Smog Alert

California moves to ban sales of diesel trucks by 2024

Toyota and Kenworth have joined together to develop fuel cell electric heavy-duty trucks.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

California has a smog problem. Not all of California, but where it's worst (SoCal and the San Joaquin Valley), it's really bad. The California Air Resources Board (CARB), the clean-air agency for the State of California, thinks it has a solution. Their mandate will markedly change the trucking industry.

CARB has adopted a rule that requires truck manufacturers to transition from diesel trucks and vans to electric zero-emission trucks beginning in 2024. They've also mandated that all new trucks purchased in the state be electric by 2045.

Hyundai FCEV concept Hydrogen fuel cells power a number of Hyundai concept vehicles that the company is bringing to production.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Company

Specifically, CARB calls out diesel as being "dirty" though the press release concerning the action fails to mention the environmental and human impact of the adoption of electric vehicles.

CARB's move is especially aimed at lowering the smog level. According to their research, "trucks are the largest single source of air pollution from vehicles, responsible for 70 percent of the smog-causing pollution and 80 percent of carcinogenic diesel soot even though they number only 2 million among the 30 million registered vehicles in the state."

In recent years, Hyundai, Toyota, and other manufacturers have been pushing hydrogen-fueled trucks as a smog solution. The companies have even gone so far as to promoted a "hydrogen highway" connecting ports and the areas around them. It is not immediately clear how this new decision will impact development or growth of those plans.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles use hydrogen to power their electric motor(s) propelling them down the road. In effect, they are electric vehicles (EVs). Typically, these models are noted as FCEVs (fuel cell electric vehicles) to differentiate them from BEVs (battery electric vehicles) - electric vehicles that run on battery power, like the Chevrolet Bolt EV or Tesla Model 3.

2020 Hyundai commercial truck hydrogen Hyundai revealed its vision of the future of commercial trucking at the NACV Show in Atlanta last year.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Company

It is also not immediately apparent if this measure includes all diesel trucks, like Chevrolet Silverados with a Duramax engine or Ford F-150s powered by a Power Stroke V8.

This action is the first of many being considered by CARB. They will take a closer look at two additional related proposals in the coming months. The first would set a new limit on NOx (oxides of nitrogen) while the other would require that new trucks that still use fossil fuels include the most effective exhaust control technology during the transition to electric trucks.

There is also a proposal on the table that would required larger fleets in the state to transition to electric trucks year over year.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Nikola Badger will debut with a tap for drinking water.

Photo courtesy of Nikola Corporation

When it comes to emissions, there's little that beats the cleanliness of hydrogen fuel cell technology. Though it has a mineral-rich battery pack, the model is fueled by hydrogen. The only thing that comes out of the tailpipe is water vapor.

That water vapor can either be absorbed into the atmosphere or, in the case of the Nikola Badger, become part of a drinking fountain system, as reveled in a tweet earlier this week.

Take a look at the back end of the Badger. That's right, you will be able to tap that.

Nikola Badger The Nikola Badger can be reserved online today.Photo courtesy of Nikola Corporation

A recent tweet from Nikola Founder and CEO Trevor Milton promised that a drinking fountain would be in the truck. Inn fact, the company had already narrowed it down to two designs and chosen the winner.

A hot a cold tap are promised, with safeguards to prevent accidental emissions and splashing.

Aside from the engineering, the question about the safety of drinking the water is a valid one. There are technologies, including hydropanels, that capture water vapor and turn it into drinking water. Other technologies, like Akvo AWGs, do similar things via a different, multi-step process.

Toyota does not recommend drinking the water vapor from its hydrogen fuel cell-powered Mirai, however Hyundai touts the ability to do so, even going so far as to creating a publicity stunt wherein Olympic swimmer Mireia Belmonte ran on a treadmill inside a plastic bubble while the Nexo's tailpipe was hooked up pumping in emissions.

Hyundai Nexo y Mireia Belmonte 30" www.youtube.com

The engineering behind taking the emitted water vapor from the truck's tailpipe to a drinking fountain has yet to be seen. A prototype of the Nikola Badger has yet to be seen by the public despite the fact that top-tier reservations for the model have already sold out.

The Nikola Badger is slated to debut later this year as part of the festivities surrounding Nikola World.

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The Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron Concept will go into production as soon.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Traditional or Sportback SUV? Turbocharged, hybrid, or electric? These are the dilemmas facing modern Audi buyers. Now, the company is poised to add one more variable to the mix - the Audi Q4 E-Tron.

A concept version of the Sportback was just unveiled showcasing typical Audi and E-Tron styling, but in a package slightly different than the Q3 and Q5 SUVs buyers have become accustomed to.

The new Sportback is similar to the Q4 E-Tron Concept that debuted at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. Both the traditional SUV and Sportback versions are set to enter production, making it seven all-electric vehicles in the Audi lineup.

Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron Concept

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The Q4 variants will be the first Audi models built on Volkswagen's modular electrification platform (MEB). It's this platform that will serve as the architecture for future Volkswagen Group EVs that are compact sized and larger.

Despite the fact that the Sportback looks longer thanks to its D-pillar design and horizontal splitter t the lower window edge, the two models share nearly identical measurements. They share the same 1.9-meter width and 2.77-meter wheelbase. The Q4 Sportback is slightly longer and wider with just one centimeter separating the models.

They're also technological twins. They each have two electric motors that deliver 225-kilowatts of power. All-wheel drive is standard. The models can go from zero to 62 mph in just 6.3 seconds and are restricted to a top speed of 111 mph.

Audi says that the model can go up to 310 miles of range (WLTP) when equipped with rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models have a 279-mile range (WLTP).

The interior of the models focuses on sustainable solutions to traditional appointments. The floor covering is made of recycled materials and instead of chrome-plated metal decor frames, the surfaces are covered with a high-quality multi-layer paint finish. Still, it's meant to be luxurious with four seats with integrated head restraints that are upholstered with Alcantara material manufactured and double seams stitched with thick yarn.

A list of features in the two concept vehicles includes a head-up display, 12,3-inch infotainment touch screen, and mobile phone charging cradle.

Audi is expecting the Q4 E-Tron and Q4 Sportback E-Tron to go into production next year.

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