Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Baidu’s self-driving mini bus on show in Shanghai.


The march of the robots gets wheels.

One of China’s biggest technology companies has declared it has begun mass production of a self-driving bus, reports BBC News.

Baidu made the announcement after building its 100th Apolong vehicle at its factory in the country’s south-eastern Fujian province.

It said the vehicles would initially be put to commercial use within Chinese cities but added it was also targeting foreign markets.

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Bank station on the Central Line


This has little or nothing to do with the weather. Ingenious engineers needed to find ways to take some of the heat off London’s perspiring Central Line travellers.

The London Underground is hot. But nowhere is hotter than the Central line, which is routinely so hot that it exceeds the EU limit at which it is legal to transport cows, sheep and pigs, says Wired UK.
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Cooling the Central line in particular presents an almost impossible puzzle for TfL [Transport for London] to solve.

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Climate miserablists wail, but public demand and commercial reality have taken priority. The skies over west London are set to become even busier. Air travel is expanding worldwide and protesters can’t change that, but the location is still controversial for some.

MPs have backed controversial plans to build a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport, reports BBC News.

The government won a key vote in the Commons by 415 votes to 119 – a majority of 296.

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Thumbs down for Paris e_car scheme [image credit: businessinsider.com]


Another ‘green’ fantasy bites the dust in the face of old-fashioned economic realities. Once again, without massive subsidies of public money the numbers just didn’t add up. Calling a taxi seems to have won the day. Now it’s see-you-in-court time as recriminations kick off.

The city of Paris is pulling the plug on an electric car-sharing system once hailed as the future of urban transport, with officials voting to cancel the contract in the face of mounting losses, as Phys.org reports.

The more than 4,000 silver Autolib hatchbacks had become a fixture on the streets of the French capital, with docking stations for the electric vehicles found every few blocks.

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Electric car charging station [credit: Wikipedia]


Somebody has to pay for all this, and if the firm behind it goes bust who picks up the financial reins to keep the project going?

Plans were unveiled today to build a world-first 2GW network of grid-scale batteries and rapid electric vehicle (EV) charging stations across the UK, reports PEI.

Pivot Power is behind the £1.6bn programme, which will provide infrastructure to support the rapid adoption of EVs and underpin clean air policies, while introducing valuable flexibility into the energy system to accommodate the demands of mass EV charging and higher levels of intermittent renewable generation.

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Credit: carsdirect.com


One of the sub-headings to this BBC News story is ‘Push and go faster’. That really would be a fuel saver if it worked 😉

The government’s ambition to clean up motor vehicles by 2040 is not ambitious enough, a leading energy expert says.

Professor Jim Watson, head of the prestigious UK Energy Research Centre, said the target should be at least five years earlier, as in Scotland.

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Can CNG trucks go the distance?

Posted: May 3, 2018 by oldbrew in Emissions, innovation, News, Travel
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CNG truck [image credit: Waitrose]


The idea here is that high pressure carbon-fibre fuel tanks should help to demolish the ‘range anxiety’ of truck operators who need to cover big distances daily, by giving a range of upto 500 miles. America already has some, but these are the first in Europe. Lifetime costs should be lower than regular trucks, but the report doesn’t say where the ‘renewable biomethane‘ fuel is coming from.

Delivery trucking is a dirty business, but the companies that rely on it are working to clean things up – and compressed natural gas is emerging as a useful alternative to our reliance on diesel power.

In the UK, Scania has created a fleet of biomethane fueled trucks for Waitrose, which is looking to reap the rewards with lower running costs and less emissions, reports New Atlas.

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The VW emissions scandal sent the reputation and sales of the diesel car generally into a nosedive, but one German firm has new ideas that aim to reverse its fading fortunes.

Robert Bosch GmbH said its engineers have developed a new diesel-exhaust system that cuts emissions significantly below legal limits taking effect in 2020, reports TechXplore.

