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Select truck fleets boosted fuel economy 3% in 2015 compared to national Class 8 average

28 August 2016

Seventeen trucking fleets operating more than 62,000 tractors and 217,000 trailers recorded a 3% increase in fuel economy in 2015, saving an accumulative $501 million on fuel when compared to the 2015 national average fuel spend of 1.7 million over-the-road class 8 trucks. They achieved these gains by purchasing a variety of fuel efficiency technologies, according to the Annual Fleet Fuel Study released by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE).

As a result of these investments, fleet-wide mpg increased from 6.87 to 7.06 in 2015, the largest margin of improvement in eight years of consecutive improvements. The trade cycle for these fleets is a little over five years, meaning that the new trucks are about 16% more efficient than the 2010 model year trucks they replaced.

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UTA study indicates air contamination near fracking sites result of operational inefficiencies, not inherent to the extraction process

27 August 2016

A study led by chemists at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) indicates that highly variable contamination events registered in and around unconventional oil and gas developments are the result of operational inefficiencies and not inherent to the extraction process itself.

The study, published in Science of the Total Environment, found highly variable levels of ambient BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene compounds) in and around fracking gas drilling sites in the Eagle Ford shale region in South Texas. In situ air quality measurements using membrane inlet mobile mass spectrometry revealed ambient benzene and toluene concentrations as high as 1000 and 5000 parts-per-billion, respectively, originating from specific sub-processes on unconventional oil and gas well pad sites. BTEX compounds in high concentrations can be carcinogenic and have harmful effects on the nervous system.

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USDOT proposes speed limiters for large commercial vehicles; potential savings up to ~$1B in fuel each year depending on limit

26 August 2016

The US Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are proposing equipping heavy-duty vehicles with devices that limit their speeds on US roadways, and requiring those devices be set to a maximum speed, a safety measure that could save lives and more than $1 billion in fuel costs each year.

Specifically, NHTSA is proposing to establish a new Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) requiring that each new multipurpose passenger vehicle, truck, bus and school bus with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 11,793.4 kilograms (26,000 pounds) be equipped with a speed limiting device.

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Silicon-iron composite material for high capacity Li-ion anodes

26 August 2016

Researchers at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) and Georgia Tech have jointly developed unique Si-iron (Fe) based nanomaterials connected by Ge nanostructures for use as a high-capacity anode material for Li-ion batteries.

As described in a paper in the journal Nano Energy, the Si-Fe based new nanostructures showa maximum capacity of about 689 mAh/g—about twice as high as conventional materials—and a long, stable cycle life.

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Study finds in-cabin particulate pollution up to 40% higher in traffic jams or at red lights

26 August 2016

A new study by a team at the University of Surrey has found that particulate pollution levels inside cars are up to 40% higher when the vehicle is stuck in a traffic jam or stopped at a red traffic light compared to free-flowing traffic conditions.

The study, published as an open access paper in the RSC journal Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, assessed in-cabin exposure to fine and coarse PM under five different ventilation settings and compared in-cabin exposure at signalized traffic intersections (TIs) with pedestrian exposure. The study also found that car windows closed with the fan/heating off in traffic is the best ventilation setting in traffic—leading up to a 76% reduction in in-car pollutants. Also, the safest setting is the air being circulated internally only by the fan without drawing in polluted air from outdoors.

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DOE to award up to $6.7M to projects to convert captured CO2 to useful products, including fuels

26 August 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award approximately $6.7 million in federal funding for cost-shared projects that will develop technologies that utilize CO2 from coal-fired power plants to produce useful products. DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy is seeking these projects as part of the Department’s Carbon Storage program, which has the goal of developing and advancing technologies to improve the effectiveness of carbon storage, reduce the cost of implementation, and be ready for widespread commercial deployment in the 2025–2035 timeframe.

