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Greener fuel standards proposed for vehicles

SCMP Martin Wong
Nov 18, 2009

The government has proposed making vehicles more environmentally friendly by requiring fuel supplied in the city to meet greener standards.

Government proposals in a Legislative Council paper that lawmakers will discuss on Monday include a move to the Euro V emission standard, introduced in the European Union for heavy diesel-powered vehicles last year, and Euro 5, which will apply in the EU for cars, vans and light trucks from next year.

Currently, Hong Kong’s highest requirement for vehicles is Euro IV/4, though the paper said that diesel supplied in fuel stations in the city already met Euro V.

“If existing petrol vehicles use Euro 5 petrol, their emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons will be reduced by about 10 per cent,” the paper said.

Oil companies said it was difficult to predict the price of Euro 5 petrol. Some estimated it would sell at less than 20 HK cents per litre more than Euro 4, which now cost about HK$12-13 a litre, according to the paper.

The government stated in the paper that it was still reviewing whether it would adopt the higher standard for vehicles. “As the Japanese vehicle manufacturers require more time to produce Euro [V/5] compliant vehicles for the Hong Kong market, we are not yet ready to implement the Euro [V/5] vehicle emission standard,” the paper stated. Most heavy duty commercial vehicles in Hong Kong were imported from Japan, it stated.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, deputy chairman of the Legco transport panel, welcomed the proposal.

“We lawmakers welcome all suggestions to make our city greener,” he said. “As for the petrol price, it is only a little more than the current price.”

Transport firms seek funding to upgrade bus fleets, switch to cleaner fuel in ferries

Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP

Franchised bus and ferry operators have publicly sought government financial assistance to help them upgrade their fleets and switch to cleaner fuels if they are required to do so. The operators say they are seeking the unspecified help on the assumption that they will not be able to pass on the cost of improvements to the public through higher fares.

New World First Ferry – now testing ultra-low-sulphur diesel on three boats – said it could not keep using the fuel because it was too expensive.

“We will be unable to carry on after the end of the trial unless the government helps,” assistant general manger David Wong Yui-cheong told the Legislative Council’s environmental affairs panel yesterday.

The ferry operator’s sister company, New World First Bus, also said a subsidy would be needed if it was told to upgrade its diesel bus fleet ahead of schedule.

“The assumption is that we would not pass on the additional cost to the passengers by raising fares, and therefore a financial subsidy is necessary,” deputy head of corporate communications Elaine Chan Yin-ling said. It would be wasteful to phase out older buses before the end of their supposed life cycle, usually up to 18 years, she said.

In its recent air-quality review, the Environment Bureau estimated a 15 per cent fare rise would be needed to replace by 2014 about 4,500 franchised buses that went into service before Euro II emission standards were introduced in 1996 and 1998.

Fume-belching diesel buses are blamed for much of the roadside air pollution that persists despite efforts to clean up the environment.
Kowloon Motor Bus operations director Tim Ip Chung-tim said the bus-replacement programme was a complicated one that was also governed by manufacturers’ ability to supply vehicles. He also warned of the affect on finances and operations.

Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said all parties in the community – individuals, government and businesses – would have to pay for better air quality. But he did not say whether the government had any plans to help bus companies upgrade their fleets.
The review proposed 19 measures to meet recommended new air-quality objectives, which have not been updated since 1987.
Representatives of more than 30 organisations attended yesterday’s panel meeting to offer their views on the review.

The prevalent view among non-business delegates was that tighter targets should be adopted and the proposed measures implemented as quickly as possible. A public forum will be held on Saturday to gauge public views on the review.

Meanwhile, WWF Hong Kong published its “Climate Policy Address” for Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s reference. It also urged Hong Kong to set a carbon emissions target of 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Ferry operators get assurance on the cost of cleaner diesel

Cheung Chi-fai and Anita Lam – SCMP

The extra cost of using cleaner diesel in Hong Kong’s ferries is likely to be much less than ferry operators have claimed, the environment watchdog says.

Ultra-low-sulphur marine diesel, which went on trial in five ferries yesterday, would cost about 60 HK cents a litre more than conventional diesel, not up to HK$3 as the companies had estimated, the Environmental Protection Department said.

But one of the operators said the cleaner fuel would still push up its operating costs by 10 per cent, increasing pressure for a fare rise.

A department spokesman said clean diesel now cost HK$4.50 a litre, compared with HK$3.90 for conventional marine diesel, subject to oil-price fluctuations.

Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry said that price difference would lead to a 10 per cent rise in operating costs if all its vessels used the fuel.

“The additional cost would erode our meagre profit and increase pressure for a fare rise,” general manager Nelson Ng Siu-yuen said.

