Sunday, September 29, 2013

How An Internal Combustion Engine Works

An impressive (and very large at 5.7MB) animated GIF that illustrates how every part of an internal combustion engine works. It's more than just the basic 4-stroke cycle. There's an animation of a 4-cylinder 4-stroke engine operating, one that highlights the fuel injectors, one showing air flow, one for oil, one for the spark plugs, and one that puts it all together with cooling and exhaust systems. Then for dessert there's one illustrating the three states of a hybrid vehicle: regenerative braking, electric motor drive/assist, and automatic start/shutoff.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

59 million gallons of petroleum not burned

In 2012 59 million gallons of biodiesel replaced petroleum in 103,000 vehicles nationwide. Most biodiesel is blended with diesel. Any diesel engine can use B5 fuel which is 5% biodiesel and 95% diesel.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ozinga Adds 14 Natural Gas Concrete Mixers to Its Fleet

This week's Clean Cities success story takes us to Chicago, Illinois, and highlights how Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete added 14 compressed natural gas mixers to its fleet. The 85-year-old family business partnered with Chicago Area Clean Cities for initial federal funding and plans to convert or replace its entire fleet by 2020.

Produced by Maryland Public Television's MotorWeek program, this short segment will air on PBS stations nationwide starting Sept. 28, 2013 (in the regular weekly MotorWeek timeslot on your local PBS station). MotorWeek is also available on Velocity by Discovery.

For show times in your area, check the MotorWeek and Discovery Channel websites. While many local PBS affiliates are still broadcasting in standard definition, viewers can watch the episode in high definition on Velocity by Discovery.

Previous video segments are available on the Alternative Fuels Data Center. New segments will be posted as they air.

More Reasons To Convert To Natural Gas

Jim O’Connor, Retired CEO and Chairman of Republic Services, the nation’s second-largest waste services provider, shares his views on CNG-fueled vehicles.
The refuse industry has been the frontrunner in this race for several years and for good reason. Natural gas allows our trucks to operate cleaner while they clean the communities they serve, reducing smog-causing emissions by more than 80% and greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 20% over traditional diesel-powered vehicles.

Refuse trucks built with natural-gas engines are also up to 90% quieter than their diesel counterparts, meaning calmer streets throughout our neighborhoods, a more peaceful sleep for our urban communities and protection from the risk of hearing loss among workers.
While natural-gas vehicles do require a higher initial investment today of $35,000 to $40,000 for a heavy-duty truck equipped with a 12-liter engine, it can be quickly recouped when you consider that natural gas costs, on average, approximately one-third less than conventional diesel at the pump. Depending on the market, the savings can be $1.50 per gallon, meaning the upfront costs can be recouped as quickly as a little more than a year.

In addition, natural-gas trucks don’t require diesel particulate filters or selective catalytic reduction, making the cost advantage that much clearer. And we can anticipate the costs to drop precipitously as technology continues to develop and the list of users keeps getting longer, as it did for refuse trucks by 50% after the initial 9-liter natural-gas engine was introduced in 2007.

AQMD Displays Natural Gas-Powered Police Pursuit Vehicle

Last weekend South Coast Air Quality Management District unveiled a 2011 Ford Crown Victoria Interceptor that had been converted to run on CNG. "These police vehicles look and operate just like their gasoline counterparts," said Michael Cacciotti, SCAQMD Board Member and Councilman for the city of South Pasadena. "But they are much cleaner and better for air quality and our health, which is especially important in pollution-plagued Southern California."
The SCAQMD demonstration 2011 Ford Crown Victoria police pursuit vehicle has been retrofitted to run entirely on CNG and is capable of speeds up to 100 mph. Just like its gasoline-powered counterpart, the CNG cruiser has a 4.6 liter, V-8 engine producing an estimated 250 horsepower. It achieves a similar fuel efficiency of 15 miles per gallon. With a fuel tank capacity of 15 gallons it has an approximate range of 225 miles. At fast-fill stations, refueling takes three to five minutes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Saudi Oil Is Going To Run Out

From T. Boone Pickens:
Every day, Saudi Arabia exports 9.3 million barrels of oil. That makes the Saudis the largest oil exporter on earth. And they need to be. Why?