After carbon dioxide is captured from large point sources, such as coal-fired power plants, it can be injected into underground geological formations from which it cannot escape (geologic sequestration). Another option is to use the CO2 as a reagent to create useful products, such as cement, plastics, or liquid fuels. The new DOE funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001622) focuses on the second of these pathways which is focused on securing applications for projects that will develop CO2-utilization technologies that produce useful products at lower cost than currently available technologies, without generating additional greenhouse gas emissions.

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Opinion: Could A Lithium Shortage De-Rail The Electric Car Boom?

26 August 2016

by James Stafford of

We’ve gone electric, and there’s no going back at this point. Lithium is our new fuel, but like fossil fuels, the reserves we’re currently tapping into are finite—and that’s what investors can take to the bank.

You may think lithium got too popular too fast. You may suspect electric vehicles are too much buzz and not enough real future. You may, in short, be a lithium skeptic, one of many. And yet, despite this skepticism, lithium demand is rising steadily and sharply, and indications that a shortage may be looming are very real.

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U-M study finds crop-based biofuels associated with net increase in GHGs; falsifying the assumption of inherent carbon neutrality

25 August 2016

A new study from University of Michigan researchers challenges the assumption that crop-based biofuels such as corn ethanol and biodiesel are inherently carbon-neutral—i.e., that only production-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to be tallied when comparing them to fossil fuels.

In an open-access paper published in the journal Climatic Change, the researchers conclude that once estimates from the literature for process emissions and displacement effects including land-use change are considered, US biofuel use to date is associated with a net increase rather than a net decrease in CO2 emissions.

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Swiss team develops effective and low-cost solar water-splitting device; 14.2% solar-to-hydrogen efficiency

25 August 2016

Using commercially available solar cells and none of the usual rare metals, researchers at the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have designed an intrinsically stable and scalable solar water splitting device that is fully based on earth-abundant materials, with a solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of 14.2%.

The prototype system is made up of three interconnected, new-generation, crystalline silicon solar cells attached to an electrolysis system that does not rely on rare metals. The device has already been run for more than 100 hours straight under test conditions. The method, which surpasses previous efforts in terms of stability, performance, lifespan and cost efficiency, is published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

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Researchers generate methane from CO2 in one light-driven step using engineered bacteria

25 August 2016

Using an engineered strain of the phototropic bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris as a biocatalyst, a team from the University of Washington, Utah State University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University have reduced carbon dioxide to methane in one enzymatic step.

The work demonstrates the feasibility of using microbes to generate hydrocarbons (i.e., CH4 in this case) from CO2 in one enzymatic step using light energy. A paper on their work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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Honda begins taking orders for NSX hybrid supercar in Japan; starting at US$236,000

25 August 2016

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. began accepting applications in Japan for custom orders of the all-new NSX hybrid supercar (earlier post), which underwent a full redesign for the first time in 26 years since the introduction of the original NSX. Customer delivery will begin on 27 February 2017. Pricing starts at ¥23,700,000 (~US$236,000). Honda is targeting sales of 100 units in the first year.

The all-new NSX was created to be true to the “human-centered supercar” heritage of NSX and to bring the “New Sports eXperience” for this new era by integrating Honda’s original and advanced electrification technologies that have evolved with the times.

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China team develops pathway for producing renewable aviation-range hydrocarbons and aromatics from oleic acid without added H2

25 August 2016

Researchers from Zhejiang University; SINOPEC’s Fushun Research Institute of Petroleum and Petrochemicals; Nanjing Tech University; and Xinjiang Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry have developed an “atom-economic” approach to produce renewable drop-in aviation-range hydrocarbons and aromatics from oleic acid (C18H34O2, a fatty acid that occurs naturally in various animal and vegetable fats and oils) without an added hydrogen donor. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

The conversion of oleic acid in the process was 100%, and the yield of heptadecane (C17H36, the main product) can reach 71% after 80 min at 350 °C. The process also produced an aromatics yield of 19%; aromatics are a critical component of aviation fuels due to their ability to maintain the swelling of fuel system elastomers. The results, said the researchers, indicate that their process is a complicated reaction system including in situ hydrogen transfer, aromatization, decarboxylation, and cracking.

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