel Engine Research Institute to jointly build a waste to biofuels facility in China.

Columbus under construction to become America's first 'smart city' PDF Print E-mail 

Columbus innovates safety in transportation

America’s first smart city is almost 2,500 miles from Silicon Valley. So it’s not San Francisco. It’s also 1,200 miles from Austin, Texas, home to one of America’s fastest-growing STEM workforces. It’s not Portland, Ore., Denver, Kansas City or Pittsburgh, either — though all were finalists in the 2016 Smart City Challenge.

America’s first smart city is Columbus, Ohio — the fastest-growing city in the Buckeye State and the second largest city in the Midwest, after Chicago.

Now, with $40 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation and another $10 million from Vulcan Inc., a company founded by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, Columbus — “The Crossroads of Ohio” — is poised to become the blueprint for the future of urban planning.


And what, exactly, is a “smart city”? It’s a buzzword, says Jordan Davis, director of smart cities at the Columbus Partnership. “What a smart city is, is not yet to be defined.”

But given the enormity and ambiguity of creating one, Davis and her colleagues are focusing on one thing at a time, starting with transportation. Columbus (pop. 860,090) experienced a worrisome increase in traffic congestion and car accidents as its population grew 1 percent last year, but Davis has no plans to add more highway lanes or parking garages. She’s not focusing on how many people are getting around, but how they’re getting around. 

“Mobility and transportation result in hundreds of deaths a year in our city,” Davis said. “If we can improve how people get around, we’ll save people’s lives.”


That means using integrated data exchange (IDE), which will collect data from sensors installed on traffic lights and from other databases; analyze the data to determine which intersections are prone to accidents and which streets are frequently blocked off; and then alert drivers, or even vehicles, accordingly.

It also will also look for parking solutions, because the Smart City Challenge reportestimates that 30 percent of urban traffic is caused by drivers looking for parking spaces. One suggestion is to develop technology that will inform drivers of available parking locations and tell them the safest route to get to them.

But drivers in Columbus, and in the rest of the country, are causing problems far worse than traffic congestion.


“Ninety-five percent of traffic accident fatalities are the result of human error,” says Doug Marsden, former chief technology officer at Transportation Research Center Inc. With 35,000 accidents occurring every year in the U.S., Columbus hopes to achieve a future that takes people out of the driver’s seat. And it’s not alone: 53 of the 78 cities that competed in the Smart City Challenge proposed implementing dedicated short-range communication (DSRC), which uses a special frequency that allows vehicles to communicate directly with one another, in their proposals.

“One of the biggest issues today is when the car is making a left-hand turn and they can’t see another car coming at them,” says Carla Bailo, assistant vice president of mobility research and business development at Ohio State University. Vehicles equipped with DSRC can avoid such “T-bone collisions,” even if the driver doesn’t see the other vehicle, because his vehicle knows it’s there and will not accelerate. Columbus is asking drivers to sign up for the connected vehicles initiative on its website.

“When I say safety, it’s not just for the car and the driver,” said Bailo, explaining that the goal is to prevent accidents from occurring in the first place. Radar and cameras installed for cars will be able to distinguish between living things and inanimate objects. A camera-oriented collision avoidance system will alert city bus drivers to pedestrians and pets. Enhanced LED streetlights in residential neighborhoods will make driving safer at night. And there’s more, though most of the Transportation Department’s initiatives for the city won’t be launched until late next year.


Improving traffic conditions in commercial areas is also critical. Plans call for real-time scheduling of downtown deliveries in order to minimize congestion. Long-haul truck drivers will benefit from both an interstate truck parking platform designed to help them find parking and from “platooning” — connecting long-haul trucks on Greater Columbus freeways so they can travel together. This will reduce fuel emissions, something the Columbus Smart City plan takes very seriously.

The plan also calls for introducing 780 electric vehicles into the city’s public and private sectors by 2020, implementing automated shuttles and creating a system that adjusts speed limits in conditions like inclement weather.

The public is encouraged to be part of the planning process by providing innovative ideas, but be forewarned: “Anyone that’s bringing new technology to the Smart Columbus area will need to prove it out first in a safe and secure facility,” Marsden said.


But if everything works, getting around Columbus should become significantly safer and more efficient.

“It’s going to allow people in and out of the city for major events with less congestion,” Marsden said. “It’s going to allow them to find parking spots quicker through mobile applications on their phones and parking lot sensors. It will expose people to these advanced technologies that are going to be commonplace in five, 10 years.”

As for the future of self-driving cars, Bailo estimates it will be another 30 to 40 years before autonomous cars are allowed on most public roads, but she anticipates seeing them in HOV lanes or special geo-fenced-in areas by 2025.


Davis says Columbus won’t become a smart city overnight. It will be a living laboratory for many months. Still, she has a good idea of what to look forward to.

“A smart city really, truly allows our community to be more efficient, safer and enables us to grow,” she said.

“That, at the end of the day, is a smart city, and therefore, a safer city.” 

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