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National Academies report finds US interstate highways need major overhaul; calls for 20-year blueprint for action
The future of the US Interstate Highway System is threatened by a persistent and growing backlog of structural and operational deficiencies and by various looming challenges, such as the progress of automated vehicles, developments in electric vehicles, and vulnerabilities due to climate change, according to a new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Unless a commitment is made to remedy the system’s deficiencies and prepare for these oncoming challenges, there is a real risk that the nation’s interstates will become increasingly unreliable and congested, far more costly to maintain, less safe, incompatible with evolving technology, and vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather, says the report.
Estimated spending needs for Interstate highway renewal and modernization over the next 20 years. All dollar figures are converted 2016 values. The most recent complete data on Interstate Highway spending is for 2014. National Academy of Sciences.
The report calls for a 20-year “blueprint for action,” which includes creating an “Interstate Highway System Renewal and Modernization Program,” increasing the federal fuel tax to help pay for it, and allowing tolls and per-mile-charges on more interstate routes.
The interstates have long been the backbone of our country’s transportation system, but most of them have exceeded their design lives and in many places are worn and overused. These aging interstates are highly congested oftentimes and in need of reconstruction. Furthermore, technological advances are offering new opportunities, but they may also undermine a principal source of income for the interstates, namely the tax on fuel.
We recommend a course of action that is aggressive and ambitious, but by no means novel. Essentially, we need a reinvigoration of the federal and state partnership that produced the Interstate Highway System in the first place.
—Norman Augustine, former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp. and chair of the committee that wrote the report
The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways was authorized in 1956 and designed to provide safe and efficient transportation across states. The highways serve as both urban commuter and inter-urban travel corridors, integrate the country’s freight system by connecting to major ports and rail hubs, and are critical to the logistics of national defense.
Constituting about 1% of public road mileage, the interstates carry about one-fourth of the nation’s vehicle miles traveled, including about one-half of the miles traveled by heavy trucks. Moreover, per vehicle mile traveled, interstate highways are the safest roads in the country. Because of their heavy use, however, they still account for more than 5,000 traffic deaths per year. Nevertheless, today they suffer from severe congestion, mainly in urban areas, and in many cases are in need of costly reconstruction.
Looming Challenges. The committee identified a series of challenges—both long-standing and emerging ones—that confront the future of the interstates. These include rebuilding the system’s pavements, bridges, and other aging assets before they become unserviceable and less safe; adding more traffic capacity and demand management capabilities, especially on congested urban segments; ensuring the system’s coverage keeps pace with changes in the location of the country’s population and economic growth; improving safety as traffic volumes increase; adapting to changing vehicle technologies; adopting new user-based funding mechanisms that will generate the needed reinvestment revenues; and incorporating changing climate conditions into planning and design.
For example, more than one-third of interstate bridges have been in service for more than 50 years and will require repair and renewal investments that will add significantly to the major outlays required for rebuilding the system’s original pavement foundation. In addition, large metropolitan areas are expected to continue to account for most of the country’s population growth, yet their interstates have little room to expand locally and are likely to require innovative solutions to accommodate growing travel demand.
The committee noted that advances in technology—ranging from more efficient and faster construction methods and more durable materials to electronic tolling and increasingly connected and automated vehicles—could make the rebuilding of the Interstate Highway System and the allocation of its capacity more manageable, while also furthering the continual goal of increasing the system’s capacity and level of safety.
An Investment Imperative. The report’s proposed major upgrade of the Interstate Highway System would require the federal and state governments to coordinate and focus their efforts on a goal similar to the one that motivated the system’s development under the original Interstate Highway System Construction Program. Therefore, the committee recommended that Congress legislate the Interstate Highway System Renewal and Modernization Program (RAMP) to reinforce a partnership where the federal government would provide leadership, vision, and the bulk of the funding, and the states would prioritize and execute projects in their traditional role as owners, builders, and maintainers of the system.
Recent combined state and federal capital spending on the interstates has been approximately $25 billion annually. To renew and modernize these highways over the next 20 years, $45 billion to $70 billion will be required annually, depending on uncertainties, such as the rate of growth of vehicle miles traveled.
The committee noted, however, that these estimates may be low, because they do not include funding required to reconfigure and reconstruct many of the interstates’ 15,000 interchanges or make the system more resilient to the effects of climate change.
To raise the additional new revenue needed for system upgrades, the committee recommended increasing the federal fuel tax in the near term and allowing tolls or per-mile charges on interstate users. Lifting the ban on tolling that applies to most general purpose interstate lanes would provide states and metropolitan areas with more options for raising revenue for their share of RAMP investments and for managing the traffic demand on and operations of interstate segments that offer limited opportunity for physical expansion.
Additional Recommendations. Congress should direct the US Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to establish criteria for “rightsizing” the interstates—which would extend the system’s length and scope of coverage and remediate disruptions caused by highway segments that are viewed as intrusive to local communities.
These criteria should be developed in consultation with states, local communities, highway users, and the general public and take into account the needs of growing regions and cities for improved access to the transportation network, as well as the interests of jurisdictions that have been harmed by interstate segments that divide or isolate neighborhoods.
In addition, Congress should direct US DOT and FHWA—working with states, industry, and independent technical experts—to start planning for the transition to more automated and connected vehicle operations, the committee said. This effort should entail the needed research and updates to Interstate Highway System requirements and standards to ensure that basic intelligent transportation system instrumentation is adopted on a consistent and systemwide basis, and that uniformity and other attributes of pavement markings, interchange design, and the like are capable of facilitating eventual interstate use by connected and automated vehicles.
The study was sponsored by the US Department of Transportation.
DOE researchers develop novel biomass gasification process for high-octane blendstock; DME intermediate
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed a novel process that uses biomass gasification to produce high-octane gasoline blendstock. The resulting blendstock is low in aromatic compounds.
To make this new blendstock, NREL’s indirect liquefaction team first converts biomass into synthesis gas (syngas) using a gasifier, a reformer, heat, and catalysts. The team, led by Dr. Dan Ruddy and Dr. Jesse Hensley, has optimized the efficiency of this process, resulting in a high yield of syngas per kilogram of biomass fed to the system.
Next, in a single step, the researchers use the syngas to produce an oxygenated intermediate—dimethyl ether (DME)—which is ultimately converted into a high-octane gasoline blendstock.
The NREL team has achieved more than 300 hours of continuous operation for their conversion process using a proprietary, but commercially relevant catalyst. To put this into perspective, past conversion runs were limited to just 24 hours.
This success provides a path for industry to scale up this novel technology in the near term. NREL and BETO have already established collaborations for further scale-up and integration at industrial sites.
For example, Enerkem, a Canadian producer of chemicals and clean transportation fuels, is working with NREL under a US Department of Energy Technology Commercialization Fund grant to scale-up production of high-octane biofuels from biomass-derived dimethyl ether.
NREL’s research has helped inform the efforts of the US Department of Energy’s Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines initiative, which identifies bio-derived blendstocks that can enable greater efficiency and performance in advanced gasoline engines.
Increased demand for high-octane gasoline will create a new market for blendstocks that—due to their desirable fuel properties and low aromatic content—can be blended with traditional petroleum refinery streams.
Study characterizes arc welding fume particles to advance understanding of health impacts
Arc welding generates welding fume that is hazardous for human health. A team from the Far Eastern Federal University in Russia, with other colleagues in Russia and Greece, has focused on the key characteristics, as well as dispersion models, of welding fumes within a work zone. An open-access paper on their work is published in Scientific Reports.
The team used common commercial electrodes with various types of coverings (rutile, basic, acidic and rutile-cellulose) in a series of experiments on arc welding operations, under 100 and 150 amps of electric current.
Scanning Electron Microscopy images of the morphological types of solid particulates condensed from vapor during welding using the covered electrode UONI-13/55 of the basic type — general view (a), tree-like (coral) (a, insert), solid (b), hollow (c), perforated (d), sharp-edged (e) and ‘nucleus-shell’ structures (e, insert). Kirichenko et al.
The researchers found that regardless of the types of electrodes used, oxide particles of iron, manganese, silicon (about 41, 18 and 6 percent, respectively), as well as chromium, get into the welding fume.
The morphology of these particles is represented by solid and hollow spheres, ‘nucleus-shell’ structures, perforated spheres, sharp-edged plates, agglomerates of the tree-like (coral) shape. Their average diameter is 5 nanometers, which allows including them into the group of harmful nanoparticles. The smallest and consequently the most harmful nanoparticles form air suspensions in the human respiratory zone.
The chemical compounds formed in the process of arc welding and infiltrating the human body through the respiratory system are toxic because they contain metal oxidation products. Particularly dangerous are welding particles approaching the size of 1 nanometer. From previous studies, we know that such nanoparticles are able to translocate even into the central nervous system (CNS).
—Kirill Golokhvast, Vice President for Research of the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU), professor of Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), MD, Ph.D., ERT
During welding, about 3% of the electrode and a small part of the material being welded are vaporized. The resulting welding fume contains micro- and nanoparticles of metal oxides. Such particles form air suspensions, which can be evenly distributed throughout the working space. Moreover, such welding suspensions can easily move far beyond the working area along with the air flow.
The researchers believe that this mechanism should be taken into account when safety regulations are elaborated to protect the health of workers. At the same time, the modernization of safety measures will not be possible without the detailed information gathering on how exactly the harmful welding nanoparticles are formed, what shape they are and what elements are contained in their composition.
Currently, there is no common point of view on how the parameters of welding —methods, electricity current strength (amperage), etc.—affect the volume of welding fume and, accordingly, the level of emission of harmful nanoparticles. Some suggest that an increased current strength reduces vaporization during welding. Others point out that the strength of the current is always proportional to the melting point of the metals being welded, which in turn increases the volume of vapor formation.
According to the results of this study, arc-welding operations prove once again to be procedures with high levels of hazard for human health. These results help improve our understanding of risks that these operations pose to human health and may strengthen the need for their control and mitigation. The introduction of 3D modeling of particle size dispersion of WF, during welding arc operations, proves to be an appropriate method for their characterization.
—Kirichenko et al.
This study was supported by Priority Project of the FEFU “Materials”.
