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Hybrid Fleet Vehicles 191

Posted by michael
from the save-a-joule-or-two dept.
howman writes "This article in the Toronto Star tells of a Canadian company called Azure Dynamics Corp. which has a novel approach to cutting fuel costs and harmful emissions in fleet vehicles. The novelty is not so much in their technology but in the fact that they are hitting the fleet vehicle users market. While Azure doesn't manufacture any of the components, it 'works with the companies that make all the parts for Canada Post's trucks or Purolator's vans - the engines, the chassis, and so on - to convert those vehicles into HEVs.' With an existing and potential client list that includes Purolator, Canada Post, the United States Postal Service and Renault and London Taxi International, it may not be long before you see one of their branded vehicles on a street near you."
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Hybrid Fleet Vehicles

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  • aluminium batteries (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Friday May 28, 2004 @08:53AM (#9276260) Homepage
    only when partenan cells are available will any kind of EV be viable. http://www.europositron.com
    • by Bushcat (615449)
      I dunno, my milk and mail was delivered reliably every morning by EV decades ago.
    • by Moderation abuser (184013) on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:01AM (#9276709)
      250-400 mile ranges are possible using existing battery technology. You can buy vehicles now which will do that at motorway speeds. Pretty much in line with current petrol vehicles.

      That said, the batteries are not your standard lead/acid ones and are still very expensive, but that's purely down to the manufacturing capacity.

    • Don't forget to charge up your batteries for an electric car with that electricity created by coal. Coal accounts for 50%+ of the electricity in the US.
      • Don't forget to charge up your batteries for an electric car with that electricity created by coal. Coal accounts for 50%+ of the electricity in the US.

        Atleast we mine coal locally here in the US, and generally coal power plants are cleaner than gasoline powered cars. But the original point stands, electric vehicles aren't the answer to our dependence on fossil fuels.
      • There are two types of Coal. Dirty Coal and clean Coal.

        In a modern plant, the cleaner coal is the cleanest and safest of the polluting energy sources. It is FAR better (pollution wise) to burn the clean coal to create electricity to run your car then it is too burn gasoline (especially using an engine that has NOT been optimized to minimize pollution) to run your car.

      • by Colin Smith (2679) on Friday May 28, 2004 @03:49PM (#9280190)
        In America, but tomorrow it might be nuclear, solar power, wind turbine, geothermal etc. Denmark for instance gets 10% of it's power from wind energy.

        With a battery powered vehicle you can switch the supply to another generation platform by sticking a solar panel on the roof of your house and flicking a switch. Can't do that with Petrol, ethanol, methanol, hydrogen.

  • Critical Mass (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Friday May 28, 2004 @08:54AM (#9276267)
    Here in Rhode Island, USA, we have several propane filling stations, however they're all clearly marked "State Vehicles Only". So while its nice to see the State Troopers and trolley buses cruising around on propane, there needs to be more filling stations, and they need to be available to the general public.
    These sorts of alternative energy options always require a certain critical mass, or number of cars, or number of users, before they're economically viable. (No comments from the anti-gasoline tinfoil hat crowd, please)
    • Re:Critical Mass (Score:5, Informative)

      by Smidge204 (605297) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:10AM (#9276358) Journal
      Indeed, targeting fleet vehicles seems like a good way to convince the public that HEV technology is a viable solution. People drive them on the job, and if they have a good experience will see that it's not so bad. Then when it comes time to buy a new car they might consider a HEV of their own.

      As for propane, here in NY my company just finished a job converting a school bus garage to be "explosion proof" as they were getting new busses that run off of compressed natural gas. The district is buying 20 busses a year until their entire fleet is replaced with the new CNG busses.

