Green Fleet Briefing: McDonald’s, GM NatGas Cars, Hybrids Fall Short

by | Jul 12, 2011

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Automakers aren’t yet delivering the full fuel savings and pollution reduction benefits possible from hybrids, according to an annual hybrid scorecard released by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The UCS found that only 13 of 34 hybrids reviewed cut more than 25 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted by their conventional vehicle counterpart. The worst performing vehicle, the Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid, cuts GHGs by less than 10 percent, which was an all-time low on the scorecard.

GM has announced plans to develop an engine powered by natural gas, Reuters reports. The car company signed an agreement with Vancouver-based Westport Innovations Inc. to develop natural gas engine controls, emissions and performance strategies. The project will focus on light-weight engines for small passenger vehicles.

The only natural-gas powered passenger car on the US market today is the Honda Civic GX, Reuters says.

McDonald’s plans to use recycled vegetable oil from its restaurants to power its delivery trucks in the United Arab Emirates, Bloomberg has reported.. McDonald’s UAE has formed a venture with Neutral Fuels LLC to build a biodiesel facility with an annual output capacity of 1 million liters (264,000 gallons), and the fast-food chain will convert all its delivery trucks in the country to biodiesel.

There will be nearly three million charging stations for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2016, with annual revenues from the purchase and installation of those stations growing to almost $13 billion a year, according to a report by ABI Research. Some countries, such as China, Israel and Denmark, are even investing in automated battery switch stations, where vehicle drivers can trade in depleted batteries for fully charged batteries.

Coulomb Technologies has installed two electric vehicle charging stations in downtown Albuquerque, making New Mexico the latest state to join the company’s ChargePoint Network. Coulomb has also introduced a ChargePoint smart phone app for Android phones, giving EV drivers real-time charging station status, reservations, location information and navigation.

Power and automation technology company ABB has announced the acquisition of EV charging company Epyon B.V., Industry Week reports. Founded in 2005, Epyon is headquartered in Rijswijk, Netherlands.

Mitsubishi Motors North America has debuted a solar-powered charging station (pictured) for electric vehicles at its headquarters in Cypress, California. The station is powered by 96 Mitsubishi Electric 175 watt photovoltaic modules. The company plans to launch its Mitsubishi i all-electric car in U.S. showrooms in November, and hopes the station will be used by i owners commuting between Los Angeles and Orange county.

Nissan is also testing solar-powered charging for its Leaf electric.

Volkswagen has unveiled a prototype for the Golf Twin Drive plug-in hybrid, AutoBlogGreen reports. The car has an electric-only range of 35 miles and comes with a direct-injected 1.4 liter gasoline engine for a total range of 559 miles.

Toyota has told dealers that an electric version of its Scion iQ, a small car currently sold in Japan and Europe, is scheduled to launch in the U.S. in 2012, Cnet reports.. This would make it the company’s first electric in this country.

Ford and its contract manufacturer, Azure Dynamics, have announced that about 700 battery-powered Ford Transit Connect vans will be delivered by the end of the year, up from the 40 to 50 units now on the streets, AutoBlogGreen reports. About 500 of the sales will be in North America, the companies say.

Europcar will offer the Opel Ampera (the European equivalent to the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid) as a rental car throughout the continent by the end of 2011, Green Car Congress reports.

Opel has also revealed that it plans to launch a fuel cell vehicle by 2015, in a move that signals how seriously GM Europe is taking the shift to green vehicles, Inhabitat reports.

AlertDriving, a vendor of web-based driver risk management solutions, has expanded its eco-friendly driver training offering with a new three module package. The modules target driver mindset around environmentally unfriendly behaviors such as speeding, tailgating and poor scanning; promote proper vehicle maintenance and efficient route planning; and provide simple techniques to increase gas mileage and reduce emissions.

Finally, the number of active fleet management systems deployed in commercial vehicle fleets in Europe is expected to grow from two million at the end of 2010 to five million by 2015, a compound annual growth rate of 20.7 percent, according to a report by Berg Insight AB, being offered by Research and Markets. Market consolidation of the still overcrowded industry will continue, the report says.

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