Monday, April 21, 2014  Current Operating Status





In addition to the NRC studies listed the Transportation Research Board also publishes a number of technical reports and papers through its various Programs and Journals. You can access those reports and papers about energy at the following site:



Modeling the Economics of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation: Summary of a Workshop (DEPS)

Models are fundamental for estimating the possible costs and effectiveness of different policies for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There is a wide array of models to perform such analysis, differing in the level of technological detail, treatment of technological progress, spatial and sector details, and representation of the interaction of the energy sector to the overall economy and environment. These differences impact model results, including cost estimates. More fundamentally, these models differ as to how they represent fundamental processes that have a large impact on policy analysis--such as how different models represent technological learning and cost reductions that come through increasing production volumes, or how different models represent baseline conditions.

Reliable estimates of the costs and potential impacts on the United States economy of various emissions reduction and other mitigation strategies are critical to the development of the federal climate change research and development portfolio. At the request of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Academies organized a workshop, summarized in this volume, to consider some of these types of modeling issues.


Technologies and Approaches to Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles (BEES)


Technologies and Approaches to Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles evaluates various technologies and methods that could improve the fuel economy of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, such as tractor-trailers, transit buses, and work trucks. The book also recommends approaches that federal agencies could use to regulate these vehicles' fuel consumption. Currently there are no fuel consumption standards for such vehicles, which account for about 26 percent of the transportation fuel used in the U.S.


The miles-per-gallon measure used to regulate the fuel economy of passenger cars. is not appropriate for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which are designed above all to carry loads efficiently. Instead, any regulation of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles should use a metric that reflects the efficiency with which a vehicle moves goods or passengers, such as gallons per ton-mile, a unit that reflects the amount of fuel a vehicle would use to carry a ton of goods one mile. This is called load-specific fuel consumption (LSFC).


The book estimates the improvements that various technologies could achieve over the next decade in seven vehicle types. For example, using advanced diesel engines in tractor-trailers could lower their fuel consumption by up to 20 percent by 2020, and improved aerodynamics could yield an 11 percent reduction. Hybrid powertrains could lower the fuel consumption of vehicles that stop frequently, such as garbage trucks and transit buses, by as much 35 percent in the same time frame.


Assessment of Fuel Economy Technologies for Light-Duty Vehicles (BEES)


Various combinations of commercially available technologies could greatly reduce fuel consumption in passenger cars, sport-utility vehicles, minivans, and other light-duty vehicles without compromising vehicle performance or safety. Assessment of Technologies for Improving Light Duty Vehicle Fuel Economy estimates the potential fuel savings and costs to consumers of available technology combinations for three types of engines: spark-ignition gasoline, compression-ignition diesel, and hybrid. 

According to its estimates, adopting the full combination of improved technologies in medium and large cars and pickup trucks with spark-ignition engines could reduce fuel consumption by 29 percent at an additional cost of $2,200 to the consumer. Replacing spark-ignition engines with diesel engines and components would yield fuel savings of about 37 percent at an added cost of approximately $5,900 per vehicle, and replacing spark-ignition engines with hybrid engines and components would reduce fuel consumption by 43 percent at an increase of $6,000 per vehicle.


The book focuses on fuel consumption--the amount of fuel consumed in a given driving distance--because energy savings are directly related to the amount of fuel used. In contrast, fuel economy measures how far a vehicle will travel with a gallon of fuel. Because fuel consumption data indicate money saved on fuel purchases and reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, the book finds that vehicle stickers should provide consumers with fuel consumption data in addition to fuel economy information.



Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership:Third Report (BEES)


The public-private partnership to develop vehicles that require less petroleum-based fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gases should continue to include fuel cells and other hydrogen technologies in its research and development portfolio. The third volume in the FreedomCAR series states that, although the partnership's recent shift of focus toward technologies that could be ready for use in the nearer term--such as advanced combustion engines and plug-in electric vehicles--is warranted, R&D on hydrogen and fuel cells is also needed given the high costs and challenges that many of the technologies must overcome before widespread use.