Bosch is positioning the diesel technology as a solution to the NOx problem.

In turn, anyone who says there is no future in diesel will find no solace in the words of Bosch Chief Executive Volkmar Denner: “There’s a future for diesel. Soon, emissions will no longer be an issue.”

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The original technology was demonstrated in an Atlantic crossing that took place in 1926, but Norsepower says it has created various new improvements for which several patents have been granted.

Last year (reports New Atlas) we detailed how Norsepower had rediscovered an engineering innovation, which sees large cylinders installed atop big ships to harness wind for propulsion.

Now a passenger ship has been treated to the Rotor Sail Solution and has set sail on wind-assisted trips between Finland and Sweden.

The M/S Viking Grace – which has 880 cabins and can accommodate 2,800 passengers and around 500 cars – went into service in 2013, when it was reported to be the first ship of its size to be fueled by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

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Sweden installs section of electrified road

Posted: April 13, 2018 by oldbrew in innovation, News, Travel
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Slot cars [image credit: Thomas Mielke @ Wikipedia]


Forget solar panels on the road surface – this is a different idea. Power is picked up by vehicles on the move, similar to slot cars. The report says: ‘They have also taken measures to ensure the rail is functional during inclement weather.’ Trialling in Sweden should put that to the test.

A team making up the eRoadArlanda project has announced that they have electrified a section of road near Stockholm, which will be tested by a battery-powered test truck.

The team is part of an initiative set up by the Swedish government’s Transport Administration to meet its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, reports TechXplore.

The Swedish government has been funding projects aimed at developing a fossil-free road transport system for many years. In this new effort, the focus was on implementing a road technology that could be used by currently available vehicles. The result is what some have called a human-sized slot car system.

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Hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai [image credit: Nikkei Asian Review]


Climate targets are invoked to justify the cost and effort. Hydrogen cars are far more expensive than fuel-burners.

Zero emission vehicles to be used by taxi firms and police, says the DoT announcement.

Police cars and taxis will be among nearly 200 new hydrogen powered vehicles switching to zero emission miles, thanks to a multi-million pound government boost.

The zero emission vehicles are part of a project that has won £8.8 million in funding from the Department for Transport to improve access to hydrogen refuelling stations up and down the country and increase the number of hydrogen cars on our roads from this summer.

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VVT engine [image credit: motortrend.com]


This type of technology may not be quite as new as suggested in the report. Various manufacturers have tried it in one form or another.

Technology developed at the University of Waterloo reliably and affordably increases the efficiency of internal combustion engines by more than 10 per cent, says TechXplore.

The product of a decade of research, this patented system for opening and closing valves could significantly reduce fuel consumption in everything from ocean-going ships to compact cars.

“This method has the potential to bring the well-established benefits of a fully variable valve system out of the lab and into production engines because cost and complexity aren’t issues,” said Amir Khajepour, a professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering at Waterloo.

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Battery builders get the cobalt blues

Posted: March 12, 2018 by oldbrew in Travel
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Chinese electric car [image credit: scmp.com]


One battery expert said: ‘I’ve had multiple Chinese carmakers in my office really worried [about cobalt supply]. They wish they’d thought about this two years ago.’ They find themselves bidding against the likes of wealthy companies like Apple and Samsung for supplies.

Demand for battery metals surges on the back of a global appetite for electric vehicles, reports ChemistryWorld.

At the beginning of 2017, $32,500 (£26,300) would buy you one tonne of cobalt. Today you’d have to fork out $81,000. Since 2016, cobalt’s price has spiked enormously, and it’s all because of batteries.

Cobalt is an essential component of the lithium ion batteries that power our phones and laptops, and which are expected to be a key part of the world’s energy mix. ‘In 2017, we saw demand from the battery sector at 102 GWh, but we expect that to increase to 709 gigawatt hours by 2026,’ says Caspar Rawles, market analyst at Benchmark Minerals Intelligence.