K. Yu. Kirichenko, A. I. Agoshkov, V. A. Drozd, A. V. Gridasov, A. S. Kholodov, S. P. Kobylyakov, D. Yu. Kosyanov, A. M. Zakharenko, A. A. Karabtsov, S. R. Shimanskii, A. K. Stratidakis, Ya. O. Mezhuev, A. M. Tsatsakis & K. S. Golokhvast (2018) “Characterization of fume particles generated during arc welding with various covered electrodes” Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 17169 doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-35494-1
Schaeffler to showcase electrification technologies at CES 2019
Automotive and industrial supplier Schaeffler predicts that in 2030 some 30% of all newly registered passenger cars will be fully electric and 40% will be propelled by hybrid powertrains—i.e., 70% of all passenger cars will be using at least one electric motor as a source of propulsion.
At CES 2019, Schaeffler will showcase exhibits extending from a hybrid module through to the 1,200-hp Schaeffler 4ePerformance concept.
Alongside digital transformation and IoT, Schaeffler views electric mobility as an integral component of its forward-thinking “Agenda 4 plus One” program—as one of the key innovation drivers going forward—and has consolidated all of its activities in this field in its new “E-Mobility” business unit.
By 2020, Schaeffler will have invested more than €500 million (US$569 million) in research, development and production of electric drive units. Schaeffler has already begun to mass-produce components and system solutions such as e-axles and hybrid modules.
A transmission specifically for electric vehicles of which one each at the front and rear axles of the new Audi e-tron enables a particularly efficient all-wheel drive system with smart control technology is another example. In normal drive mode, only the electric motor on the rear axle is active. If the driver requires higher output via the accelerator pedal or the system detects slip on the rear wheels, the front axle drive is additionally activated.
Hybrid module for pickups. At CES, Schaeffer will showcase a hybrid module enabling OEMs to electrify the pick-up trucks that enjoy particular popularity in the U.S. marketplace. The compact P2 hybrid module fits between the IC engine and the transmission which makes it suitable for integration into existing vehicle concepts as well.
It enables both a boost function and “coasting” with the IC engine shut off as well as all-electric driving. Consequently, the hybrid module shown at CES enhances both fuel economy and driving pleasure.
E-axle. The e-axle developed by Schaeffler offers even greater versatility. It can be used either as a stand-alone unit or extend an existing front- or rear-wheel drive into a full-fledged all-wheel drive system. The power output with wheel-selective control is another benefit. Due to torque vectoring, a distribution of torque between the right and left wheels, safety, driving dynamics and ride comfort are noticeably enhanced. Consequently, the e-axle presented at CES offers efficient driving dynamics interventions for hybrid and battery-electric vehicles as well.
Schaeffler’s e-axle serves the requirements of both hybrid and fully electric vehicle powertrains.
Schaeffler 4ePerformance concept vehicle. The Schaeffler 4ePerformance concept vehicle provides a good example of the technology transfer from racing into a near-production drive concept. The fully electric vehicle uses four Formula E motors with total power output of 880 kW (1,200 hp). These were adopted from the ABT Schaeffler FE01 Formula E race cars and, like the car’s power electronics, developed by Schaeffler’s subsidiary Compact Dynamics.
All four motors were used for the full second Formula E season. For Schaeffler, the electric racing series is an ideal test laboratory for the development of electric mobility technologies and ideally fits the company’s “Mobility for tomorrow” strategy with which the globally active technology group helps shape the future of mobility.
Benefits from experience in conventional powertrain technology. In the development of electric powertrain components, Schaeffler benefits from the experience the company has gained in conventional powertrains with IC engines, for instance in digital simulation. The know-how from the development of starting elements like the torque converter or the double-clutch broadens the development and manufacturing expertise available at Schaeffler as well.
Schaeffler is also continually expanding its areas of expertise. Through the acquisition of Elmotec Statomat GmbH, the leading producer of manufacturing machines for mass production of electric motors, Schaeffler is closing the last gap in manufacturing complete electric systems including electric motors produced in-house.
British Airways challenges UK universities to develop a new generation of sustainable aviation fuel; part of $400M investment from parent
As British Airways looks towards its Centenary next year, the airline, in collaboration with Cranfield University, has challenged academics from across the UK to develop a sustainable alternative fuel which could power a commercial aircraft on a long-haul flight, carrying up to 300 customers with zero net emissions.
This marks the first time the industry has tasked experts in the fields of aerospace and fuels to work together to create a solution to this key environmental issue.
The team which wins the “BA 2119: Future of Fuels Challenge” will receive £25,000 (US$31,900) to help fund further research and a commitment from the airline to work alongside them to incubate their idea. The winners will also be invited to present their pathway at sustainability events in Miami and Montreal, as well as to the executive team at British Airways and IAG, the airline’s parent company. The runners up will also receive cash sums.
Nominations will be judged by a panel of industry experts based on the idea’s carbon reduction potential, as well as its innovation, value to the UK economy and feasibility to implement.
The award is part of a commitment from IAG (International Airlines Group), British Airway’s parent group, to invest a total of $400 million in sustainable fuel development and long-term supply agreements. This includes an existing partnership with renewal fuels company, Velocys, to build a plant to convert household waste into sustainable fuels—the first time an airline has done this in Europe.
The challenge is being launched as part of British Airways’ Centenary celebrations. Alongside exploring the future of fuels, the airline will also be investigating the future of aviation careers and using futurologists to predict the future of the flying experience. This will be alongside other key announcements, including the introduction of the A350 to the fleet and a new business class seat—both part of the airline’s £6.5-billion investment plan over five years.
Researchers report advances toward room-temperature fluoride-ion batteries
Rechargeable fluoride-based batteries could offer very high energy density. However, current fluoride batteries use molten salt electrolytes, and thus need to operate at high temperatures. Now, a team of researchers from Caltech, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (managed by Caltech for NASA), the Honda Research Institute and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report two advances that could lead the way toward room-temperature fluoride batteries. Their paper is published in Science.
Fluoride-ion batteries offer a promising new battery chemistry with up to ten times more energy density than currently available Lithium batteries. Unlike Li-ion batteries, FIBs do not pose a safety risk due to overheating, and obtaining the source materials for FIBs creates considerably less environmental impact than the extraction process for lithium and cobalt.
—Dr. Christopher Brooks, Chief Scientist, Honda Research Institute, co-author
Schematic of external electron flow, electrolyte ion shuttling, and redox reactions occurring at fluoride-ion battery (FIB) electrodes during charge or discharge cycles. Davis et al.
The first advance is the development of a room-temperature liquid electrolyte based on a stable tetraalkylammonium salt–fluorinated ether combination. The second is a copper–lanthanum trifluoride core-shell cathode material that demonstrates reversible partial fluorination and defluorination reactions.
Fluoride ion batteries are potential “next-generation” electrochemical storage devices that offer high energy density. At present, such batteries are limited to operation at high temperatures because suitable fluoride ion–conducting electrolytes are known only in the solid state.
We report a liquid fluoride ion–conducting electrolyte with high ionic conductivity, wide operating voltage, and robust chemical stability based on dry tetraalkylammonium fluoride salts in ether solvents. Pairing this liquid electrolyte with a copper–lanthanum trifluoride (Cu@LaF3) core-shell cathode, we demonstrate reversible fluorination and defluorination reactions in a fluoride ion electrochemical cell cycled at room temperature. Fluoride ion–mediated electrochemistry offers a pathway toward developing capacities beyond that of lithium ion technology.
—Davis et al.
The researchers have secured two US patents.
Co-author Robert Grubbs, Caltech’s Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry and a winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, said:
Fluoride batteries can have a higher energy density, which means that they may last longer—up to eight times longer than batteries in use today. But fluoride can be challenging to work with, in particular because it’s so corrosive and reactive.
While lithium ions are positive (called cations), the fluoride ions used in the new study bear a negative charge (and are called anions). There are both challenges and advantages to working with anions in batteries.
For a battery that lasts longer, you need to move a greater number of charges. Moving multiply charged metal cations is difficult, but a similar result can be achieved by moving several singly charged anions, which travel with comparative ease. The challenges with this scheme are making the system work at useable voltages. In this new study, we demonstrate that anions are indeed worthy of attention in battery science since we show that fluoride can work at high enough voltages.
—Simon Jones, a chemist at JPL and corresponding author of the new study
The key to making the fluoride batteries work in a liquid rather than a solid state is an electrolyte liquid called bis(2,2,2-trifluoroethyl)ether, or BTFE. This solvent is what helps keep the fluoride ion stable so that it can shuttle electrons back and forth in the battery.
BTFE is made up of several chemical groups that are arranged to give the molecule two positively charged regions that strongly interact with fluoride, since opposites attract. Simulations showed how these charged regions lead BTFE molecules to surround fluoride and dissolve it at room temperature.
The next step in beefing up fluoride-based batteries is extending the lifetimes of the cathode and anode. The team has already made some headway with this by stabilizing the copper cathode so that it doesn’t dissolve into the electrolyte.
Battery testing is underway. The work was supported by the Resnick Sustainability Institute and the Molecular Materials Research Center, both at Caltech, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science and the Honda Research Institute.
Victoria K. Davis, Christopher M. Bates, Kaoru Omichi, Brett M. Savoie, Nebojša Momčilović, Qingmin Xu, William J. Wolf, Michael A. Webb, Keith J. Billings, Nam Hawn Chou, Selim Alayoglu, Ryan K. McKenney, Isabelle M. Darolles, Nanditha G. Nair, Adrian Hightower, Daniel Rosenberg, Musahid Ahmed, Christopher J. Brooks, Thomas F. Miller III, Robert H. Grubbs, Simon C. Jones (2018) “Room-temperature cycling of metal fluoride electrodes: Liquid electrolytes for high-energy fluoride ion cells” Science Vol. 362, Issue 6419, pp. 1144-1148 doi: 10.1126/science.aat7070
Renmatix and Gevo to evaluate feasibility of cellulosic hydrocarbons for renewable jet and gasoline
Gevo, Inc. and Renmatix, the leader in affordable cellulosic sugars, announced a joint development agreement to evaluate the commercial feasibility of creating renewable jet fuel by integrating Renmatix’s Plantrose Process (earlier post) with Gevo’s GIFT technology and alcohol to jet process (earlier post).