Launching the nine-month trial of the cleaner fuel yesterday, the Environmental Protection Department said it would pay up to HK$10 million in incentives for ferry operators to take part. The money was for fuel subsidies and technical monitoring. The trial would provide data on operating costs, and the impact on maintenance and technical performance to help officials decide whether all ferries should use cleaner fuel.

The fuel, 100 times lower in sulphur, will be supplied to five selected ferries by an oil barge operated by Sinopec (SEHK: 0386) in Cheung Sha Wan.

These are New World First Ferry’s Xin Hui III and VIII between Central and Cheung Chau and Xin Ying running from Central to Mui Wo; Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry’s Hoi Ming connecting Central and Peng Chau; and a Hong Kong and Yaumati Ferry car-carrier between Kwun Tong and North Point.

The Star Ferry did not join the trial, saying its own trial of cleaner diesel in 2006 resulted in loss of power, higher fuel consumption, and engine corrosion. “We will still keep track of the trial results of other ferry operators,” general manager Johnny Leung Tak-hing said.

The department spokesman said there had been no mechanical problems for government vessels since they started using the cleaner fuel in 2000. He said there were other solutions to resolve the operators’ worries about the lubricating effect of sulphur in the engines.

The spokesman said that if all local passenger ferries switched to the cleaner fuel, the total sulphur emissions from the marine sector could be cut by about 12.5 per cent. Other sulphur emissions come from domestic vessels such as barges and fishing boats, as well as ocean-going vessels and cross-border ferries.

The Marine Department said four local vessel operators were convicted for black-smoke emissions last year, compared with none in 2007

Ferry firms must play part in clearing the air


The unsightly black smoke that pours from ferries as they churn across the harbour tells much about the Hong Kong government’s approach to air pollution. It is a clear sign of the need for greater urgency. Such emissions are from another era, an age when the world had little concern for the environment. Visitors look at the pall and in an instant think our city is out of step with global concerns about climate change, sustainability and public health.

This is not the case, of course. Lawmakers are only too aware of what they should be doing to clean our air. The Environmental Protection Department is staffed with highly skilled officers who are not short of facts, figures and solutions. What is holding up action is an unelected government under pressure from interest groups: in this instance, ferry companies.

A government with a popular mandate could quickly fix the problem by making it law that ferry operators use clean diesel to fuel their craft. There is no reason why our leaders could not also do the same in the name of the common good. We must remember, though, that the companies have been hit hard by the economic crisis and unstable fuel prices. Any move to get them to switch has to involve cajoling, convincing, incentives and help with infrastructure.

The nine-month trial of ultra-low-sulphur diesel involving three ferry companies announced yesterday fits with such a strategy. Passing it off as a technical and economic feasibility study lays the groundwork. The best locations for refuelling depots can be determined during the trial. From the initial five ferries, the programme can be broadened. During the nine months, the benefits that are already so obvious will be made plain to the ferry industry.

Ferry companies have to use cleaner fuel; on this there can be no argument. Higher fares may be necessary to help offset increased fuel costs. The trial will help determine the details. Unlike other schemes, though, this one must not be left high and dry after it ends or is implemented on a voluntary basis. Getting rid of such pollution is an integral part of cleaning Hong Kong’s air

New Advances in Hydrogen Fuel Catalysts

Hydrogen has great potential as a fuel of future because it is an environmentally clean energy fuel and save us from the undesirable side effects of greenhouse gases. Before becoming it a fuel of the masses we need necessary infrastructure to store it and move it. We will also need fuel cells on economical scale. To make hydrogen as a popular alternative fuel some engineers are working on storage factor of hydrogen fuel. They don’t want compressed hydrogen into a tank. They want to store hydrogen fuel into a large molecule. When we want hydrogen out of the molecule we will need a catalyst. Now, researchers have new details about one such catalyst.

Scientists from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are working on catalysts. They are finding out the characteristics of the catalyst which are a cluster of rhodium, boron and other atoms. The catalyst chemically reacts with ammonia borane to release the hydrogen as a gas. Ammonia borane is a molecule that stores hydrogen densely. PNNL chemist and study author Roger Rousseau shares his thoughts, “These studies tell us what is the hardest part of the chemical reaction. If we can find a way to change the hard part, that is, make it easier to release the hydrogen, then we can improve this catalyst.”

Researchers and engineers are figuring out the hydrogen storage system that is safe and discharges hydrogen easily. They are “storing” hydrogen as part of a larger molecule. Ammonia borane contains hydrogen atoms and serves as structural hold-on. The catalyst’s job is to extract the hydrogen from the ammonia borane.

