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Innovation

Super-green minivans are possible today

According to the Mercury News, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has designed a super-green minivan. The Vanguard is a vehicle concept that could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent and exceed California's 2016 global warming standards. This minivan, which only exists as a computer simulation, would use existing technologies and could run on a gasoline-ethanol blend. Such a vehicle would only "cost $300 more than one of today's minivans, but it would save an owner $1,300 over the lifetime of the vehicle." Of course, as UCS is not a car maker, it's hard to know if such a concept will really be used by the automotive industry.
Written by Roland Piquepaille, Inactive on

According to the Mercury News, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has designed a super-green minivan. The Vanguard is a vehicle concept that could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent and exceed California's 2016 global warming standards. This minivan, which only exists as a computer simulation, would use existing technologies and could run on a gasoline-ethanol blend. Such a vehicle would only "cost $300 more than one of today's minivans, but it would save an owner $1,300 over the lifetime of the vehicle." Of course, as UCS is not a car maker, it's hard to know if such a concept will really be used by the automotive industry.

As some of you might not know, the Union of Concerned Scientists is a science-based nonprofit "working for a healthy environment and a safer world" which started in 1969. And this group has decided to design environmentally friendly family vehicles. "The UCS Vanguard, featuring off-the-shelf technologies and clean fuels, surpasses the latest state global warming standards, while saving consumers money and maintaining vehicle safety."

Here are some short quotes from the Mercury News article.

The group, seeking to capitalize on the growing public awareness of the issue, said the vehicle, which exists only as a computer simulation, would use currently available technologies. It would cost $300 more than one of today's minivans, but it would save an owner $1,300 over the lifetime of the vehicle, the group said.
The unveiling of the Vanguard minivan comes as automakers battle California's attempt to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions in federal court. The state requirements, adopted in 2002, begin with 2009 model-year vehicles and mandate a 30 percent reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions by 2016.

While the Vanguard concept has been only really applied to the design of a minivan, its features can also be used in other vehicle classes to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 percent. Below is a picture showing three classes of vehicles and the reduction of global warming pollutants which could be obtained. From top to bottom are a minivan, a compact pickup truck and a large truck (Credit:UCS).

The UCS Vanguard concept applied to other vehicles

In this press release issued on March 1, 2007, the UCS insists on the fact that the Vanguard only uses today's technologies. But please remember that this minivan doesn't exist for real.

The Vanguard minivan design has eight key components – including improvements in the engine, transmission, air conditioner, fuel system, tires and aerodynamic design – that can be found piecemeal in more than 100 vehicle models on the road today. The Vanguard is not a hybrid. It uses conventional technology to achieve significant reductions in global warming pollution.

And the Mercury News adds that the Vanguard "would include an engine with turbo-charging, variable-valve timing and cylinder-deactivation; a more efficient transmission; better air-conditioning hoses and connections to prevent leaks; and greener refrigerant. The vehicle could run on a gasoline-ethanol blend, which also would help reduce greenhouse gases."

So all the technologies used by the virtual Vanguard exist today and are used in various cars already on the market. But no car maker is using all the ones behind the UCS Vanguard. Is there a reason? Is the concept impossible to translate into a real vehicle? Time will tell.

In the mean time, you can find more information on the UCS Vanguard home page. And you also can read two documents about the Vanguard design (PDF format, 2 pages, 638 KB) and its technical specifications (PDF format, 26 pages, 146 KB). The above illustration comes from the Vanguard design document.

Sources: Matt Nauman, Mercury News, March 2, 2007; and UCS website

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