Renmatix’s Plantrose Process converts cellulosic feedstocks such as wood, agricultural residues, or other cellulosic raw materials to cellulosic-based sugars, the basic building blocks of sustainable fuels.
Together, Renmatix and Gevo will explore project opportunities for renewable and low-emission fuel, isobutanol, jet fuel and isooctane in markets where there is a convergence of low-cost biomass and low-carbon fuel incentives.
The agreement to evaluate the commercial feasibility of developing renewable, low-carbon fuels from cellulosic material also comes at a time when global refiners and airline carriers are working toward reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions by looking to enter into affordable and large-scale agreements for the supply of renewable jet fuel and gasoline.
At Gevo, we are replacing fossil-based jet fuel and gasoline with better-performing, renewable low-carbon jet fuel and isooctane to lower greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to our approach that produces protein for food chain use while generating fermentable sugars used in the production of low-carbon fuels, we believe Renmatix's Plantrose Process could enable us to achieve a cost-effective and sustainable means of producing low-carbon jet fuel and gasoline from fermentable sugars using cellulosic feedstocks.
—Patrick Gruber, Ph.D., CEO of Gevo
Cellulosic sugars are one of the most abundant feedstocks in the world, and in many geographies with dense vegetation, using woody biomass feedstocks to generate useful sugars is the most cost-effective solution.
The Joint Development Agreement between Renmatix and Gevo to evaluate the commercial feasibility to convert cellulosic feedstocks into renewable, low-carbon products addresses a major global need for automotive biofuels worldwide, as well.
Much like jet fuel, the automotive biofuels market is undergoing rapid growth, expected to reach more than $195 billion by 2023, up from nearly $119 billion in 2017, according to Research and Markets. Demand for sustainable aviation fuels is also increasing; according to the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), incremental demand is expected to grow by 3 billion gallons per year.
Renmatix has been committed to cellulosic feedstocks as the means to enabling the bio-based economy, from recent efforts to liberate valuable fractions into food and cosmetic ingredients, to our cellulosic sugar technology for jet fuel developments. Given Gevo’s first cellulosic-based jet fuel and recent advancements, to today, with demand for renewable jet fuel increasing, we believe it’s an ideal time to explore our combined ability.
Despite continued innovation in biofuels, it is impossible to make enough renewable fuels at the scale that the world will ultimately need without unlocking the massive resource of cellulosic sugars. Our Plantrose technology produces high-quality, cost-effective sugars from a broad range of feedstocks, which is why we’re working with Gevo to solve this critical hurdle.
—Mike Hamilton, CEO of Renmatix
Alvant’s aluminum matrix composites deliver 40% weight saving for electric motor rotors
Engineers seeking to significantly improve the efficiency and performance of electric motors could benefit from using aluminum matrix composites (AMCs), according to research from the Innovate UK ‘Make it Lighter with Less’ R&D competition.
Metal Matrix Composites are metallic materials that have been reinforced with a secondary high-performance material. The format of the secondary material is typically a long-fiber, short fiber or particulate.
The project, led by AMC specialist, Alvant, in collaboration with GE Aviation, YASA Motors and the National Composites Center, achieved a 40% rotor weight saving on an axial flux electric motor while increasing the rotor’s power-to-inertia ratio potential. In addition, the number of assembly line parts was reduced which can result in a shorter assembly time.
Alvant achieved a 40% rotor weight saving on an axial flux electric motor (pictured, patent pending) while increasing the rotor’s power-to-inertia ratio potential.
As electrification increases, vehicle manufacturers are seeking to optimize motor efficiency maps—for example, by improving the efficiency as a function of torque and speed that ultimately determines the energy consumption for vehicles. The industry faces the challenge of identifying ways to improve efficiency and performance, while simplifying manufacturing and overall cost.
Alvant’s proprietary AMCs enable components to be optimized for strength-to-weight and stiffness-to-weight ratio precisely where they are needed, even within a single continuous product.
Alvant’s proprietary Advanced Liquid Pressure Forming (ALPF) method can selectively reinforce areas of a component with one of its performance materials in a near net shape manufacturing approach. Alternatively, Alvant’s materials can be applied as discrete inserts into a component allowing for cost efficiency where an array of similar inserts are the solution.
By adopting AMCs in rotor design, Alvant was able to realize further benefits. In an axial flux electric motor application, Alvant’s technology can not only save weight; the component’s lower mass and reduction in force means engineers may be able to eliminate the number of fixing bolts required, reducing the bill of materials and assembly time.
Using AMCs, we have been able to attack the weight yet retain the stiffness of the electric rotor, to minimize parasitic mass, improving the power-to-inertia ratio and therefore efficiency and responsiveness. In addition, we can also offer better thermal resistance, up to 300 °C, making AMCs a more suitable material than polymer composites for applications such as motors, batteries, energy recovery systems, fans and flywheels.
—Richard Thompson, commercial director of Alvant
In addition to the manufacturing and in-service gains, Alvant’s AMC is more sustainable, thanks to the ability to separate the fibers from the aluminum at the end-of-life stage.
Designers must increasingly factor ‘whole life cost’ into design and it’s an area where AMCs score well.
While the Innovate UK/YASA project focused on a passenger car rotor, Alvant’s own research programs demonstrate the gains to be made by adopting AMCs across multiple high stress or high temperature applications in sectors such as aerospace, automotive, defence, consumer goods and sporting equipment.
Established as CMT originally in 2003, Alvant’s goal has been the exploration of the potential of Liquid Pressure Forming (LPF) as a process for manufacturing AMCs. This has resulted in the creation of a more sophisticated process known as Advanced Liquid Pressure Forming (ALPF). ALPF is the method by which Alvant brings together aluminum, which acts as the matrix, and a high strength reinforcement fiber to create a high-performance aluminum Matrix Composite material.
ARPA-E announces $12M for five projects in nuclear materials science; first OPEN+ cohort
The US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is awarding $12 million in funding for 5 projects as part of its first OPEN+ program.
Traditionally, ARPA-E OPEN solicitations issue an open call to scientists and engineers for transformational technologies across the entire scope of ARPA-E’s energy mission. The agency decided to create the OPEN+ cohorts—drawing from the large and impressive OPEN 2018 applicant pool—to focus on particular topics in energy where ARPA-E sees significant opportunities to innovate and create new communities.
This first cohort will focus on ways to enable advanced nuclear energy by overcoming challenges in high performance materials science. ARPA-E plans to announce a total of nine OPEN+ cohorts throughout late 2018 and early 2019.
The OPEN+ advanced nuclear projects are:
Additive Manufacturing of Spacer Grids for Nuclear Reactors, Carnegie Mellon University, $1,000,000. Carnegie Mellon will combine its expertise in additive manufacturing (AM) with Westinghouse’s knowhow in nuclear reactor component fabrication to develop a novel design and AM process for nuclear reactor spacer grids.
Spacer grids are used to provide mechanical support to nuclear fuel rods within a reactor and reduce vibration, and they are a particularly difficult component to manufacture.
The team will alter the traditional AM process, including utilizing nonstandard powders to optimize performance and reduce cost. Because of the difficulty of printing spacer grids, the impact would be significant if the team is successful—it could pave the way for other reactor components to be manufactured additively. The ability to cost-effectively manufacture nuclear reactor components using AM could help enable the rapid deployment of advanced reactors.
MEMS RF Accelerators for Nuclear Energy and Advanced Manufacturing, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, $3,600,000. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in collaboration with Cornell University, will use advanced microfabrication technology to fabricate and scale low-cost, high-power multi-beam ion accelerators.
The team will pack hundreds to thousands of ion beamlets on silicon wafers. Ions will be injected and accelerated across the gaps formed in stacks of wafers, leading to high-current densities for ion accelerators.
Ion beams can be used to generate neutrons for nuclear materials testing and several high-value manufacturing processes, but they are currently prohibitively expensive. Low-cost, flexible, and scalable ion accelerators could enable the rapid development of advanced nuclear energy materials and new applications in manufacturing.
Advanced Manufacturing of Embedded Heat Pipe Nuclear Hybrid Reactor, Los Alamos National Laboratory, $3,552,295. Los Alamos National Laboratory will develop a scalable, compact, high-temperature, heat pipe reactor (HPR) to provide heat and electricity to remote areas.
The team will enable the use of high temperature materials via advanced manufacturing to reduce costs. A 15MWth reactor could be built on-site in less than a month and self-regulate its power to plug into microgrids. Further cost reduction will be achieved from novel sensors embedded in the reactor core for continuous monitoring, reducing the number of operational staff needed. The novel design could eliminate obstacles to nuclear deployment, including cost uncertainty and hybrid integration.
Multimetallic Layered Composites (MMLCs) for Rapid, Economical Advanced Reactor Deployment, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, $1,694,034. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team will develop multimetallic layered composites (MMLCs) for advanced nuclear reactors and assess how they will improve reactor performance.
Rather than seeking complex alloys that offer exceptional mechanical properties or corrosion resistance at unacceptable cost, this team will develop materials with functionally graded layers, each with a specific function. The team will seek general design principles and engineer specific MMLC embodiments.
The materials developed will be tested using irradiation experiments, coupled with predictive models for performance under irradiation. To date, the issue of material performance at low cost has proved a challenge for advanced reactor deployment. Developing a scalable method of materials manufacturing and testing for advanced nuclear reactors could facilitate their rapid deployment and thereby reduce energy-related emissions and improve energy efficiency.
Accelerated Materials Design for Molten Salt Technologies Using Innovative High-Throughput Methods, University of Wisconsin-Madison, $1,861,820. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is developing new materials that are resistant to molten salt corrosion to enable promising molten salt technologies used in advanced nuclear reactors, concentrated solar power, and thermal storage.
This project would combine advances in additive manufacturing, robust in-situ testing for materials/salt compatibility, new molten salt-resistant mini-electrode designs, and machine learning and algorithms to optimize and accelerate molten salt corrosion-resistant materials discovery. This new integrated toolset could expedite materials development for molten salt technology by two orders of magnitude compared to state-of-the-art technologies.
Volkswagen brand to spend more than €9B on electrification over next 5 years; expansion of platform model
In total, the Volkswagen brand will invest more than €11 billion in e-mobility, digitalization, autonomous driving and mobility services from 2019 to 2023, of which more than €9 billion (US$10.2 billion) will be spent on Volkswagen’s electrification offensive.
