Transportation News: Japan, Biodiesel, Electric Bikes, Fuel cell Buses

Japan’s new Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi recently asked cabinet members to make sure they were moving toward his target of having a fully low-emission fleet of government cars in place in the next few years. “Japanese carmakers have excellent environmental and energy-saving technology. By getting it more broadly accepted in society, we can be a leader on environmental issues and make it a source of economic growth,” said Trade Minister Takeo Hiranuma.

Yoriko Kawaguchi, environment minister, pledged to seek a global consensus on the Kyoto Protocol. He and Hiranuma asked senior officials of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association and Toyota Motor Corp to keep the supply of low emission cars consistent with demand. The Trade ministry is setting a goal 3.22 million electric, natural gas, methanol or hybrid vehicles on the road by 2010.

Tokyo’s municipal government plans to base automobile taxes on the environmental performance of their cars. The most environmentally efficient vehicle will be used as a benchmark against which all other vehicles will be assigned eco-rankings. Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara called the plan “a very effective tool in asking automakers to share responsibility for air pollution.” The Tokyo City Tax Commission hopes to draft a city ordinance for the tax by the end of the year. The Swedish environmental protection agency is also studying how to link car taxes with carbon dioxide emissions.

In early May, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham approved biodiesel fuel as an acceptable alternative fuel for automobile fleets that are required to purchase alternative fueled vehicles under the Energy Policy Act. The rule was initiated by the Clinton administration, but delayed for review by the Bush administration. Fleets will be able to use biodiesel fuel in conventional vehicles instead of acquiring an alternative fueled vehicle in certain situations. [sorry this link is no longer available]htmlhtml

In March, the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, put into service 60 city buses that run partially on biodiesel from soybeans. The Cedar Rapids bus fleet joins more than 50 other major fleets in the U.S. that use biodiesel. The buses in Cedar Rapids run on a combination called B20, 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel. Since 1996, the price of biodiesel has dropped dramatically, allowing it to become a viable alternative to diesel.

Pure biodiesel has a similar horsepower, fuel economy, and performance as conventional diesel, yet produces 78 percent less CO2 over its lifetime than regular diesel fuel. Cedar Rapids previously used biodiesel, but stopped because its cost was prohibitive, not because of poor performance.

For the next two years, starting in June, three hydrogen fuel-cell buses will be on the road in Perth, Australia and 10 European cities in an international trial of zero-emission buses. Robert Hill, Australia’s Environment Minister said, ”Fuel cell technology has been identified internationally as a likely successor to the internal-combustion engine for automotive power.” He indicated that if the trials go well, the Australian Transport Council is ready to fully switch fully to fuel cell transit.

Canada amended its Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations to allow power-assisted bikes to be imported into the country. Now, the Provinces need to make similar amendments to enable introduction of electric bikes. Without the changes, the bikes are categorized as limited speed motorcycles, but do not meet the safety requirements of that vehicle category.

(Visited 60 times, 6 visits today)

Post Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.