      The advantage of HEVs, though, is that they still burn gasoline, and as such the fuel supply infastructure is already widely established. Going with CNG or Propane requires a whole new infastructure.
      =Smidge=
      • CNG requires minimal infrastructure improvements. Most parts of the US have high pressure natural gas available so all that is needed is a holding vessel and pumps. Beyond that it is possible to make a vehicle which will run on either gasoline/gas or diesel/gas. For more info on so called Bi-fuel vehicles see this [fueleconomy.gov] government link. Such vehicles make TONS of sense for fleet vehicles as they can run on cleaner cheaper fuel when available but also can use standard fuel if away from the alternative stations fo
        • CNG requires fairly substantial infastructure improvements, though admittedly not as drastic as, say, hydrogen power would.

          "High pressure" gas, as it pertains to fuel gas that you use in your home, is generally no more than 20psi in the larger mains. To be used as a vehicle fuel, it must be compressed further. This means you will need special compressors and storage tanks. For something like a gas station you would nede a good deal of on-site storage and/or large compressors to handle the demand. Leak and
          • Technically NG is less volatile than typical gasoline. NG usually has an octane rating of around 120-130, similar to diesel fuel. It is more dangerous do to it's natural form at room temperature being a gaseous form rather than liquid.

            PS. Octane rating has to do with the volatility of a fuel. the lower the Octane rating the less stable the fuel is and there for more explosive. High compress sports cars will need higher octane ratings to prevent a knock known as pre-combustion (the fuel exploding befor
            • "Octane Rating" is a percentage. The name comes from the percentage of the fuel that is hydrocarbons with eight carbon atoms.

              Gasoline is a mix of Octane, Heptane and a few others, usually in the 4 to 10 hydrocarbon range. Octane is stable and will resist igniting when compressed. Heptane is not as stable and ignites more easily. When a gasoline has a "83 Octane" rating, that means it performs as if it had 83% Octane and 17% Heptane. This is why higher Octane fuels resist knocking.

              Diesel is a soup of hydro
    • by zogger (617870) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:12AM (#9276372) Homepage Journal
      There's a variety of dual fuel carbs out there for normal vehicles. Using either gasoline, or gas and/or propane or natural gas. I looked into it before for my van with a chevy 350, normal carb. At the time, several years ago now, the conversion was around 300$ I think.
      Here's a Google link for dual fuel, propane [google.com]
      As for finding propane for a fill up, it's not that hard, most yellow pages will direct you to your local outlet for bulk filling. Not near as many as for a normal gas station, but every community in the US probably has some place you get get propane. I've had to find the places a lot, my van and my RV both have propane tanks (just for the camping accessories right now), and I've never had a hard time finding propane. And for that matter, it might not be that hard to have a big bulk tank put in in your back yard, have the truck top it off occassionally, and do your own "fill up" right at home with the appropriate extra gear installed. A nice way to buy when it's cheap and have a good reserve handy.
      /me = remembers OPEC boycott and sudden "no gas" very clearly
      • by 2000 Britneys (549923) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:33AM (#9276517)
        Few years back I had a dual fule Oldsmobile and it was working very very well. The fill up were no problem since most of gas stations in Canada do indeed have propane available at all times. Also it was much much cheaper to run a vehicle on propane.

        As for your idea of having your own "bulk" tank in the backyard I don't think it is possible. To fill up a car you need to have a certification at least here in Canada.

        For the people that say propane is explosive and might be a danger to the public if you have big "bulk" tanks I had a guy show me how to extinguish
        fire with liquid propane. It worked. Apparently propane has much higher ignition point then reg gas
        it is a lot safer to use. Plus all the tanks in the vehicles have safety devices that will prevent leaks from the tank unless the tank itself is physically damaged.

      • Here in the states, there is almost always a community limit to the size of propane tank you can keep on a residential property. The commercial tanks (2-5000 gallons) have the potential for HUGE explosions that in the worst case scenario could take out your block.
    • Re:Critical Mass (Score:3, Informative)

      by AmigaAvenger (210519)
      As an experienced second-hand user of CNG (parents drove fleet CNG vehicles) I can personally say i would not want CNG anywhere close to my vehicle! The added weight for the tanks is incredible, and the engines average 50000-80000 miles before they have no compression left. (And don't get me started about the bomb qualities, 8 - 6 foot tanks about a foot in diameter, at 2000 psi. KABOOM!)