The brand currently has two fully-electric cars in its program. This number will increase to around 20 by 2025, with planned production set at more than one million units.
Work on converting the Zwickau plant to be run exclusively as an electric mobility site is already underway, and in addition the plants in Emden and Hanover will switch to the production of electric vehicles from 2022.
Collectively, these three sites will become Europe’s largest e-production network. Two electric vehicle plants are also currently taking shape in Anting and Foshan in China, with production scheduled to commence in 2020. For North America, the brand plans to make a decision on a production location for electric vehicles soon.
With the fully-electric ID.1 made in Zwickau, where the order process features pre-booking for the first time, Volkswagen is putting a new generation of vehicles on the road that also sets standards in digitalization and connectivity.
With the ID., the dawning of the e-mobility era and connectivity for our brand becomes tangible for our customers, too. The ID. will be the first fully-connected, fully-electric car and will be a symbol of the ‘New Volkswagen’.
—Board Member for Sales Jürgen Stackmann
Volkswagen will also be investing strongly in digitalization. The Volkswagen Automotive Cloud developed together with partners lays the groundwork for offering an ever-growing range of digital services in fully-connected vehicles. The aim is to create the world’s largest automotive ecosystem.
In order to finance the enormous future investments, the Volkswagen brand will have to realize even higher cost savings than previously planned.
The pact for the future will realize cost savings amounting to more than €2.2 billion by the end of 2018. That means the lion’s share of the planned total savings of €3 billion by 2020 will already have been achieved.
Further significant savings are expected from measures such as the strong expansion of the platform model. Currently, approximately 60% of the conventional models are based on the Modular Transverse Toolkit (MQB), and this is set to increase to around 80% by 2020.
In total Volkswagen has already built more than 50 million vehicles based on the MQB, and the Group is projecting a similar volume for the coming years. As many as 15 million Group vehicles based on the MEB are to leave the assembly line under the first wave of electric models from 2019.
Another lever is plant productivity, where an average increase of 30% is planned for the period to 2025. At the same time there is to be a massive reduction in the complexity of the model portfolio. In Europe, the brand will be discontinuing 25% of the engine-transmission variants with low customer demand in the coming model year, with corresponding positive effects on the complexity of production and the supply chain.
These and further measures such as optimizing material costs should contribute towards boosting the operating return more swiftly than originally planned.
We must force the pace of our transformation and become more efficient and agile. We cannot let up in our efforts and must realize further substantial improvements. What we have achieved so far is still not enough.
—Ralf Brandstätter, the brand’s Chief Operating Officer responsible for day-to-day business
Berkeley-led team uses MOFs to set new record for hydrogen storage capacity
A team led by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has used metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) to set a new record for hydrogen storage capacity under normal operating conditions. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials.
Hydrogen-powered vehicles offer a cleaner alternative to fossil-fuel-based transportation. However, for hydrogen cars to become mainstream, scientists need to develop more efficient hydrogen-storage systems.
An alternative to either cryogenic or compressive storage [of hydrogen] involves the use of an adsorbent material such as a zeolite or activated carbon to boost the hydrogen density in a tank under more ambient conditions. With just two electrons and a low polarizability, H2 is capable of engaging in only weak van der Waals interactions, leading to an adsorption enthalpy that is typically on the order of −5 kJ/mol. Accordingly, adsorption sites capable of strongly polarizing H2 must be introduced to achieve sufficient densification and a reasonable driving range.
Cryo-adsorption, which entails a combination of adsorption and cryogenic storage, is one possible strategy to yield high capacities. However, the ideal situation would involve adsorption under ambient temperature conditions with a relatively low fill pressure of 100 bar or lower. Such a system would be expected to lower costs significantly because a conformable, lightweight storage vessel could potentially be used, and no on-board cooling system would be required.
Metal−organic frameworks (MOFs) are a class of materials with great potential for hydrogen storage, among other applications related to gas storage and separations. … The most promising metal−organic framework identified to date for H2 storage is Ni2(m-dobdc) (m-dobdc4− = 4,6- dioxido-1,3-benzenedicarboxylate), which was shown previously to display an H2 binding enthalpy of −13.7 kJ/mol, as measured by variable-temperature infrared spectroscopy and representing the largest value yet observed in a MOF by this method. … In this work, we investigated the hydrogen storage properties of Ni2(m-dobdc) and other related top-performing MOFs, specifically Co2(m-dobdc), Co2(dobdc), and Ni2(dobdc), under more practical conditions. Adsorption isotherms at multiple temperatures in the range of 198 to 373 K were measured to determine capacities at pressure up to 100 bar, while in situ powder neutron diffraction and infrared spectroscopy experiments were employed to probe the nature of the interactions of hydrogen within the pores of the materials.
—Kapelewski et al.
Current hydrogen cars use expensive, bulky cooling or compression systems to store enough hydrogen for acceptable driving ranges. Jeffrey Long and colleagues wondered if they could use MOFs to store more hydrogen fuel under normal driving conditions. MOFs are compounds that contain metal ions coordinated to organic ligands. The 3D structures of some MOFs form pores that strongly adsorb molecules of hydrogen gas and cause them to attract other molecules, which could allow the gas to condense under near-ambient conditions.
The testing of the four different compounds—two that contained nickel and two that contained cobalt as the coordinating metal—found that the MOF called Ni2(m-dobdc) showed the highest hydrogen-storage capacity over a range of pressures and temperatures.
At ambient temperature and a much lower tank pressure than used in current hydrogen vehicles, Ni2(m-dobdc) set a new record for hydrogen storage capacity of 11.9 g of fuel per liter of MOF crystal. The MOF had a significantly greater storage capacity than compressed hydrogen gas under the same conditions.
When the researchers examined the structure of the MOF by neutron diffraction, they found that a single pore contained seven specific binding sites for hydrogen gas that enabled dense packing of the fuel.
The authors acknowledge funding from the Fuel Cell Technologies Office within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Matthew T. Kapelewski, Tomče Runčevski, Jacob D. Tarver, Henry Z. H. Jiang, Katherine E. Hurst, Philip A. Parilla, Anthony Ayala, Thomas Gennett, Stephen A. FitzGerald, Craig M. Brown, and Jeffrey R. Long (2018) “Record High Hydrogen Storage Capacity in the Metal–Organic Framework Ni2(m-dobdc) at Near-Ambient Temperatures” Chemistry of Materials 30 (22), 8179-8189 doi: 10.1021/acs.chemmater.8b03276
MAN Cryo first supplier to develop a marine, liquid-hydrogen fuel-gas system
MAN Cryo, the wholly owned subsidiary of MAN Energy Solutions, has—in close cooperation with Fjord1 and Multi Maritime in Norway—developed a marine fuel-gas system for liquefied hydrogen.
Multi Maritime’s hydrogen vessel design for Fjord1, including the fully integrated MAN Cryo – Hydrogen Fuel Gas System, has been granted preliminary approval in principle (AIP), by the DNV-GL Classification society. The award is significant in that the system is the first marine-system design globally to secure such an approval.
The system has a scalable design that allows easy adaptation for different shipping types, sizes and conditions. The design is suited for both above- and below-deck applications, offering ship designers the flexibility to optimise their designs in relation to efficiency, and to cargo or passenger space.
MAN Cryo has long experience with cryogenic gases and solutions for storage and distribution. The company has also made numerous hydrogen installations over the years on land that, in combination with its extensive experience from marine fuel-gas systems for LNG, have been invaluable when designing the new system.
Liquefied hydrogen has a temperature of -253 °C and is one of the absolutely coldest cryogenic gases there is, which places system components and materials under extreme stresses. Another design challenge was hydrogen’s explosive nature, with the MAN Cryo engineering team accordingly placing top priority on safety.
Once liquefied, hydrogen is reduced to 1/800th of its volume compared to that of its gas phase, facilitating a more-efficient distribution. As a fuel, hydrogen does not release any CO2 and can play an important role in the transition to a clean, low-carbon, energy system. Liquefied hydrogen can be used to charge batteries for electrical propulsion via fuel-cell technology.
MAN Cryo states that it sees a bright future for hydrogen applications globally as part of its target of achieving zero fossil emissions within the marine sector by 2050. In particular, Norway is currently developing several promising hydrogen applications.
Shipping in particular is facing great challenges with regard to more environmentally-friendly fuel sources, which is why MAN Energy Solutions has argued in favor of what it terms a ‘Maritime Energy Transition’ for some time as the most promising way to achieve a climate-neutral shipping industry.
The term ‘Maritime Energy Transition’ stems from the German expression ‘Energiewende’ and encapsulates MAN Energy Solutions’ call to action to reduce emissions and establish natural gas as the fuel of choice in global shipping. It is also an umbrella covering all MAN Energy Solutions’ activities in regard to supporting a climate-neutral shipping industry.
Launched in 2016 after COP 21, the initiative has since found support within the shipping industry and German politics.
Maersk sets net zero CO2 emission target by 2050
Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, has set a goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. To achieve this goal, carbon neutral vessels must be commercially viable by 2030, and an acceleration in new innovations and adaption of new technology is required.
The maritime industry emitted close to 1000 million tonnes of CO2 in 2012, representing about 2.2% of global CO2 emissions. Depending on future development, this could rise to 15% by 2050, according to a 2016 study by the Danish Shipowner’s Association (DSA) and UCL Energy Institute. This makes the sector pivotal in bringing down global emissions.
Already, Maersk’s relative CO2 emissions (CO2 emissions per container moved) have been reduced by 46% (baseline 2007), approximately 9% more than the shipping industry average.
As world trade and thereby shipping volumes will continue to grow, efficiency improvements on the current fossil based technology can only keep shipping emissions at current levels but not reduce them significantly or eliminate them, Maersk said.
The only possible way to achieve the so-much-needed decarbonization in our industry is by fully transforming to new carbon neutral fuels and supply chains.
—Søren Toft, Chief Operating Officer at A.P. Moller - Maersk
Maersk is putting its efforts towards solving problems specific to maritime transport, as it calls for different solutions than automotive, rail and aviation. The yet to come electric truck is expected to be able to carry max 2 TEU and is projected to run 800 km per charging. In comparison, a container vessel carrying thousands of TEU sailing from Panama to Rotterdam makes around 8,800 km. With short battery durability and no charging points along the route, innovative developments are imperative.