The FreedomCAR (Cooperative Automotive Research) and Fuel Partnership is a research collaboration among the U.S. Department of Energy, the United States Council for Automotive Research - whose members are the Detroit automakers--five major energy companies, and two electric utility companies. The partnership seeks to advance the technologies essential for components and infrastructure for a full range of affordable, clean, energy efficient cars and light trucks. Until recently, the program primarily focused on developing technologies that would allow U.S. automakers to make production and marketing decisions by 2015 on hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles. These vehicles have the potential to be much more energy-efficient than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles, produce no harmful tailpipe emissions, and significantly reduce petroleum use. In 2009, the partnership changed direction and stepped up efforts to advance, in the shorter term, technologies for reducing petroleum use in combustion engines, including those using biofuels, as well as batteries that could be used in plug-in hybrid-electric or all electric vehicles.




The Power of Renewables:Opportunities and Challenges for China and the United States (PGA, NAE)


The United States and China are the world's top two energy consumers and, as of 2010, the two largest economies. Consequently, they have a decisive role to play in the world's clean energy future. Both countries are also motivated by related goals, namely diversified energy portfolios, job creation, energy security, and pollution reduction, making renewable energy development an important strategy with wide-ranging implications. Given the size of their energy markets, any substantial progress the two countries make in advancing use of renewable energy will provide global benefits, in terms of enhanced technological understanding, reduced costs through expanded deployment, and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to conventional generation from fossil fuels.


Within this context, the U.S. National Academies, in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), reviewed renewable energy development and deployment in the two countries, to highlight prospects for collaboration across the research to deployment chain and to suggest strategies which would promote more rapid and economical attainment of renewable energy goals.


Main findings and concerning renewable resource assessments, technology development, environmental impacts, market infrastructure, among others, are presented. Specific recommendations have been limited to those judged to be most likely to accelerate the pace of deployment, increase cost-competitiveness, or shape the future market for renewable energy. The recommendations presented here are also pragmatic and achievable.



Realizing the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States (DELS)


Natural gas, composed mostly of methane, is the cleanest of all the fossil fuels, emitting 25-50% less carbon dioxide than either oil or coal for each unit of energy produced. In recent years, natural gas supplied approximately 20-25% of all energy consumed in the United States. Methane hydrate is a potentially enormous and as yet untapped source of methane. The Department of Energy's Methane Hydrate Research and Development Program has been tasked since 2000 to implement and coordinate a national methane hydrate research effort to stimulate the development of knowledge and technology necessary for commercial production of methane from methane hydrate in a safe and environmentally responsible way.


Realizing the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States evaluates the program's research projects and management processes since its congressional re-authorization in 2005, and presents recommendations for its future research and development initiatives.


Expanding Biofuel Production:Sustainability and the Transition to Advanced Biofuels: Summary of a Workshop (STS, PGA)


While energy prices, energy security, and climate change are front and center in the national media, these issues are often framed to the exclusion of the broader issue of sustainability--ensuring that the production and use of biofuels do not compromise the needs of future generations by recognizing the need to protect life-support systems, promote economic growth, and improve societal welfare. Thus, it is important to understand the effects of biofuel production and use on water quality and quantity, soils, wildlife habitat and biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, public health, and the economic viability of rural communities.



Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies--Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (BEES)


The nation has compelling reasons to reduce its consumption of oil and emissions of carbon dioxide. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) promise to contribute to both goals by allowing some miles to be driven on electricity drawn from the grid, with an internal combustion engine that kicks in when the batteries are discharged. However, while battery technology has made great strides in recent years, batteries are still very expensive.


Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies--Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles builds on a 2008 National Research Council report on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The present volume reviews the current and projected technology status of PHEVs; considers the factors that will affect how rapidly PHEVs could enter the marketplace, including the interface with the electric transmission and distribution system; determines a maximum practical penetration rate for PHEVs consistent with the time frame and factors considered in the 2008 Hydrogen report; and incorporates PHEVs into the models used in the hydrogen study to estimate the costs and impacts on petroleum consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.


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