      Liquid gasoline has some properties that modern engines rely on, lubrication and cooling mainly. it doesn't provide

      • Natural gas is a very clean fuel, so if you run a car on natural gas it is imperitive that you have some additive system to add a lubricant into the cylinder to lubricate the upper part of the cylinder and piston. If you do this the engine will actually last a lot longer than if the engine is run on petrol.
    • Re:Critical Mass (Score:5, Interesting)

      by swordboy (472941) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:28AM (#9276474) Journal
      The problem with propane (or natural gas, for that matter) is two-fold:

      1) You are still burning nitrogen, which creates NOx emissions [google.com] (bad).
      2) Nonrenewable

      Hydrogen and fuel cells are clearly the future. My vision is that some enterprising inventor will come up with a high-density method for storing hydrogen, at which point high-capacity hydrogen batteries will be possible. As I pointed out yesterday [slashdot.org], NiMH batteries are just closed loop hydrogen fuel cells. With a high-density hydrogen storage solution, you could have a battery-powered car which could travel several thousand miles between charges, which would likely consist of swapping out the battery pack.

      This would work well with out existing infrastructure. Power plants typically idle down to very inefficient ranges during the night time hours. These plants could simply use the excess electrical capacity at night in order to separate hydrogen from water. This hydrogen could be stored in said high-density storage solution and stored in battery packs. These battery packs could be used in all sorts of stuff from automobiles to houses (making note that the "grid" is where most of our energy is consumed today - it is very inefficient).
      • Re:Critical Mass (Score:4, Insightful)

        by shreak (248275) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:54AM (#9276653)
        Hydorgen fuel cells are not a fuel, they are a storage mechanism. Where do you get the Hydrogen to fuel your fuel cell? Probably from a non-renewable hydrocarbon (like propane or butane) or from an energy company that produces your hydrogen compound by using traditional energy sources (electricity from oil or coal).

        Hopefully there will be an efficiency gain due to economies of scale (produce lots of power in one place and distribute it) But don't make the mistake of thinking that by moving around where the petrolium fuel is produced that the problem is gone.

        =Shreak
        • According to the Department of Energy the efficiency gain on hydrogen fuel cells is 2X to 2.5X. Pretty huge gain even if everyone just drove HFC vehicles and we generated the hydrogen from oil. I really hope that's not the way it goes, but the hydrogen is very promising.

      • ...plants could simply use the excess electrical capacity at night...

        This is known as peak shaving [dot.gov].
    • Re:Critical Mass (Score:3, Interesting)

      by green1 (322787)
      I find this interesting, where I live (Canada) I actually have trouble thinking of a gas station that does NOT sell propane... the primary role of these filling stations seems to be for barbeque tanks and for motorhome accessories, however this is also where propane vehicles fill...

      propane conversions were really popular here in the 80's, but demand has lessened signifigantly, propane conversions are expenzive, and your mileage is less, so even with the signifigantly cheaper cost of propane, you never reco
  • Great idea! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mz6 (741941) * on Friday May 28, 2004 @08:54AM (#9276272) Journal
    This is probably one of the best business idea I have read in a while. They stay away from actually producing the products that will make up the car, but they build the packages to transform the car into a HEV. I think that's just brilliant!
    • This is probably one of the best business idea I have read in a while. They stay away from actually producing the products that will make up the car, but they build the packages to transform the car into a HEV. I think that's just brilliant!

      Have you considered the drawbacks to this business model?

      • What does the installation of an aftermarket HEV conversion do to the warranty and service agreements on the fleet?
      • If this is successful, it will have the direct effect of drawing the automakers to focus on
  • Good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JosKarith (757063) on Friday May 28, 2004 @08:56AM (#9276282)
    Of course the Stop-Start kind of driving that these vehicles will be doing is perfect for hybrids.
    • by Trigun (685027) <[xc.hta.eripmelive] [ta] [live]> on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:01AM (#9276304)
      Stop and start? This is in Canada, where it's sixty kilo-meters in between igloos.
      • Stop and start? This is in Canada, where it's sixty kilo-meters in between igloos.