Maersk said that given the 20-25-year life time of a vessel, it is now time to join forces and start developing the new type of vessels that will be crossing the seas in 2050.
The next 5-10 years are going to be crucial. We will invest significant resources for innovation and fleet technology to improve the technical and financial viability of decarbonized solutions. Over the last four years, we have invested around US$1 billion and engaged 50+ engineers each year in developing and deploying energy efficient solutions. Going forward we cannot do this alone.
By setting this ambitious target, Maersk hopes to generate a pull towards researchers, technology developers, investors, cargo owners and legislators that will activate strong industry involvement, co-development, and sponsorship of sustainable solutions that we are yet to see in the maritime industry.
In 2019, Maersk is planning to initiate open and collaborative dialogue with all possible parties to tackle climate change.
A.P. Moller - Maersk consists of Maersk, APM Terminals, Damco, Svitzer and Maersk Container Industry. Maersk operates all over the world and has a fleet of 639 ships which sail every major trade lane on the globe.
CR&R pathway for biogas from anaerobic digestion of green waste to CNG has LCFS CI of just above zero
CR&R Incorporated / California Renewable Power LLC (CR&R) has submitted a California LCFS Tier 2 application for its biomethane from anaerobic digestion of green waste to CNG pathway, with a requested carbon intensity (CI) of 0.34 gCO2e/MJ.
The CR&R facility produces biomethane from an organic waste anaerobic digester (AD) facility in Perris, California that is co-located with CR&R’s material recovery facility and transfer station.
The facility receives pre-separated green waste from households and commercial generators, and sends it to an anaerobic digestion unit to produce raw biogas. The raw biogas is cleaned up in an onsite upgrading facility where it is upgraded to Rule 301 pipeline quality biomethane.
The upgraded biomethane is injected into the SoCalGas pipeline and this fuel is eventually compressed and dispensed as CNG. The facility also transports digestate and compost using heavy-duty CNG trucks.
Although the input feedstock consists of limited food scraps (<5%), CR&R is seeking to register a provisional pathway of biomethane from anaerobic digestion of 100% green waste with this application.
The CI value is based on life cycle analysis conducted using a modified version of the High Solids Anaerobic Digestion (HSAD) calculator under the CA-GREET 2.0 Tier 2 methodology as described in the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) Report.
ARB staff has reviewed the CR&R application and has replicated, using the modified version of the HSAD calculator, the CI value calculated by CR&R. On the basis of these findings, CARB staff recommends that the CR&R application for the LCFS pathway be provisionally certified, subject to specific operating conditions.
BMW providing 10 pre-owned i3 EVs to UC Davis for 18 months
BMW is providing the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis with ten battery-electric, BMW i3 models for 18 months. Eight of the pre-owned vehicles will be available soon for UC Davis faculty and staff to rent through the campus’s UC Drive program, which is managed by the Fleet Services department. The other two will be used by project researchers.
The vehicles are 2015-2016 models, with battery technology that enables an everyday range of about 80-90 miles—suited for in-town driving, and enough for travel between Davis and Sacramento.
Transitioning fleets to electric vehicles helps advance clean energy technologies and reduce emissions from transportation. With UC Davis serving as a living laboratory, the project can help inform other campuses, small cities and towns about what to expect when integrating electric vehicles into fleets. It can also help familiarize potential electric vehicle drivers with the vehicles, with little commitment.
Dahlia Garas, program director of the Plug-In Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center, with a BMW i3.
Dahlia Garas, program director of the Plug-In Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center, said the project has four main components.
We’re trying to help the campus electrify. We also want to learn how fleets can incorporate used electric vehicles, which are available at a lower price than newer generations. We are learning more about how to integrate electric vehicles with the grid.
The final component is understanding users and their experience with the vehicles. Center researchers will be conducting education and outreach with campus departments and UC Drive participants to teach them how the cars work. They will also conduct surveys to determine how people’s opinions change about electric vehicles before and after driving one.
We’re moving toward a transportation system of reduced personal car ownership. This is one slice of conditioning the market, users and institutions like this university to think along those lines.
—ITS-Davis Director Dan Sperling
Sperling wrote a book—Three Revolutions—describing a three-pronged approach to sustainable transportation that involves integrating electrification, ride-sharing and autonomous vehicles.
As that transportation shift progresses, motor companies are interested in opening up secondary markets for their vehicles.
We are pleased to be working together with UC Davis in this multifaceted research initiative. This collaboration will enable new study of electric vehicle use and charging patterns, generating new insights that will help further our shared aim of making connected electric vehicles more accessible.
—Simon Euringer, vice president of the BMW Group Technology Office USA
The research also ties into UC’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative, which commits UC to emitting net zero greenhouse gases from its buildings and vehicle fleet by 2025.
Elcora awarded NSERC-ENGAGE grant to support development of graphene supercapacitors
Nova Scotia-based Elcora Advanced Materials Corp. has been awarded a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)-ENGAGE grant with Dr. Heather Andreas, an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Dalhousie University. The project will focus on studying Elcora’s high-quality graphene as an electrode material for supercapacitors.
Dr. Andreas has worked on carbon-based supercapacitors (SCs) for more than 14 years.
The supercapacitor market is forecast to reach US$2.18 billion by 2022 at a CAGR of 20.7% between 2016 and 2022. Factors such as high storage capabilities, need for power conservation, high performance supercapacitors for consumer and automotive applications, and additional capabilities such as moisture resistance, light weight and low equivalent series resistance are key drivers for supercapacitor market.
Elcora is a producer of high-quality carbon materials—specifically graphite and graphene—and has identified supercapacitors (SCs) as an important future application for graphite materials.
In SCs, the charge is stored on a carbon electrode—meaning SC performance is incredibly sensitive to the carbon’s morphology, chemistry, reactivity/stability and impurities.
A common misconception is that carbon is a simple material and all carbons behave similarly; however, carbon is incredibly complex and subtle changes in the pore size, structure, degree of graphitization, surface area, chemical environment, etc. can strongly impact carbon performance.
To understand graphene’s SC applicability requires knowledge of all these parameters and vitally how these parameters impact the performance. Dr. Andreas is suited to study and optimize Elcora’s graphite-based products for supercapacitor applications.
This announcement is great news for Elcora. The funding allows Elcora to collaborate with one of the worlds top researchers in how to understand and optimize graphene/graphite for supercapacitor applications. We expect to demonstrate that Elcora’s graphene and graphite-based products are ideally suited for supercapacitor applications. This research may help Elcora secure supply agreements for it’s high-quality graphene and graphite-based products.
—Troy Grant, CEO, Elcora
Elcora was founded in 2011 and has been structured to become a vertically integrated graphite & graphene company. Elcora processes, refines, and produces both graphite & graphene. As part of the vertical integration strategy Elcora is securing high-grade graphite and graphene precursor graphite from operations in Sri Lanka and other countries which are already in production.
Elcora has developed a cost-effective process to make high-quality graphite, graphite products and graphene that are commercially scalable.
Engage Grants are designed to give innovative companies that operate from a Canadian base access to the knowledge, expertise and capabilities available at Canadian universities and colleges. These grants are intended to foster the development of new research partnerships by supporting short-term research and development projects aimed at addressing a company-specific problem.
Following an Engage Grant, applicants may apply for follow-on support for an additional six months of related research activity through an Engage Plus grant, in order to further developments from an ongoing or recently completed Engage Grant project, or to continue the project while seeking longer-term support (through, for example, a Collaborative Research and Development Grant [CRD] or an Applied Research and Development Grant [ARD]).
Amprius’ silicon nanowire Li-ion batteries power Airbus Zephyr S HAPS solar aircraft
Amprius, Inc., a manufacturer and developer of high energy and high capacity lithium-ion batteries, announced that the company is supplying advanced lithium-ion cells to the Airbus Defence and Space Zephyr Program. Using Amprius’ cells, which contain a 100% silicon anode, the Zephyr S flew more than 25 days, setting a new endurance and altitude record for stratospheric flight.
The Zephyr platform is a new class of unmanned air vehicle that operates as a high-altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS) enabling affordable, persistent, local satellite-like services. Combining solar power and lithium ion batteries, the Zephyr aircraft holds world records for endurance as well as altitude, flying at 70,000 feet or higher.
This stratospheric platform can fly for months at a time and combines the persistence of a satellite with the flexibility of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The platform is expected to be used in a wide range of emerging applications, including maritime surveillance and services, border patrol missions, communications, forest fire detection and navigation.
Our collaboration with Amprius in the application of their silicon nanowire based lithium ion cells to the Zephyr has been important to the success of the HAPS program. The high specific energy of Amprius batteries enable the Zephyr to fly uninterrupted in the stratosphere which would not be possible with lower performance batteries. This will further extend the capability and utility of the Zephyr platform for our customers.
—Sophie Thomas, Airbus HAPS Program Director
Based on its proprietary silicon nanowire technology, Amprius has demonstrated breakthrough performance in energy density and cycle life. Silicon anodes have much higher specific capacity compared to graphite anodes which are used in conventional lithium ion batteries. However, in particle or film structures silicon is not stable and lasts only a few recharge cycles. Amprius’ silicon nanowire structures overcome this instability and thereby enable hundreds of cycles with specific energies of over 435 Wh/kg and energy densities in excess of 1200 Wh/liter.
The silicon nanowire structure includes a metallically conductive nanowire core, metallurgically connected to the current collector. This connection is essential in creating and maintaining a stable electrical connection and mechanical structure at the electrode level, according to an Amprius presentation at the Power Sources Conference earlier this year. Each silicon wire is directly connected and does not need to rely on particle-to-particle contacts for conductivity; the silicon material remains in electrical contact over the entire cycle life of the cell.
The fast loss of electrical connectivity and changes in mechanical structure that plague the majority of other silicon technologies are virtually non-existent in the rooted silicon nanowire anodes. Moreover, this significant stability is achieved in a structure that is virtually 100% silicon, without any binder or conductive additive to dilute its active material content.
—Constantin Ionel Stefan, Amprius
The nanowire material structure also enables a relatively high 94% first coulombic efficiency in half cells and 90% coulombic efficiency in full cells with LCO cathode.