Because the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a welfare state, a very wealthy welfare state. Seventy percent of the country is under age 30, and 40 percent of those young Saudis are unemployed. That means each year the Saudi government has to make billion-dollar handouts to keep millions of Saudis happy.

The kingdom's biggest oil field has been in production since 1951 and its best years are behind it. Combined with the social uncertainties and pressures there, it's a bad cocktail brewing, and problematic for countries that rely on Saudi oil. And America doesn't need to be one of them.

We've got enough energy in the U.S. - including the world's largest natural gas reserves. One thing is for sure: Saudi oil is a big problem spot for us. Let's put a plan in place before it becomes a bigger problem.

Have a look at this video for more of my thoughts on this issue and Tweet me at @BoonePickens with your thoughts.

Climate Change Deniers

Rolling Stone provides a short list of the "polluters, politicians and propagandists" who are trying to stop President Obama's efforts to fight climate change. They are…
  • Charles and David Koch.
  • Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).
  • Jack Gerard, President and CEO, the American Petroleum Institute.
  • Alex Epstein, President and founder, Center for Industrial Progress.
  • Craig Idso, Chairman, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide & Global Change.
  • Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).
  • American Legislative Exchange Council.
  • Ken Cuccinelli, Attorney General of Virginia.
  • Rex Tillerson, CEO, ExxonMobil

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Clean Cities Guide to Alternative Fuel and Advanced Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles

A new publication from Clean Cities is the Clean Cities Guide to Alternative Fuel and Advanced Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles. The guide "provides an overview of alternative fuel power systems (engines, microturbines, electric motors, and fuel cells) and hybrid propulsion systems. It also lists individual medium- and heavy-duty vehicle models by application, along with associated manufacturer contact information, fuel type, power source, and related information."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Electric Drive Vehicle & Infrastructure Terminology

Question of the Month: What are the key terms to know when discussing electric drive vehicles and their fueling infrastructure?

Answer: It is important to know how to "talk the talk" when it comes to electric drive vehicles. Becoming familiar with the terms below will help you better understand these vehicles and the associated fueling (charging) infrastructure, so that you can ask the right questions and make informed decisions:

Vehicle Types

There are two main categories of electric drive vehicles:

  • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) are powered by an internal combustion engine or other propulsion source that runs on conventional or alternative fuel, as well as an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. The battery is charged through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine, and is not plugged in to charge. Regenerative breaking is a technology by which energy normally lost during braking is captured by the electric motor and stored in the battery for extra power during acceleration. There are two different types of HEVs:
    • Mild hybrid: This type of HEV uses a battery and electric motor to help power the vehicle and can allow the engine to shut off when the vehicle stops (such as at traffic lights or in stop-and-go traffic). Mild hybrid systems cannot power the vehicle using electricity alone. Example: Chevrolet Malibu Eco
    • Full hybrid: This type of HEV generally has more powerful electric motors and larger batteries, which can drive the vehicle on just electric power for short distances and at low speeds. Example: Toyota Prius

    HEVs can be designed in two different configurations:
    • Parallel: This configuration connects the engine and the electric motor to the wheels through mechanical coupling and allows both the electric motor and the engine to drive the wheels directly, either simultaneously or independently.
    • Series: In this configuration, only the electric motor drives the wheels. The internal combustion engine is used to generate electricity for the motor.
  • Plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) refer to any on-road vehicle that can be charged through an external source of electricity. There are two different types of PEVs available:
    • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV): Like HEVs, these vehicles are powered by an internal combustion engine that can run on conventional or alternative fuel, as well as an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. The difference is that these vehicles can be plugged into an electric power source to charge the battery. PHEVs can have a parallel or series design as well. Example: Chevy Volt
    • Electric vehicle, or all-electric vehicle (EV): These vehicles use a battery to store the electric energy that powers the motor. EV batteries are charged by plugging the vehicle into an electric power source. EVs are sometimes referred to as battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Example: Nissan Leaf
    • Neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV): These vehicles are smaller and have less battery power than traditional EVs, and are often referred to as low-speed vehicles. NEVs are confined to roads with lower speed limits and states set specific regulations regarding their use.