        What? You expect them to run over every polar bear, moose and wolverine they cross between igloos?
    • Good idea indeed (Score:5, Informative)

      by the_twisted_pair (741815) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:12AM (#9276362)
      ..And I have to say the hybrid approach probably makes better sense than a 'pure' EV given the scale of American cities.

      Here in the UK electric vehicles have long been a feature of the townscape - Doorstep milk deliveries were always carried out by the huge (10,000+ at peak IIRC) fleet of 'milk floats' operated by the major dairies (this service is now in decline, killed by supermarkets). EVs just makes so much sense for such start/stop urban use, and for early in the morning - they're near-silent.

      Fortunately, the advantages are recognised - many local councils are experimenting with newer EVs and hybrids for the obvious reasons in town centres. Here in Bristol there is a fair percentage of council-operated natural-gas powered vans, and experimental conversions of diesel city buses.

  • by garcia (6573) * on Friday May 28, 2004 @08:59AM (#9276294) Homepage
    What's more, Azure makes plain that its customers must put their money where their mouth is. Interested parties have to commit up front that they'll place an order before Azure builds a prototype; if Azure achieves what it promises in emission reductions and fuel-cost savings, the customer has to pay for and receive the order.

    "There are lots of tire-kickers, but if we perform, they agree to buy," said Deacon.


    While their potential/interested clients are big ones it seems like a lot to ask in order to get a fleet out there for you.

    Analysts believe Azure will make it. MacMurray is forecasting the company to lift itself out of the red by 2007 -- mainly because demand for hybrid vehicles that rely less on gasoline and don't pollute as much will continue to be strong.

    We'll see. I wish them the best of luck but I doubt that they will be able to create what they say they can every time and with such a "small" possible base of customers.
  • by laigle (614390) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:03AM (#9276316)
    Fleet vehicles rack up more mileage, so they get a better return on investment with hybrids. Plus they're in a better position to absorb the increased up front costs than consumers. I've seen a lot more switchover to alternative fuel technologies and the like with fleet vehicles than the general public. Hopefully this will provide the needed incentive to get these technologies into commercially viable stages of development.
    • Part of the reason fleets use alternative fuels is that companies receive significant tax benefits by converting their fleets to alternative, low emissions fuels (cng, lpg, etc.)
    • It's pretty much always the case that commercial industry embraces a new technology, which then helps drive down the cost of this technology (and helps refine it) so that the consumers then look to purchase it. The fact that hybrid cars hit the consumer market first was a bit of a different trend, but I think it will get a bigger jump-start when more of these vehicles are utilized by companies. The local public transportation company (SEPTA) in the Philly area is starting to use hybrid buses....I think this
    • by The Fun Guy (21791) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:23AM (#9276438) Homepage Journal
      Not only do they rack up more miles than the average consumer-driven car, they do a lot of stop-and-go driving. From an efficiency and emissions standpoint, electric cars are great at this sort of thing, much better than gas engine. The intervening longer distance driving to and from the dispatch point, or to delivery neighborhoods is where the gas engines are better (range, cruising efficiency).

      Hybrids seem to be a really good option here.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        What I want to know is how they compare to turbo diesels. As we have seen VW TDIs get mileage comparable to hybrids in the city and generally superior mileage on the highway. They get good mileage around town because they make peak torque at very low RPMs (about 150@1500, but these are 1.8 liter engines.) The only down side of a turbo is slightly increased maintenance. The down side of a hybrid is added weight from motors and batteries, the need to replace and recycle those batteries and dramatically increa
    • by Rick.C (626083) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:37AM (#9276537)
      The main issue for consumers is that unless they buy the vehicle new and plan on running it until it dies, it's harder to get the Return On Investment (ROI). Fleet operators typically buy 'em new and run 'em into the ground.

      If you buy a new car and plan to trade it in after three years, you can't justify the ROI. Also, any conversion will likely void the warranty, and you may find it difficult to sell a "non-standard" car later.