With the same cathode and separator components, the silicon nanowire anode technology significantly increases energy density and specific energy (solid circles are demonstrated products). Source: Amprius.
Amprius maintains an R&D lab and corporate headquarters in Sunnyvale, California; an R&D lab and state-of-the-art pilot production line in Nanjing, China; and a manufacturing facility in Wuxi, China. Amprius is financed by leading venture capital and private equity investors including Trident Capital, VantagePoint Capital Partners, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, IPV Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, SAIF Partners, Chinergy Capital, Wuxi IDG and DADI Capital.
Ceres Power and Weichai finalize strategic collaboration and JV agreement on SOFCs; range-extenders for buses
Ceres Power, a developer of low-cost solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC)company, and Weichai Power, one of the leading automobile and equipment manufacturing companies in China, finalized their long-term strategic collaboration first announced in May 2018. (Earlier post.)
This includes a Joint Venture Agreement with the commitment to create a fuel cell manufacturing JV in China, a License Agreement to transfer key technology to the JV and a new £9-million (US$11.5-million) joint development agreement. It also triggers a further £28-million (US$35.8-million) equity injection into Ceres Power.
The JV will target the rapidly growing Chinese market opportunity for fuel cells which addresses the decarbonization and air quality needs in the transportation and power generation markets. The bus market in China, along with the commercial vehicle and stationary power markets, create a potential multi-billion dollar market opportunity for the JV.
The strategic collaboration with Weichai includes:
A new Joint Development Agreement (JDA) for £9 million following on from the initial JDA which the parties previously signed. This accelerates development of the 30 kW SteelCell SOFC range extender system using widely available Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), with systems for 10 buses set to be developed and trialed in the next two years. Successful completion of the trials will lead to the JV formation which is anticipated to be in 2020.
Joint Venture and Technology Transfer. Upon successful completion of field trials under the JDA, Weichai and Ceres will establish a Fuel Cell Manufacturing Joint Venture in Shandong Province, China with an initial 51%:49% respective shareholding. Weichai and Ceres will fund pro rata shares of the JV in accordance with an agreed business plan. Weichai will hold three of the five board seats and Ceres will hold two with certain shareholder protection provisions in place.
The JV will manufacture SteelCell systems, stacks and fuel cells in accordance with the License Agreement after their respective technology transfers from Ceres. The Licence Agreement provides a mixture of exclusive and non-exclusive rights for the commercial vehicle, bus and certain stationary power markets in China. Ceres will be paid up to £30 million (US$38.4 million) for the staged program of Technology Transfer as well as ongoing royalties and future dividend payments.
Equity Investment. Weichai will shortly exercise its warrant at an exercise price of 164.5p per share, investing a further £28 million of equity in addition to its previous £20 million investment. This increases its shareholding in Ceres from just under 10% to 20%. This brings its total equity investment in Ceres to £48 million (US$61.4 million). The use of funds includes investment in Ceres’ core fuel cell business and manufacturing scale up in the UK as well as the initial equity investment in the JV.
In accordance with the existing Relationship Agreement, Weichai has an eighteen-month standstill from May 2018 under which it agrees not to acquire more than 20% of Ceres Power’s issued share capital and includes an eighteen month minimum holding period from December 2018 on the proposed shareholding. Weichai will also nominate a non-executive director to the Board of Ceres Power.
This is a major strategic milestone for Ceres. Establishing manufacturing capability in China with a partner as strong as Weichai will enable our SteelCell technology to benefit from the kind of economies of scale and significantly lower costs we have seen in the solar and battery industries. Weichai is one of the largest automotive and engine manufacturers in China. This agreement represents a scale-changing opportunity for Ceres.
—Ceres Power CEO Phil Caldwell
We have made a strong start to our partnership with Ceres and we are delighted to extend our relationship. We see significant commercial potential for using the SteelCell to help us develop cutting edge fuel cell power systems. We look forward to trialing the new range extender and also to developing new products for the transportation and stationary power generation markets in China.
—Tan Xuguang, Chairman and CEO of Weichai
BMW puts 70 hydrogen tugger trains into operation in Leipzig
The BMW Group Leipzig plant is commissioning 70 more hydrogen-powered tugger trains (indoor tugs). These are used in production to supply the assembly lines with supplier parts.
The BMW Group is working in a consortium including Fronius (manufacturer of fuel cell systems for forklift trucks), Linde Material Handling (goods handling specialist and manufacturer of fuel cell-powered industrial trucks), Günsel Fördertechnik (Linde MH network partner, responsible for sales and Service) as well as the TU Munich (Scientific Accompanying Research).
The consortium is supported by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure and its program company, NOW GmbH. As early as 2013, in a first research project in Leipzig, BMW tested eleven hydrogen-powered tractors and forklifts in test operation and identified important fields of action for the current connection project.
The aim of the consortium is to establish a sustainable, sustainable and at the same time economically efficient drive technology in the area ofindoor logistics and to put it on a broad basis. Together with its partners, the consortium is mapping the entire value chain for hydrogen fuel cell systems for indoor logistics.
Specific emphases are on the development, testing, everyday use, economic operation and the construction of a hydrogen infrastructure. The network partners work on the identified challenges in various work packages. These include an operator concept, the standardization of interfaces, a plug & play solution for fleet conversion, the validation of service life and the proof of efficiency in fleet operation. Other focal points include the service and training concept for the operation of the hydrogen fuel cell technology.
As a result, an industry standard “H2Ready” is to be established, which broadly opens the possibility for other manufacturers to use the technology in new or retrofitted vehicles in their own production. The funding of the Federal Ministry aims to advance the technological development of climate-friendly hydrogen and fuel cell technology and make it competitive.
The Saudi Dilemma: To Cut Or Not To Cut
by Irina Slav for Oilprice.com.
To cut and push up prices or not to cut and preserve market share, this is the question that Saudi Arabia is facing ahead of this year’s December OPEC meeting. It seems like just yesterday when OPEC met in 2016 and decided to cut production by 1.8 million barrels daily, including from Russia, to reverse the free fall of oil prices. At the time, it worked because everyone was desperate. Now, many OPEC members are both desperate while not yet recovered from the 2014 blow. Saudi Arabia is not an exception.
A recent report from Capital Economics said Saudi Arabia has its problems but it could withstand lower oil prices without feeling too much of a pinch. “Even if [Brent] prices fall further to $40-$50 a barrel, immediate balance of payments strains are unlikely to emerge,” the report said, with its authors adding the Kingdom would be able to finance its trade deficit from its foreign exchange reserves “for at least a decade.”
This suggestion is not universally accepted. Reuters’ John Kemp this week offered a different perspective in his regular column on oil, noting Saudi Arabia’s foreign exchange reserves currently stand at US$500 billion, down from nearly US$750 billion in 2014 when the oil prices slumped under the weight of U.S. shale oil. At the same time, Saudi Arabia is in a major push to diversify its revenue streams and has committed a lot of money to it.
Also, Kemp wrote, “The kingdom probably needs to keep several hundred billion dollars’ worth of reserve assets on hand to maintain confidence in its fixed exchange-rate peg to the U.S. dollar and prevent a run on the currency.”
It’s a classic rock and a hard place situation for the Saudis. On the one hand, they could continue pumping at the current record rate or close to it, pressuring prices further, which is what they did in 2014. That strategy hurt U.S. shale substantially, but the attempted assault did not go quite as planned. Now, it will once again hurt U.S. shale, but again, it won’t beat the resilience of the US shale patch. That much should have become clear in the past three years.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia could start cutting, but it will need to convince all other OPEC members to join the cuts and, more importantly, Russia. Reuters earlier today reported, quoting unnamed sources, that Russia had “accepted the need to cut production” and prices immediately jumped, once again highlighting how important the Russia-Saudi Arabia cooperation has become for oil markets, if it even needs highlighting.
For now, it seems like a cut is the more likely outcome. In spite of reservations expressed by Nigeria and Libya, if Saudi Arabia managed to convince everyone to cut amid the major tensions with Iran ahead of the U.S. sanctions, then it could probably convince them again, if only on the grounds that if they don't start cutting all will suffer.
Kemp agrees. “Saudi Arabia cannot afford another slump in oil prices,” he warns. “It needs to keep revenues high to help its economy climb out of recession and finance ambitious social and economic transformation programs.”
Yet the Kingdom is preparing. Kpler reported this week loadings of Saudi crude since the start of November had reached new highs of 8.14 million bpd, which was 770,000 bpd more than the average daily loadings rate for October and much higher than the last 2018 high of 7.766 million bpd booked for June. The bulk of the increase comes from China, with shipments in that direction up by more than half a million barrels daily in November from October. Production is also at record highs, like Russia’s was ahead of the first cuts in 2016. Perhaps we are seeing a lesson learned there or perhaps the Kingdom is out of options besides cutting.
Audi to invest ~€14B in electromobility, digitalization and autonomous driving over next 5 years
Audi plans to spend approximately €14 billion (US$15.9 billion) in electric mobility, digitalization and autonomous driving from 2019 until the end of 2023.
This includes investments in property, plant and equipment as well as research and development expenditure. Overall, the company’s total projected expenditure for the planning period of the next five years amounts to about €40 billion.
This planning round bears a clear signature: We are taking a very systematic approach to electric mobility and will be much more focused in future. We are consistently prioritizing our resources for future-oriented products and services that are highly attractive and relevant to the market. With models such as the recently presented Audi e-tron GT concept [earlier post], we want to electrify people again for Audi and at the same time be an agile and very efficient company.”
—Bram Schot, temporary Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi AG
e-tron GT concept
Starting with the Audi e-tron, the brand’s first all-electric SUV, the company will launch numerous electric cars in the coming years. By 2025, Audi will offer approximately 20 electrified models, about half of which will have all-electric drive systems. At the same time, Audi is pushing forward with the digitalization of its automobiles and plants, and is expanding its business model with new digital services such as “functions on demand”.
The share of total expenditure for future topics will increase significantly over the planning period. Particularly in the second half of the planning horizon, the approved advance expenditure also reflects the scaling-up of electric mobility on the basis of cross-brand architectures with high Group synergies.