The PNNL chemists in the Institute for Interfacial Catalysis are banking on the rhodium-based catalyst. The scientists are working on various structural combinations that can give maximum output. Right now they are trying various shapes such as tetrahedron, or a triangular pyramid with four rhodium atoms at the core. To arrive at the ideal combination they are trying both theory and experimental work.

They employed several methods for ammonia borane reaction. They used one unusual technique operando XAFS. They X-rayed the catalysts in action instead of the usual standstill X-ray. They carried out some different experiments too in EMSL, DOE’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory on the PNNL campus. They collected important data but they require exhaustive analysis before they can make any sense. The research team used computer models to solve this data puzzle so that they can construct a theoretical molecular configuration that accounted for all the data. These computationally challenging models were calculated on computers at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California.

The computer model created a structure that best integrated the experimental data. They tested the authenticity of the data too with computer simulation with the help of an operando XAFS analysis of the catalytic structure reacting with ammonia borane. The next logical step was to compare the simulated data with real data of the catalyst. The two sets of data didn’t have much difference.

The chemical character of the structure and supplementary experimental data helped the team to chart the chemical reaction occurring between the catalyst and the ammonia borane. The catalyst is always in the state of a motion so it is difficult to spot but nonetheless it is a good catalyst.

How this catalyst actually works? First it marks out hydrogen from the ammonia borane molecule. This ammonia borane consists of a nitrogen atom in the molecule holding onto two hydrogen atoms. First, the catalyst picks out one hydrogen atom. This is the hardest part of the reaction. This first step makes the bond between the remaining hydrogen and boron unstable. Now plucking off the second hydrogen atom becomes easier. Same holds true for the last two hydrogen atoms. These hydrogen atoms can be utilized in engines or fuel cells.

The team has yet to figure out the additional details but this study makes a big dent in what they need to know to design a good, inexpensive catalyst. Rousseau elaborates, “An important part about this work is that we have these kinds of DOE teams where we can start with experiments and go to theory and back again. We get a lot more information this way than doing either one alone.”

Enova Delivers Hybrid Drive Systems to First Auto Works for Hybrid Buses


Enova’s Pre-Transmission Parallel Hybrid System locates the electric motor between the engine and transmission. Click to enlarge.Enova Systems, Inc. has delivered the first 70 pre-transmission hybrid drive systems to First Auto Works for application in a hybrid bus. FAW has ordered an additional 150 hybrid drive systems for delivery in 2009. Enova Systems and FAW have executed an agreement to supply a further 800 pre-transmission hybrid drive systems in 2010.


Enova’s Pre-Transmission Parallel Hybrid System locates the electric motor between the engine and transmission. Click to enlarge.

First Auto Works is one of China’s largest vehicle producers, manufacturing in excess of 1,000,000 vehicles annually. The Enova drive system will be integrated and branded under the name of Jiefang. The Jiefang 12-meter hybrid bus can carry 103 passengers and travel at a maximum speed of 85 km/h (53 mph). The bus meets Euro III emission standards. It will consume 30 liters of fuel every 100 kilometers (7.8 mpg US) and discharge 20% less emissions.

Enova’s Pre-Transmission system locates the electric motor between the engine and the transmission. Both the electric motor and the existing vehicle’s engine operate simultaneously to drive the wheels during acceleration. As the vehicle slows, during braking, the electric motor functions as a generator to recharge the batteries. Because the electric motor is placed directly between the engine and transmission, the system typically requires modification to the engine installation and thus is suited to OEM applications, as opposed to retrofits.

These hybrid power buses are part of China’s initiative to produce 500,000 electric and hybrid power vehicles. The initiative will account for 5% of the automobile market, which is in accordance with China’s three-year development plan for the auto industry, released in February.

China is offering subsidies in 13 trial cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Changchun, Dalian and Shenzhen. Each energy-saving or new energy vehicle used in public services attracts a subsidy of up to 600,000 yuan (US$87,780), according to a new policy jointly issued by Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Finance.

The municipal government of Dalian and the city of Changchun has ordered many of the hybrid buses. Fifty buses will be running in the city during the Summer Davos event, all of which will incorporate Enova’s drive system.

Enova produces four drive configurations (Pure Electric, Series Hybrid with Diesel Generator, Pre- and Post-Transmission Parallel Hybrids) for customers including Navistar’s IC Bus Division, Smith Electric Vehicles and the China FAW Group Corporation.