      If you buy an older used car and convert it, it may not last long enough to give you a decent ROI.

      HEV conversion will likely be popular only for fleets and for die-hard hobbyists. Let's hope that this will eventually work its way into a factory installed (and supported) option on mainstream vehicles.

  • Hope this sticks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by beachplum (777797) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:04AM (#9276320) Homepage
    The rush to develop alternatiives to gas was also pretty big after the gas crunch in the 70s. All that stuff kind of faded away after gas prices came down.

    There are so many better alternatives now than there were then. This is one of the best I have seen, so maybe it will actually catch on and have enough longevity as an idea to create a cultural change.

  • http://www.toyota.com/prius/
    • the prius makes a lousy delivery truck.
      • Hydraulic hybrids (Score:3, Interesting)

        by silentbozo (542534)
        I was watching Motorweek the other day on PBS, and they were running a segment on hybrids [mpt.org]. Several companies were designing heavy trucks (think diesel platforms for garbage trucks and buses) that used high and low pressure hydraulic tanks to store and then release energy generated by the engine during operation. This enables the truck to avoid idling the engine at stops (similar to an electric hybrid) and allows the truck to get up to speed (hydraulic launch assist [designnews.com]) based on the hydraulic pump (which is c
    • The Prius won't do what these vehicles are desinged for, although they might make good vehicles for couriers.

      Also, my neighbor is a poohbah at a local Toyota dealership and he tells me there is a two-year waiting list to get one.
      • Yeah - that's the other problem. These bastard automakers don't make enough to go around. I've had my eye on either a Prius or a Honda Insight for quite some time. None of the Toyota or Honda dealerships around here has one nor do they have plans to get one. So I can't test drive the car. They'll order one if I buy, but I won't buy a car without a good test drive. And it's the same line: "It could take 6 months to a year to get it in."

        How do you expect people to actually use these vehicles if you can't tes
        • This is a simple case of supply and demand. In this case, the demand far outstripped the supply. The manufacturer's had estimates of the demand and set up the plants to make enough to meet those estimates. The estimates were wrong.
  • Emissions (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mangu (126918)
    Is the emissions from fleet vehicles a significant part of the total? Good, of course, to reduce everything you can, but I doubt that, even if all fleet vehicles had zero emissions, the overall pollution levels would be much reduced.
    • Re:Emissions (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      Perhaps overall, no, but it should have a significant effect in some very localised areas. For example, in central London, virtually all traffic is busses and taxis. Redcuing that will have a significant effect on the air quality near major roads.
    • Re:Emissions (Score:3, Informative)

      by confused one (671304)
      Fleet vehicles, including long-haul trucking, account for approximately 30% of emissions.

      In broadest (and simplest) terms, emissions run as 30%industrial, 30%commercial fleet, 30%private vehicles, 10% other.

    • Is the emissions from fleet vehicles a significant part of the total?

      Maybe, maybe not, but another part of the equation is that the government (post office) should set a "good example" for the people.

      Yeah, I know, the gov't isn't usually looked to for moral leadership, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't try to do the right thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This has been said before, so I will keep it short. People see these cars running on electricity with 'no emissions', and assume the car causes little or no pollution. Unfortunately, the electricity that you charge up your car's battery probably comes from fossil fuel combustion. You just might not know it, since the power generation station that burns it is far from urban centers.

    On top of this, energy companies try to mislead their customers into thinking the energy is clean. I live in Ontario. I bu
    • by mrtroy (640746) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:13AM (#9276374)
      I buy my electricity from 'HydroOttawa'. A lot of people think that it is hydro-electricity they are buying, when really, it is more like 15% hydro. 85% or the power really comes from burning fuels.

      Show me some evidence that 85% of the power we get in ontario is from fossel fuels. That sounds like some bullshit to me. Especially considering you say 15% hydro (very low for the ammt of hydro we produce) and do not include nuclear power anywhere in your numbers.