Infrastructure Terminology

Charging equipment for PEVs is known as electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). Charging times vary based on how depleted the battery is, how much energy it holds, the type of battery, and the type of EVSE. Before exploring types of EVSE, it's important to first understand the basics of electricity through the following terminology:
  • Current type:
    • Alternating current (AC): Movement of electric current that reverses or alternates direction. AC is the form of current normally generated and delivered by an electric utility to homes and businesses.
    • Direct current (DC): Movement of electric current that continuously flows in the same direction. DC is the form of current normally delivered through batteries and is essential to charging vehicle batteries. As certain types of EVSE only provide AC (Level 1 and Level 2 described below), all PEVs are equipped with onboard equipment to convert the current to DC.
  • Amperage: The amount of electrical current, which can be thought of as the rate of flow. Amperage is measured in amperes, commonly referred to as amps.
  • Voltage: The electric potential energy per unit charge, which can be thought of as the force or pressure that drives the electric current. Voltage is measured in volts (V).
    • By multiplying amperage by voltage, you can find the unit of power, otherwise known as watts (W). There are 1000 watts in a kilowatt (kW). A typical residential three-prong outlet can supply 12 amps at 120V, or 1.44 kW based on the following equation:

      12 amps x 120V =3D 1440 W / 1000 =3D 1.44 kW
    • PEV battery pack energy capacity is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). A kWh is a unit of energy that indicates the ability to provide a given amount of power for one hour. In theory, a 24 kWh battery pack would take 16.7 hours to charge using a standard 3-prong outlet based on the following equation:

      24 kWh / 1.44 kW =3D 16.7 hours

EVSE Categories
There are five different types of EVSE outlined in the table below.
CategoryBasic InformationConnector(s)Charge Time
Level 1
  • 120V AC plug
  • Typical for residential charging; uses a standard household outlet
  • All PEVs come with a two-ended Level 1 EVSE cordset. One end has a standard three-prong plug and the other has a connector that plugs into the receptacle on the vehicle.
SAE J1772, NEMA 5-15 or NEMA 5-20 2 to 5 miles of range per hour of charging time to a light-duty PHEV or EV
Level 2
  • 240V AC plug (residential applications) or 208V AC plug (commercial applications)
  • Typical for residential, workplace, fleet, and public facilities
  • Most homes have 240V service available but require equipment installation and a dedicated circuit of 20 to 80 amps, depending on EVSE requirements
SAE J177210 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging time to a light-duty PHEV or EV
Level 3Pending industry consensus on definitionUndefinedUndefined
DC Fast
  • 480V AC input with AC-DC converter
  • Enables rapid charging along heavy traffic corridors and at public stations
Three types:
  • CHAdeMO
  • SAE J1772 Combo
  • Tesla Supercharger
60 to 80 miles of range to a light-duty PHEV or EV in 20 minutes
Legacy "Paddle" Inductive
  • Uses an electromagnetic field which transfers electricity without a cord
  • Today's available PEVs do not use this type of charging
Small paddle or large paddle inductiveVaries
Wireless Inductive
  • Uses an electromagnetic field which transfers electricity without a cord
  • Currently in planning and testing stages, not yet available
SAE J2954 (pending)Undefined
Additional information on electric drive vehicles, infrastructure, and batteries can be found on the Alternative Fuels Data Center Electricity website.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