© 2005-09 Green Car Congress

Four New Solar-Powered Ferries Coming to Hong Kong

Matthew McDermott,

image: Solar Sailor Holdings

I have to say that usually when I hear about a solar-powered boat I’m a bit skeptical — often the solar power is just used for lighting or other equipment and not propulsion — but not so with Kong Kong’s four new solar-powered ferries. Solar power will supply three-quarters of their power, with liquid petroleum gas supplying the remainder. Bloomberg has the details:

The boats were purchased by the Hong Kong Jockey Club as part of a $45 million effort towards making the city more sustainable; and will be used to ferry golfers to the Kau Sai Chau Public Golf Course.

Designed by Syndey-based Solar Sailor Holdings Ltd., the ferries will reduce carbon emissions by 50% and save the ferry operators $6 million in fuel costs over their typical 15 year lifespan.

More info on the ferries: Solar Sailor

Data on vehicle registrations by fuel type

Cruise Ships To Get On-shore Power Supply

Paggie Leung, SCMP – Jun 12, 2009

The planned terminal for cruise liners at Kai Tak will be one of just a few in the world to offer on-shore power supply to ships – an environmentally friendly alternative to keeping the vessels’ engines running.

“Previously when a cruise liner anchored at a terminal, its electricity generator had to keep running, so there would be some emissions [of pollutants such as] carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide,” CLP Power director Paul Poon Wai-yin said yesterday after the topping-out ceremony for the first electricity substation at the Kai Tak site.

“But with the on-shore supply system, liners get electricity on shore and can switch off the generators so that there will be no emissions … in the city centre,” he said.

Cruise liners mainly used diesel to generate electricity, Mr Poon said, while the power company used more environmentally friendly resources – apart from coal – such as natural gas and nuclear power.

Another advantage of the on-shore system was its reliability. Five power substations will be built at Kai Tak. Apart from the cruise terminal, the facilities will also supply energy to nearby government offices, the Sha Tin-to-Central MTR link, the district cooling system, and residential and commercial projects.

The first substation is expected to be commissioned in mid-2012.

Calculating The Real Carbon Footprint Of Vehicles

environmentalresearchweb – Jun 8, 2009

Examining the energy requirements and greenhouse-gas emissions over the entire life cycle of a vehicle, including processes such as manufacture rather than simply operation, reveals that the new combined values increases by 63% for cars and buses, 155% for rail and 31% for air transport. So say researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, US, who believe that their work will be critical in determining the true environmental footprint of all vehicles because until now only tailpipe analyses have been considered.

Mikhail Chester and colleagues calculated the amount of energy required, and the quantity of emissions produced, over the entire lifetimes of automobiles (both buses and cars), trains and aircraft. The analysis included the energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the production of air pollutants – such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide %ndash; associated with vehicle manufacture, the transport infrastructure required, fuel production and the supply chain, as well as actual operation of the vehicle itself.

“Including life cycle-component inventories results in around a 40% energy and greenhouse-gas increase over direct vehicle operation for autos, while for rail there is about a doubling,” Chester told environmentalresearchweb. For aircraft the increase is around 30%.

Chester says that it is all too common to evaluate transport emissions based simply on the amount of fuel that vehicles consume. Often we see rankings based on these numbers, and global-warming mitigation schemes are subsequently based on such figures. But we need to analyse a vehicle’s life-cycle components to evaluate properly how much energy it consumes and thus the amount of emissions that it produces, he explained.

The researchers say that the amount of occupancy can easily change the relative performance of the transport modes.

The work will be critical for policy and decision makers because the researchers have also analysed which life-cycle components have the most impact on the environment. “While policy has often focused on the vehicle’s tailpipe emissions (for example, in the US Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards, and removal of lead from petrol), our study shows that you may not want to focus on this component but somewhere else in the mode’s life cycle,” said Chester.

One of the best examples of such a strategic error is that of sulphur emissions, he stressed. Much has been done to remove sulphur from petrol and diesel fuels in recent years but, according to the new study, the bulk of sulphur emissions for transport actually comes from the electricity needed to manufacture a vehicle. This is particularly true for vehicles that are fabricated using electricity that is produced in coal-powered plants.

The team has already applied its inventory to several major metropolitan regions in the US. “We have also gone on to evaluate the life-cycle environmental impacts of the proposed California high-speed rail,” revealed Chester.

The researchers used models that calculate the amount of electricity needed to produce the components of the three modes of transport. From this, they were able to determine the amount of polluting emissions created during different manufacturing processes. They then compared these values with the emissions produced by the same vehicles when they are on the road – the classical tailpipe scenario. The data employed were taken from previous literature, such as government reports, and more detailed modelling software like the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Mobile Software for vehicle-operation emissions and the US Federal Aviation Administration’s Emission Data Modelling Software for aircraft emissions.

The work is published in Environmental Research Letters