      Do not make outrageous claims with inaccurate numbers.
    • Unfortunately, the electricity that you charge up your car's battery probably comes from fossil fuel combustion.
      [...]
      I live in Ontario. I buy my electricity from 'HydroOttawa'. A lot of people think that it is hydro-electricity they are buying, when really, it is more like 15% hydro. 85% or the power really comes from burning fuels.


      Québec is mostly hydro...though they are trying to get more fuel burning stations.
    • Yes, powering your car from electricity coming off the power grid is still resulting in emissions, but...

      - Industrial power plants are more efficient and cleaner than a car engine. Especially considering that some of them are hydro or nuclear

      - Less micro-leakage into the environment due to spills at gas stations, leaking car gas-tanks, leakage during accidents

      - More efficient distribution, no need to have fleets of trucks driving the highways 24/7 to keep gas stations supplied.

      No, electric cars are not
      • Yes but,
        • batteries are highly inefficient
        • batteries are heavy and waste power when they are moved about with the vehicle
        • batteries are made of heavy-metals and other substances that are very polluting to extract and refine.
        I would really like to see a total lifecycle environmental impact of convetional vs hybrid cars.
      • Add to this, lower distribution losses. When you transmit energy in the form of electricity, less power is wasted in the transportation compared to shipping fuels, either through pipelines or by roads, railroads, or ships.
    • Don't tell anyone though; this horrible 'environmentalism' trend is hurting profits at great companies like Enron.

      No Enron was a very "green" company. They were a natural gas company that slowly morphed into a kind of energy brokerage. They heavily pushed environmental legislation because a lot of it included schemes that involved a lot of brokering of energy between different entities which is what Enron did. Enron was the biggest (only?) corporate lobbying for passage the Kyoto treaty - and they lobbie
    • Sure it comes from the same place now, but as the green supplier is committed to renewable energy, that's where *they* will be investing the money you give them.

    • >Unfortunately, the electricity that you charge up your car's battery probably comes from fossil fuel combustion. You are, of course, correct that the energy has to come from somewhere, but you also have to keep in mind that power plants are likely much more efficient than the typical engine of a car.
    • All of my electricity comes from a combination of wind, hydro, and nuclear. I love the Pacific Northwest.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:08AM (#9276345) Homepage
    Fleet vehicles.. if used in town for stop-start-stop then yes this would be a great idea.... but fleet vehicles that are used for open highway?

    your greatest increase in economy is by adding a double overdrive gearbox to it. They sell them as aftermarket add-on's for Motorhomes and they can increase a 33 foot motorhome's gas mileage by 20%.

    The biggest problem with emissions and fuel economy though is NOT the vehicles but the drivers. if the drivers were careful with their driving economy will go up, but it's more cost effective to push your employees harder and force them to drive inefficently and even break the law.

    as for in-town deliveries... I dont understand why a pure-electric vehicle would not be the best choice. they spend more time off then running.
    • Most modern day trucks have computer sensors in there that prevent the truck drivers from accelerating in certain methods....meaning that no matter how far they push the pedal down, the computer will only let them go so fast and burn so much gas. A lot of the "guess" work is removed from the drivers since there are people who like to abuse the system.
  • http://www.hondacars.com/models/model_overview.asp ?ModelName=Civic%20GX [hondacars.com]

    I wouldn't mind having one myself. You can get this little appliance called a phill ( http://www.fuelmaker.com/phill/ [fuelmaker.com]) that will recharge the car's tank at home. It's slow, but convenient - plug it in at home overnight. Or you can charge it fast at a commercial station (there's one five minutes from home, for me). This would be a pretty good commuter car.
  • by Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:13AM (#9276376)
    They must be using alot of these? [cbfleet.com]

    Vehicle: A substance in which medicine is taken. (Websters)

  • Infrastructure (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bubba_ry (574102) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:22AM (#9276433)

    I read an article in Discover or Scientifc American (can't remember which!) recently detailing the shift to alternative fuels. Not only is it a challenge to develop applicable technologies that are economical for end users, an even greater challenge will be to develop the infrastructure necessary to support these vehicles. We take for granted that one can stop at a gas station and fill up. If one we're driving a propane-powered vehicle, one would require an appropriate filling station. The answer to this appears to lie in getting large companies to 'buy in' (sorry for the manager speak, lots of meetings this week!) to using alternative fuels and retrofitting their stations for those fuels. When they have taken hold, and enough demand exists, consumer stations can begin to be retrofitted with the necessary equipment to ease consumers into using cars that run on newer fuels.