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Giant berg mission thwarted by sea-ice

Posted: March 3, 2018 by oldbrew in News, sea ice, Travel
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Credit: coolantarctica.com


Not the first time something like this has happened, and probably not the last.

The UK-led expedition to the waters around the world’s biggest iceberg is forced to turn around, reports BBC News.
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Scientists have had to abandon their plan to investigate the waters around the world’s biggest iceberg.

The team, led by the British Antarctic Survey, was thwarted in its attempts to reach the massive block known as A-68 by thick sea-ice in the Weddell Sea.

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The writing is on the wall for German diesel car makers after this ruling. If bans or other rules are imposed on diesels in German cities, sales are bound to take another hit – on top of the recent VW ‘dieselgate’ fiasco.

Germany’s top administrative court has ruled that it is legal for cities to ban diesel cars, reports DW.com.

The government opposes the bans, but is under pressure from the EU to do more to combat air pollution.

Germany’s Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled on Tuesday that cities may be permitted to put driving bans in place for diesel vehicles.

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Some Fiat-Chrysler models


Negative publicity and tighter air quality rules look to be strangling the production of diesel-engined private cars, whereas hefty subsidies are on offer for electric vehicles.

Collapse in demand and rising costs lie behind decision, says The Week.

The car-maker Fiat Chrysler has announced it will stop producing diesel passenger vehicles by 2022, as costs spiral and demand falters.

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Image credit: meobserver.org


The VW diesel scandal has led to media-fuelled paranoia about diesel engines in general, so any result is possible from this court hearing. Diesel vehicles could be banned from central Stuttgart, where Mercedes-Benz makes thousands of them every week and is a key employer.

One of Germany’s top courts will decide Thursday whether some diesel vehicles can be banned from parts of cities like Stuttgart and Duesseldorf to reduce air pollution, a possible landmark judgement for the “car nation”, reports Phys.org.

Eyes have turned to the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig after years of failure by federal, state and local governments to slash harmful emissions.

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Mazda’s newest engine technology


Mazda seems confident its spark controlled compression ignition solution – a sort of cross between petrol and diesel engine technology, but running on petrol – can rival electric vehicles in overall CO2 output and hopes to put it on sale.

We get it says TechXplore. Car-makers say they are on board for a next chapter in the electrification of cars and they have teams dedicated to developing cars toward that end.

Well-known brands are looking at alternative-fuel solutions such as hybrid or all-electric. It seems as if the internal combustion engine will be on its way out.

But wait.

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Image credit: easyevcharge.uk


Even a relatively small number of EVs charging at once in a local area could put the local transformer under serious strain, as Phys.org reports.

An influx of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) charging without coordination could prove challenging to the nation’s electric grid, according to research conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Matteo Muratori, a transportation and energy systems engineer at NREL and author of the new Nature Energy paper, “Impact of Uncoordinated Plug-in Electric Vehicle Charging on Residential Power Demand,” created a computer simulation to explore the effects of in-home charging on the grid.

“Realizing the full benefits of vehicle electrification will necessitate a systems-level approach that treats vehicles, buildings, and the grid as an integrated network,” said Johney Green Jr., NREL’s associate lab director for Mechanical and Thermal Engineering Sciences.

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We don’t normally do press releases at the Talkshop, but this one might be interesting if we can work out what it really means. The fact that they refer to grid stability implies it’s an issue in Germany at least.

Automobile, home and power supply combined to form an intelligent energy network: In a pilot project the Audi Smart Energy Network for the first time interacts with the power grid.

This marks a major advance for grid stability, claims Audi’s press release.

As part of a research project, Audi is running a pilot project with households in the Ingolstadt area and the Zurich region in conjunction with other partners.

This involves combining various sizes of photovoltaic systems with stationary storage batteries. The control software by the Zurich start-up company Ampard distributes the solar power intelligently based on the current or plannable demand from car, household and heating system.

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