To this end, Audi is working with Porsche to develop the “premium architecture electrification (PPE)” for large electric cars, while the “modular electric drive kit (MEB)” is being realized together with Volkswagen.
In order to finance its course for the future from its own resources, the company is systematically rolling out the Audi Transformation Plan. With this program, Audi will already generate positive earnings effects of more than €1 billion in 2018, counteracting the financial burden from high advance expenditure.
In addition to transferring resources to areas of the future, the Audi Transformation Plan is primarily aimed at reducing complexity, systematically utilizing synergies, and identifying and discontinuing activities that are no longer relevant to customers.
SK Innovation to build $1.67B EV battery manufacturing plant in Georgia
South Korea-based SK Innovation, a developer of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, will invest $1.67 billion to build a new electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing plant in Georgia.
SK innovation is fitted with the entire value chain for mid/large-sized battery production from electrodes and separators to battery cells and packs. SK Innovation has applied high energy density ternary materials to lithium-ion batteries for mass production. Based on these technological capabilities, SK innovation has signed supply contracts with major automakers including Hyundai Motor Group, BAIC Group and Daimler AG.
SK Innovation, which is part of SK Group, says that it is making the investment in Georgia to better compete in the growing global EV battery market. The company says that the new investment will provide opportunities for it to bring its products to additional automakers in the United States.
The new plant will be located in Jackson County, Georgia. Construction will occur in two phases, beginning in early 2019. The first phase will invest approximately $1 billion and employ more than 1,000 advanced manufacturing employees, making it the largest scale electric vehicle battery plant in the United States. SK Innovation leadership worked closely with federal, state and local officials to finalize the investment.
SK Group has been building relationships within the United States for decades. It already has significant investments in the US and currently employs nearly 2,000 US workers across 10 states.
Established as South Korea’s first oil refining company in 1962, SK Innovation engages in diverse areas of business, including exploration and production (E&P), batteries, and information and electronics materials. It owns SK Energy, South Korea’s Nº 1 refining company; SK Global Chemical, the leader in the domestic petrochemical industry; SK Lubricants, a global lubricants company; SK Incheon Petrochem, a refining and chemical company; and SK Trading International, a trader of crude oils and petrochemicals.
Lockheed Martin invests $4M in Forge Hydrocarbons; lipid to hydrocarbons technology
Canada-based Forge Hydrocarbons Corporation, a spin-off from the University of Alberta (earlier post), has received a US$4-million from Lockheed Martin under the Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) Policy. This investment enables Forge, a Canadian small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) to further development of its Lipid-to-Hydrocarbon (LTH) technology and to construct a first-of-kind, commercial plant with a production capacity of approximately 19 million liters per year (ML/y) (~5 million gallons US).
Forge’s technology heats waste lipids such as cooking oil, animal renderings and crop seed oil with water at a high temperature, creating fatty acids and glycerol. The glycerol is removed and the fatty acids are heated at more than 400 ˚C until the oxygen within is released. This turns the acids into hydrocarbons that are separated into various fuels, including gasoline and diesel.
Forge’s LTH proprietary production technology produces drop-in, renewable fuels that are indistinguishable from petroleum-based fuels and that are directly compatible with the current petroleum-based fuel infrastructure. Forge’s LTH technology reduces green house gas emissions by over 70% compared to petroleum-based fuels.
Lockheed Martin’s investment is in direct support of its Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) obligations associated with Canada’s purchase of 17 CC-130J Super Hercules aircraft, which were delivered to the Royal Canadian Air Force in 2010. Lockheed Martin also delivers continued In-Service Support for the CC-130J fleet.
The LTH process emerged from decades of high-temperature chemistry research and was invented by Dr. David Bressler, a Professor in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton Alberta.
Early research and the construction of the first pilot facility was supported through grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Province of Alberta, MITACS and Alberta Innovates as well as large investments by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency and Western Economic Diversification Canada. The SOMBRA LTH Facility is being supported by a $4.2-million contribution by Sustainable Development Technology Canada.
With Lockheed Martin’s investment, Forge has begun final engineering design and site preparation for the first LTH plant to be built in Sombra Ontario. Forge expects to break-ground on this first LTH plant in 2018. This project funding will also contribute to the continuation of research and development, at the University of Alberta and Forge’s pilot facility in Edmonton, Alberta, to increase the efficiency of the technology and to broaden the scope of the application to a wider range of feed stocks that can be transformed into a broader range of renewable fuels.
Rolls-Royce and Finferries demonstrate world’s first fully autonomous ferry
Rolls-Royce and Finnish state-owned ferry operator Finferries have demonstrated the world’s first fully autonomous ferry in the archipelago south of the city of Turku, Finland.
The car ferry Falco used a combination of Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence technologies successfully to navigate autonomously during its voyage between Parainen and Nauvo. The return journey was conducted under remote control.
During the demonstration, the Falco, with 80 invited VIP guests aboard, conducted the voyage under fully autonomous control. The vessel detected objects utilizing sensor fusion and artificial intelligence and conducted collision avoidance. It also demonstrated automatic berthing with a recently developed autonomous navigation system. All this was achieved without any human intervention from the crew.
The Falco is equipped with a range of advanced sensors which allows it to build a detailed picture of its surroundings in real time.
The situational awareness picture is created by fusing sensor data, which is relayed to Finferries’ remote operating center on land, some 50 kilometers away in Turku city center. Here, a captain monitors the autonomous operations, and can take control of the vessel if necessary.
During the autonomous operation tests in Turku archipelago, Rolls-Royce has so far clocked close to 400 hours of sea trials. The Rolls-Royce Autodocking system is among the technologies that have been successfully tested. This feature enables the vessel to automatically alter course and speed when approaching the quay and carry out automatic docking without human intervention. During the sea trials, the collision avoidance solution has also been tested in various conditions for several hours of operation.
Earlier this year Rolls-Royce and Finferries began collaborating on a new research project called SVAN (Safer Vessel with Autonomous Navigation), to continue implementing the findings from the earlier Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications (AAWA) research project, funded by Business Finland.
The Falco is a 53.8 meter double-ended car ferry, which entered service with Finferries in 1993. It is equipped with twin azimuth thrusters from Rolls-Royce.
SiNode and JNC partner to form NanoGraf to improve battery energy density by 50%; Si-graphene composit anode materials
SiNode Systems, a Chicago-based advanced materials company developing silicon-graphene materials for the next generation of lithium-ion batteries (earlier post), and JNC Corporation, a Tokyo-based specialty chemical manufacturer, have formed NanoGraf Corporation—a joint venture focused on commercializing asvanced materials for the Lithium-ion battery industry—with a $4.5-million investment. SiNode is now remaned NanoGraf.
NanoGraf’s technology enhances the performance of battery materials via a proprietary graphene-wrapped silicon anode originally invented at Northwestern University. The proprietary combination of silicon-based alloys and a flexible 3D graphene network helps stabilize the active material during charge and discharge. NanoGraf materials enhance battery energy and power density by up to 50% and offer best-in-class cycle life.
NanoGraf material can be customized to achieve capacities between 1000 mAh/g and more than 2500 mAh/g, delivering higher cell level energy density and best-in-class rate capabilities for high discharge applications.
Rather than using vapor deposition-based systems, Nanograf utilizes a wet chemistry process that is highly scalable and already proven in a pilot manufacturing line in Japan. The anode materials drop in to existing electrode mixing and coating equipment, and they have been validated in large-scale battery manufacturing facilities worldwide.
NanoGraf will use the new funding to expand commercial production of its silicon-graphene composite anode materials and to continue development of additional materials platforms. Via the novel partnership agreement, NanoGraf will gain production facilities in Japan, expanded distribution channels worldwide, over 50 patents, and two research facilities.
Our new company, NanoGraf Corporation, embodies our vision to create materials solutions that will change the battery industry. Thanks to our partnership with JNC Corporation, we are well-positioned for accelerated growth as we commercialize our graphene-wrapping technology for a range of applications, from consumer electronics to electric vehicles. With our new ton-scale facility we can deliver larger volumes of material to our growing customer base.
—Samir Mayekar, NanoGraf co-founder and CEO
NZ study shows cycle lanes and walkways cut car use, reduce emissions
Researchers in New Zealand have shown that investing in cycle lanes and walkways encourages people to drive less and cuts carbon emissions. The researchers from the University of Otago, Wellington and Victoria University studied the impact of new cycling and walking paths built in New Plymouth and Hastings in 2011.
In the three years after the development of the new infrastructure, they found there was a reduction of 1.6% in vehicle kilometers travelled and an associated 1% drop in carbon emissions.
It is the first study internationally to demonstrate that investing in cycle paths and walkways leads to a reduction in emissions.
Co-author Dr Caroline Shaw, a senior lecturer at the University of Otago, Wellington’s Department of Public Health, says the one percent reduction in carbon emissions is likely to be a conservative estimate, as shorter car trips—those most likely to be replaced by walking or cycling—typically had higher per kilometer emissions.
If the same level of investment was made across the country, it could reduce the country’s carbon dioxide emissions by at least 0.23 million tonnes over three years, the researchers say.
Building new cycle paths and walkways also appeared to reduce car ownership in the two cities. New Zealand has a high rate of light vehicles per capita, with 77 cars per 100 people, second only to the United States.
The researchers used a variety of methods to collect information on car usage, conducting face-to-face interviews with householders, analyzing odometer readings from licensing data and reviewing details on car ownership from the New Zealand Household Travel Survey.
The data from New Plymouth and Hastings were compared with information from Whanganui and Masterton—two cities which received no additional government funding for cycle ways or walking paths.
Dr Shaw says the research clearly demonstrates that people are prepared to substitute cycling and walking for car journeys.
Oerlikon Graziano to show H-RAM modular hybrid rear axle for P3 and P4 applications
Leading gear and drive solutions provider Oerlikon Graziano, together with Vocis, will show its latest hybrid and electric technologies at the forthcoming CTI Symposium 2018 in Berlin. Heading the product line-up will be H-RAM, the company’s hybrid rear axle module, which will also be detailed in a technical presentation.
H-RAM is a compact and highly integrated design that can be configured as a P3 motor arrangement or a stand-alone P4 electric axle. It combines the propshaft input from a conventional powertrain with an electric motor connected through a two-speed planetary drive and incorporates the final drive and differential which may be open, or featuring a mechanical or electronically controlled LSD.
