2002 Michigan Tech FutureTruck in Arizona
Michigan Tech FutureTruck won overall lowest criteria emission, an important distinction Doug Nelson believes we failed to explain.

Emissions & Inventions

Readers share their views on previous EV World articles

By EV World.com

Wrong Emissions Impression

Thanks for your coverage of the FutureTruck competition on EV World.

I think you may be giving your readers the wrong impression about "emissions". There are two types of tailpipe emissions; greenhouse gas (GHG) and "regulated" or "criteria" emissions - the ones EPA tests for; hydrocarbons (also various other names like NMOG or VOC), carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulates (PM). The various levels of criteria emissions result in names like LEV, ULEV, SULEV and Tier II.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the tailpipe are mostly carbon dioxide (CO2) with some contributions from other gases. For the most part, GHG tailpipe emissions are directly related to fuel economy and the fuel used - the carbon in the fuel has to go somewhere, and ideal combustion of hydrocarbons results in water and CO2.

So a "clean" vehicle (not much contribution to GHG from other gases) will have one-half the GHG emissions if the fuel economy is doubled. Also, if you change to a fuel with less carbon content per unit of energy (such as CNG), you will reduce the GHG tailpipe emissions.

Since hydrogen has no carbon content, this fuel will generally result in zero GHG from the vehicle. If the hydrogen is combusted with air (say in an engine) it may generate some NOx, and thus some GHG emissions.

To get the full picture on GHG emissions, you need to look at the the full fuel cycle, or both "well-to-tank" (fuel production and distribution) plus "tank-to wheels" (or vehicle efficiency and tail pipe emissions). See the GREET work by ANL at http://www.transportation.anl.gov/ttrdc/greet/index.html and the "GAPC" report http://www.transportation.anl.gov/ttrdc/pdfs/TA/163.pdf from http://www.transportation.anl.gov/ttrdc/whatsnew.html#publications

Hydrogen made from natural gas looks pretty good on a GHG basis - all of the emissions (GHG and criteria) are in the fuel production stage, none at the vehicle.

This relationship between fuel use and GHG emissions is why the proposed California regulations on GHG is really a sort of a back-door fuel economy regulation (as long as the fuel is gasoline or diesel).

In Europe, they have specific goals for grams/km of CO2 emissions, and hence diesels are very a good solution.

Note that burning one gallon of gasoline produces just about 20 pounds of CO2 - so you can see that a certain fuel economy in miles/gal will produce a particular CO2 emission per mile.

Now for my beef with your coverage...

From your 7/2 EV World Update newsletter:

Now we know the results and they are amazing. The goals of the program where to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while improving the fuel efficiency by 25% of a Ford Explorer. Using a combination of turbo diesel and hybrid-electric drive technology and a weight reduction strategy that cut the stock Ford Explorer's curb weight by 135 pounds, the team cut exhaust emissions by 50% and improved fuel economy by a remarkable 45%!

You should point out that the exhaust emissions you are referring to are the tail pipe greenhouse gasses - and NOT the EPA criteria pollutants!

As I hope I have shown above, you can expect a pretty direct reduction in tailpipe GHG as fuel economy is improved. But your article does not say -- and where I think you gave the wrong impression -- is that the goals of the competition also include achieving at least ULEV emissions (like your Insight); none of the diesel engine vehicles at FutureTruck 2002 were able to do this (NOx is very difficult) even using exhaust catalysts, urea injection, and 50 % biodiesel.

Not to take anything away from Wisconsin, but they improved fuel economy at the expense of (criteria) emissions. If you just want to raise fuel economy, or just reduce (criteria) emissions, the task would be hard - but if you want to do both simultaneously - then you have a challenge!

If you look at the rest of the results, you will see that Michigan Tech achieved the Lowest Regulated Tailpipe Emissions award, and was able to also get a 27 % improvement in fuel economy. Michigan Tech had better than stock acceleration - so they did not sacrifice performance either. (That is the other hard part of the challenge - also maintain performance and consumer features). Two other schools' vehicles (using gasoline) also achieved better than ULEV emissions.

The diesel engine (both cars and heavy duty trucks) is going to have a hard time meeting future emissions standards, and may end up using exhaust NOx reduction catalysts and particulate traps.

Doug Nelson
Center for Automotive Fuel Cell Systems
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Virginia Tech

Advice to Inventors: Don't!

Thanks for the notes for inventors in your last Update. They need it.

My first advice to would-be inventors is: DON'T!!!

Whatever they are thinking, it is probably immature, incomplete, and been done before, at least in some form or another.

Another thing that inventors NEVER think of (especially ones who say "This has never been done before!") is that the most important competition to any particular idea is to not have it at all. In today's world of depleting resources, the last thing we need is more shiny, noisy garbage.

That said, I realize that most of the inventors that are going to contact EV World are actually trying to improve something, and I'm all for people trying untried ways to solve problems.

However, the patent system is very political, complex, and right now, extremely slow to work. If someone wants to do the most good, they should not be concerned with making money on one particular idea. That is not what builds companies. If they don't know business and marketing, then skip the inventing world, go to work for a non-profit or a university, and actually develop new ideas, rather than trying to sell something that isn't fully developed yet to people who don't want something they didn't know they needed.

On that note; many inventors get discouraged and blame the NIH (not invented here) syndrome for the lack of interest by investors. NIH rarely applies at all. The reason most inventors get turned down is because they don't show a potential investor how their idea is going to make money for them (at least 10% per year on the investment amount), what it will take to manufacture it in quantity, andhow much money it will take to do so.

Most inventors have no clue about marketing, industrial integration, and manufacturing and distribution costs. And let's face it, inventors don't think like normal people, so what do they know about what 'everybody' will want to buy?

Also, if you send out any other updates about inventions, the BEST site on the internet is www.patentcafe.com. Andy Gibbs is an inventor and understands the system. His advice to all inventors; "Learn the system before you do anything." From his site, you can find just about anything about inventing and marketing.

The one thing he doesn't cover (at least not when I cruised the site last) is busting patents. To understand how bad the system is and how many patents are issued that are worthless, inventors should go to www.bustpatents.com and get the newsletter. Gregory Aharonian has built a career of proving that claims made are invalid for one reason or another, usually just because the patent office doesn't search everywhere. Just because it isn't patented, doesn't mean your invention hasn't been done before. Like you said, an invention is only as good as it can be defended. It can only be defended if the inventor searches all possible sources for prior art. This is a practical impossibility.

Anyway, too long for now. Gotta get back to making hay before it rains.

Dan Conine

Times Article Viewed: 4724
Published: 06-Jul-2002


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