California Clean Energy Bill Awaits Governor's Signature

The California legislature has approved and sent Assembly Bill 8 to Governor Brown for his consideration. "Central to AB 8 is an extension of the state's clean transportation incentive programs through 2023." Here is the bill itself. The bill includes an extension of AB 118 which has helped put thousands of alternative-fueled vehicles on the road in California.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fuel Economy Labeling For Used Vehicles

Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency Release Fuel Economy Tool for Used Vehicles

WASHINGTON – As part of the Obama Administration's ongoing efforts to increase fuel efficiency, reduce carbon pollution and address climate change, the U.S. Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released a new label that features EPA fuel economy estimates and CO2 estimates for used vehicles sold in the United States since 1984.

Consumers may create the new label electronically as part of a new tool on This electronic graphic can be downloaded and included in online advertisements on the web, while the paper label may be printed and affixed to the vehicle window. As a vehicle's fuel economy changes very little over a typical 15-year life with proper maintenance, the original EPA fuel economy estimate remains the best indicator of a used vehicle's average gas mileage

"Fuel efficient vehicles cut carbon pollution, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and help American families and businesses save money," said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson. "The new fuel economy label gives consumers an easy, quick way to get the information they need to find the used vehicle that's right for them."

"Making fuel economy information more easily accessible can help Americans save money at the gas pump and reduce carbon pollution," said EPA Acting Administrator for Air and Radiation Janet McCabe. "Buying any vehicle is an investment, and the information on these labels will help consumers make informed decisions and calculate the cost of ownership."

The Obama Administration has taken unprecedented steps to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles sold in the U.S., establishing the toughest fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles in U.S. history. These standards are expected to save consumers $1.7 trillion at the pump -- or more than $8,000 in costs over the lifetime of each vehicle – and eliminate six billion metric tons of carbon pollution.

All new vehicles now include a comprehensive fuel economy and environmental window sticker from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, including passenger vehicles that meet the new fuel economy standards. With the tool released today, used vehicle sellers can provide potential buyers with comparable fuel economy information. Last year, over 40 million used cars were sold in the United States – roughly three times the number of new cars sold in 2012.

Used vehicles' information will also be available on in addition to annual fuel cost and petroleum use estimates. Individual fuel economy will vary for many reasons. Visit for personalization tools. Consumers can also view gas mileage estimates from other drivers with the same vehicle year model and configuration.

More information on the used vehicle tool is available at

Basically, this allows the seller to generate a fuel economy label on vehicles manufactured after 1983. For example, your 1984 Buick Century Estate Wagon would get a label like this:
1984 Buick Century Estate Wagon label

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell of the Kentucky Clean Cities Partnership is the longest-tenured Clean Cities coordinator. She has held the position since 1994. "Howell worked closely with Mammoth Cave National Park over several years, helping it become the first national park in the country to operate all its vehicles on alternative fuels."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

AM General To Buy VPG

"AM General, which manufactured the Vehicle Production Group's MV-1 in Indiana until VPG shut down earlier this year, says it's buying the business itself, by buying VPG's U.S. Department of Energy loan.
The MV-1 is also, AM General says, the only vehicle in its class available with a factory CNG fuel option. It "fills a significant void in consumer, government and paratransit fleet markets while providing unsurpassed accessibility and comfort." CNG range is stated at 290 miles.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fracking Review

Here's a short overview of fracking:

A question to the EPA as to the current view of the safety of fracking brought this response:
The EPA is currently conducting a study on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on drinking water. According to the EPA website, a draft report is expected to be released by 2014. However, a progress report was released in December 2012. According to the progress report executive summary:
The EPA has identified chemicals reportedly used in hydraulic fracturing fluids from 2005 to 2011 and chemicals found in flowback and produced water. Appendix A contains tables with over 1,000 of these chemicals identified. Chemical, physical, and toxicological properties are being compiled for chemicals with known chemical structures. Existing models are being used to estimate properties in cases where information is lacking. At this time, the EPA has not made any judgment about the extent of exposure to these chemicals when used in hydraulic fracturing fluids or found in hydraulic fracturing wastewater, or their potential impacts on drinking water resources.