    It's kinda like how you can still buy VHS!

    • I read an article in Discover or Scientifc American (can't remember which!) recently detailing the shift to alternative fuels. Not only is it a challenge to develop applicable technologies that are economical for end users, an even greater challenge will be to develop the infrastructure necessary to support these vehicles. We take for granted that one can stop at a gas station and fill up. If one we're driving a propane-powered vehicle, one would require an appropriate filling station.

      It was probably t [sciamdigital.com]

  • Not just Canada (Score:3, Informative)

    by GeorgeH (5469) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:28AM (#9276476) Homepage Journal
    American auto companies are outfitting their fleet customers with alternative fuel vehicles. The government even provides incentives for meeting a certain percentage of alternative fuel vehicles in a fleet. GM's page on the subject [gm.com] has more information, as does Ford's alternative fuel fleet page [ford.com] and Chrysler's [chrysler.com].
  • by seniorcoder (586717) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:32AM (#9276508)
    I would ideally like to buy an electric car. Things were looking good. The major manufacturers were starting to produce them. GM EV1, Ford Ranger, Toyota RAV4 all available electric.
    Now where are they? The RAV4 was only available to fleet buyers. Ford has stopped production of the electric Ranger, GM stopped leasing the EV1 and crushed the lot.

    Two questions:
    1. What happened? 2. I still want an electric car. Any suggestions?

    • Especially as lithium based batteries weren't available at the time. New battery technologies have more than doubled the power available since these vehicles were introduced.

      I believe that they've basically been "gotten to" by the oil companies who want you to continue filling up at their gas stations. Whether it's propane, lpg, hydrogen, ethanol or methanol they don't care as long as your money is going their way.

    • They effectively flopped.

      GM eventually admitted it cost them a whole lot more to make an EV1 than they did/could sell them for. GM's pencil pushers couldn't get the price down. The EV1 battery design had some serious range issues and didn't work well if the weather was cold (yes you read that right) which is why they only tried selling them in Nevada and California. They realized they had to go back to the drawing board; and, decided to cut their losses.

      Ford's electric Rangers were also an expensive

  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Friday May 28, 2004 @09:46AM (#9276595)
    I think Azure Dynamics ought to seriously look at working with the Toyota Motor Company to develop hybrid-drivetrain technologies for the future.

    It's a good mix, too--Azure has the technology Toyota may not have, and Toyota has probably more experience with hybrid drivetrain vehicles than anyone else in the world, thanks to the successful sales of the Toyota Prius.

    I for one would love to see the United States Postal Service eventually phase out its current fleet of small mail-carrying vehicles with ones that use a hybrid drivetrain--we're talking sales that could run into the tens of thousands! :-)
  • by pomakis (323200) <pomakis@pobox.com> on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:12AM (#9276800) Homepage
    The article states:

    The iconic black cabs, which have been retrofitted with Azure's hybrid-electric powertrains, were designed to cut emissions in London's smoggy downtown core. A global positioning device installed in the cabs will automatically switch the engine to battery power when it enters the city centre and switch it back to fuel when it leaves.

    This seems a bit strange. One has to wonder why the decision to switch isn't up to the driver. I'm sure it's not an issue of convenience, since pressing a button is hardly a chore. Would it be for regulatory reasons? Perhaps the thought is that the drivers will want to stay on fuel power because it gives them more oomph, but that this system will force the switchover to satisfy whatever regulatory requirements are put in place. If this is true, it would seem to be a mostly unstated negative point about the technology. Creating unhappy drivers isn't the greatest way of going about pushing a brave new technology.