The following report from the Argonne National Laboratory gives a good overview of the fracking issue: Hydraulic Fracturing and Shale Gas Production: Technology, Impacts, and Regulations. The Summary and Implications section (on page 18) summarizes the potential environmental risks and the proposed methods to overcome them:

Shale gas production represents a large, new potential source of natural gas for the nation. Development of this resource is, however, not without risks to natural resources. Potential impacts include the following:
  • Greenhouse gas emissions during completion and production activities,
  • Air emissions that affect local air quality during completion and production activities,
  • Water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing,
  • Induced seismicity from improper management of flowback water,
  • Water quality impacts to surface water or aquifer from faulty well design and construction or improper flowback water management, and
  • Additional community impacts including noise and light pollution.

Improved science-based assessments of these risks are underway, but early results indicate that the risks can be managed and lowered through existing practices including the following:
  • [Reduced emissions completions] that limit [volatile organic compounds], [hazardous air pollutants], and [methane] emissions and reduce flaring,
  • Engineering controls and appropriate personal protective equipment to reduce worker exposure to crystalline silica,
  • Reusing flowback water to limit fresh water withdrawal requirements and reduce water management burdens,
  • Drilling of multiple wells from a single well pad to reduce the footprint of operations,
  • Proper siting, design, and construction of gas production and fluid disposal wells, and
  • Groundwater quality monitoring coupled with fracturing fluid chemical disclosures.

Please see sections 3.1 – 3.4 (beginning on page 7) of the report for an in-depth discussion of the potential effects to air and water quality from fracking operations.

Clean Cities Top 20 Fact #10

An idling vehicle gets 0 MPG. "Every year, vehicle idling in the United States consumes more than 6 billion gallons of fuel at a cost of more than $20 billion."
Clean Cities coalitions have helped their stakeholders reduce idling through various approaches, from obtaining funding for school bus heaters, to partnering with government agencies and businesses to establish truck stop electrification sites, to helping set idle-reduction policies.

This work is paying off. In 2012, Clean Cities stakeholders' idle-reduction initiatives saved 31 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGEs). This reduction corresponds to nearly 400,000 tons of GHG emissions averted.

Electric Vehicle Quarterly Webinar - September 25, 2013

Info here.
Plan to join us for the upcoming Electric Vehicle (EV) Quarterly discussion webinar scheduled to take place on Wednesday, September 25 beginning at 10am Please forward and share this invitation, as the webinar is open to all stakeholders and other interested parties.

The webinar will be hosted by Linda Bluestein, DOE National Clean Cities Co-Director, and will feature two speakers, Ted Bohn from Argonne National Laboratory and Matthew Shirk from Idaho National Laboratory.

Ted Bohn will provide an update on standards relevant to EVSE-PEV Interoperability and Managed Energy Networks for EVSE in workplace and Multi-Unit-Dwelling installations. Examples covered for multiple EVSEs installed on a single location source, with and without managed energy systems in place. Matthew Shirk will provide a data update on the EV project.

You can join the webinar directly by using this link.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

What Happens When Your CNG Tanks Expire?

Today's CNG cylinders are certified for a 25-year life, but older cylinders were certified for shorter lifespans. "Tanks cannot be recertified after reaching the expiration date set at time of manufacture and must be taken out of service. That leaves vehicle owners two options: retire the vehicle or replace the cylinders."

A notice from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states "cylinders should be inspected for damage or deterioration every 36 months or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first, or after a fire or accident."

Propane Is #3

Clean Cities Top 20 Facts #9 tells us that propane is the third most common vehicle fuel in the world. There are more than 2,800 propane fueling stations in the United States.