  • by Mike Hicks (244) * <hick0088@tc.umn.edu> on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:16AM (#9276835) Homepage Journal
    Looks like these guys are focusing on turning diesels into diesel-electric. Delivery vehicles often run on diesel and the London Taxis use it as well. Not really surprising that a company has been trying out that technology, since people have been using it in trains since the 1930s or so (of course, most diesel-electric trains don't incorporate batteries to store extra energy, as far as I know).

    Well, the diesel-electric train is the series hybrid type, where the engine isn't directly connected to the wheels. I imagine this company had to do a fair amount of work on the parallel hybrid type where both the engine and electric motor connect to the wheels. My understanding is that, theoretically, series hybrids are more efficient. If true, it confuses me why most hybrids we're seeing these days use the parallel style (or a variation on it) instead. I guess I've heard that, with the Prius for example, the electric motor balances out the power curve of the engine. Electric motors have extremely high torque at low RPMs, but apparently become less efficient at higher RPMs where gasoline engines are better. Of course, diesel engines have a different power curve than gasoline engines, with more torque and horsepower appearing at low RPM (probably one reason why semis have like 15 gears ;-)

    Anyway, GM has their Electro-Motive Division (EMD) that has been producing diesel-electric trains for decades. I'm curious why nobody there has (at least publicly) demonstrated some diesel-electric trucks/vans/etc.
    • You have to remember that a diesel-electric locomotive is a very large piece of machinery. Even a small yard switcher locomotive is physically larger than any unstretched automobile you find on the streets today.

      But with today's technology, a parallel diesel-electric hybrid vehicle could be made quite small indeed. And it will be very clean, especially with the use of sulfur-free diesel fuels and the latest in fuel-delivery and exhaust emission control technology.
    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday May 28, 2004 @10:49AM (#9277143) Homepage Journal

      I imagine this company had to do a fair amount of work on the parallel hybrid type where both the engine and electric motor connect to the wheels. My understanding is that, theoretically, series hybrids are more efficient. If true, it confuses me why most hybrids we're seeing these days use the parallel style (or a variation on it) instead.

      Trains are in a situation where weight matters much much less than in a car. They can afford the weight difference of having an extra generator in there driven by the diesels. Also, their diesels are much larger, and larger diesels are more efficient. The most efficient internal combusion engine in the world is the size of a small house and runs on diesel fuel. I forget what the application was, though I believe it was on some sort of ship, which makes sense.

      Some hybrid vehicles now use a CVT (continuously variable transmission) so they can use the gasoline engine more often, and keep it in its powerband more reliably.

      Converting a two wheel drive vehicle to a hybrid is typically relatively trivial; You hook up power to the non-driven wheels. This usually represents only a small engineering challenge. The rest of the problems are fairly well-known today. As I am fond of pointing out, even radio controlled cars do regenerative braking these days, and it does make a significant difference in runtime. It's probably a bigger challenge to try to find someplace to put the batteries :)

      Incidentally, they do have semi-trucks with automatic transmissions and they usually don't have many gears. However, they are lossy during acceleration as are all automatic transmissions. They probably do have a lockup torque converter, however, so once they get going they should be approximately as efficient as a manual gearbox.

      • The reason for a lot of gears is to allow the driver to select the peak part of the performance curve for power or economy according to requirement. The more gears, the narrower the part of peak that can be used. You doint need to use them all - typically with an 8 speed box, you use 2-4-6-7-8. Starting uphill, you might use 1-3-4-5-6-7-8, and starting downhill 3-5-7-8.

        Incidentally in diesel electric rail locos, the engines run at either 750RPM while idling, or 1500 RPM on power. All parts of the air flow

    • Dodge Intepid ESX (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shivetya (243324)
      http://www.allpar.com/model/intrepid-esx3.html

      That is but one story on a car using a design you suggest. A few of us bring up the D-E arrangement at various times.

      Unfortunately there are too many people who think trains/ships and get this whole concept out of scale.

  • A while back Environmental Defense and FedEx teamed up to start making hybrid FedEx trucks. It was a really great idea. DIdn't get as much press as it should have though. Press Release [environmentaldefense.org]

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