In the P3 arrangement, tests by Oerlikon Graziano have shown efficiency gains of up to 8% compared to a P2 architecture, when running the WLTP cycle in EV mode.
The compact size of H-RAM enables OEMs to package a complete hybrid system within the subframe of the rear axle without modification of the standard ICE powertrain, a considerable advantage for vehicle platforms that are shared between hybrid and non-hybrid models.
The P3 configuration with planetary gearing enables efficient running in pure EV mode and the capability of very strong e-Boost at low speeds in a high gear, enhancing the performance feel of the vehicle.
The descriptive technical presentation traces the evolution of H-RAM, based on experience from OGeco, the company’s electrified high performance DHT solution, then explains the technical details and specification of the unit, including performance data, and outlines current development status.
The first application of the unit is in a high-performance vehicle with peak wheel torque of 12,000 N·m in hybrid mode and a potential maximum speed in E-mode of more than 300 km/h (186 mph).
In addition to H-RAM and OGeco, Oerlikon Drive Systems will display its EMR3 single-speed transmission for battery electric vehicles, its 4SED 4-Speed, twin-motor, electric drive and modular transmissions for 48V and high voltage hybrid applications.
JRC: e-vehicle market in Europe is slowly gaining momentum, but breakthrough is needed
A new European Joint Research Center (JRC) analysis on the deployment of electric vehicles (EV) in Europe concludes that although the sector evolved significantly between 2010 and 2017, progress is still small to be characterized as full-scale commercialization.
In 2010, electric vehicles still represented a niche market. Since then, the brands offering EV models have increased, and European consumers now have a wide choice of electric vehicle models which cover all car types.
Evolution of M1 category registrations of BEV and PHEV in Europe between 2010 and 2017
Although still small compared to conventional passenger cars, the e-vehicle market share has increased steadily in Europe, with some countries witnessing impressive growth.
Market share of M1 EV in Europe between 2010 and 2017
In 2017, almost 300,000 electric passenger cars were registered in Europe, against around 1,400 in 2010. The highest numbers were registered in Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, France and the UK.
In Europe, the e-vehicle market is almost equally divided between battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid cars.
Place for improvement in the electric bus sector. Electric buses offer an environmentally friendly transport alternative, especially in cities. However, the urban bus sector in Europe has yet to experience a full transition to e-mobility.
A European Commission study from 2017 estimated the global electric bus stock to count 173,000 buses, with 98% of the global stock being situated in China.
Between 2010 and 2017, the highest numbers of electric buses in Europe were registered in the United Kingdom (~200), the Netherlands (~175), Belgium (~140), Germany (~90) and Austria (~75).
Recharging infrastructure improving unevenly in different parts of Europe. The availability and development of EV recharging infrastructure is another important factor contributing to the development of e-mobility.
In general terms, the recharging infrastructure has improved in Europe. More charging points are now available and technological advances have made the recharging faster.
However, the situation is very different from one Member State to another. The Netherlands, Germany, France and UK have the highest number of charging points, ranging from around 140,000 in the UK to around 325,000 in the Netherlands. All other European countries have less than 5,000 charging points.
Barriers to mass market uptake. Despite the increasing numbers in market penetration, barriers to mass market uptake of e-vehicles still seem to exist, the report says.
In some countries the lack of publicly accessible recharging points may have already led to lower consumer confidence in the viability of EVs. Consumers also tend to be worried about the cost of electric vehicles, issues linked to the driving range and high maintenance costs.
The JRC report points out that some barriers could be linked to consumers’ misconceptions about e-vehicles. One common misconception is that e-vehicles are slower or provide an inferior driving experience compared to traditional cars. The report also emphasizes that with the evolution of the market and technology, e-vehicles are becoming cheaper, better performing and even faster than expected.
Recommendations for a way forward. Support policies remain important to help the transition to low emission mobility, and incentives can play a catalytic role in EV deployment at this stage.
At the moment, support measures stimulating EV demand are not harmonized in the EU Member States. This has led to market fragmentation both in terms of the number of EVs on the road and the availability of publicly accessible recharging infrastructure.
The JRC report recommends that support measures are harmonized to promote the use of e-vehicles as well as the development of accessible recharging infrastructures.
Measures supporting interoperability and targeted infrastructure investments are also necessary.
Finally, policies targeting consumer behavior and raising awareness of low emission mobility can play a major role in the transition towards a near zero emission mobility.
BMW Group increasing use of digitalization and Industry 4.0 in production logistics
The BMW Group is increasingly relying on innovations from the fields of digitalization and Industry 4.0 in production logistics. The focus is on applications such as logistics robots, autonomous transport systems at plants and digitalization projects for an end-to-end supply chain.
Staff can control logistics processes from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and use virtual reality applications to plan future logistics. Innovations coming out of many pilot projects are being implemented worldwide in logistics at BMW Group plants.
Logistics is the heart of our production system. Our broad spectrum of ground-breaking projects helps us run increasingly complex logistics processes efficiently and transparently. We are taking advantage of the wide range of available technological innovations and working closely with universities and start-ups. We are already working with tomorrow’s Industry 4.0 technologies today.
—Jürgen Maidl, head of Logistics for the BMW Group production network
Around 1,800 suppliers at more than 4,000 locations deliver more than 31 million parts to the 30 BMW Group production sites worldwide every day. Digitalization and innovations help the company organise logistics more flexibly and more efficiently. At the same time, almost 10,000 vehicles coming off the production line daily must be delivered to customers around the globe. Digitally connected delivery—Connected Distribution—ensures that these transport routes are also more transparent.
Connected supply chain. The BMW Group supply chain relies on a global supply network and close cooperation with numerous logistics service providers. The Connected Supply Chain (CSC) program significantly increases supply chain transparency. It updates the plants’ material controllers and logistics specialists on the goods’ location and delivery time every 15 minutes. This transparency enables them to respond immediately if delays appear likely and take appropriate steps early to avoid costly extra runs.
Autonomous transport systems. Autonomous transport systems such as tugger trains or Smart Transport Robots are increasingly used to transport goods within production halls.
Smart Transport Robot at BMW Group Plant Regensburg
To allow tugger trains to now also be used for the sophisticated process of supplying assembly lines, as part of a pilot project, BMW Group Plant Dingolfing has developed an automation kit, which enables conventional tugger trains of any brand already on hand to be upgraded to autonomous tugger trains. The capabilities of these driverless tugger trains go beyond automation of earlier solutions.
Another future technology is also being piloted alongside autonomous tugger trains at the Dingolfing plant. A Smart Watch supports logistics staff during the container change process and announces approaching tugger trains via a vibration alarm. The employee can also read which containers should be unloaded and send the tugger train on to its next destination by tapping the display.
The BMW Group is also pioneering the use of autonomous transport systems outdoors. As part of a pilot project, the BMW Group is using an autonomous outdoor transport robot for the first time at its Leipzig plant to bring truck trailers from where they are parked to the unloading and loading bay on their own.
A mobile platform drives underneath the trailer, connects it and steers it through the plant. The AutoTrailer, with a payload of up to 30 tons, navigates by laser, without additional guidelines or markings, through the plant’s outdoor areas. Sensors and cameras provide a 360° all-round view, which forms the basis of the safety concept.
The huge potential of this transport system is particularly evident at the BMW Group’s largest plant in Spartanburg, where about 1,200 of these trailer-shunting maneuvers take place every day.
In 2015, the BMW Group joined forces with the Fraunhofer Institute IML to develop the first self-driving Smart Transport Robots (STR) for transporting roll containers through logistics areas within production halls. The second generation is now in operation at BMW Group Plant Regensburg.
The flat robots carry roll containers weighing up to one ton and transport them
autonomously to where the goods need to be. They calculate the ideal route independently and move freely through space. A built-in battery module from the BMW i3 powers the STR for a whole work shift.
Loading and unloading of goods containers. After delivery to the plant, the goods are transported to the assembly line in containers and parts containers of various sizes. For the tiring job of reloading containers from pallets onto conveyor belts or into storage, employees will be assisted in the future by logistics robots specially developed for this purpose. Four different types of robots, referred to as “Bots” by logistics experts, are currently being tested or have already been integrated into series production.
Logistics robot “PickBot”
The lightweight robots take on different jobs: they can take full plastic boxes from the pallet in the incoming goods area and place them on a conveyor system, they do unload tugger trains and place boxes loaded with goods on a shelf, they collect various small parts from appropriate supply racks and they stack empty containers on pallets before they re-enter circulation.
Using artificial intelligence, the robots can detect and process various different containers and determine the ideal grip point.
Smart devices support logistics staff. Gloves with integrated scanners and displays, data glasses and smart watches are increasingly used to support logistics employees. The transition to paperless logistics, with digitally labelled containers and shelves, opens up new areas of application for mobile devices. Glove scanners read the electronic label and indicate the exact contents of the small load carrier on a small display that can be worn on the arm.
Virtual reality and artificial intelligence. The use of virtual reality already plays an important role in planning logistics spaces. In a virtual environment, planners can quickly and efficiently lay out future logistics areas completely and assess how much space is needed, for instance. Planning is based on 3D data representing the real structures of a logistics hall.
For the past several years, the BMW Group has been capturing its plants in digital form with millimeter accuracy, using special 3D scanners and high-resolution cameras. This creates a three-dimensional image of the structures, so that manual recording on site is no longer needed. When planning future logistics areas, BMW Group experts can now combine existing data with a virtual “library” of shelves, lattice boxes, small load carriers and around 50 other widely-used operating resources.
Connected distribution. Like delivery of parts to plants, the transport of vehicles to the dealership is now also digitally and transparently traceable. The former Connected Distribution pilot project was fully integrated into series production this year. The system uses the same IT built into BMW Group vehicles to track the location of finished vehicles once they are ready to leave the plant. The vehicle transmits its current geolocation and status to the logistics center via a mobile connection every time it is switched off.
Natural gas, electric and hydrogen trucks. More than 60% of all new vehicles now leave production plants by rail. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to use trucks on certain in- and out-bound logistics routes. To reduce emissions from these truck journeys, the BMW Group is already using natural gas and electric trucks in cooperation with logistics service providers. The aim is to reduce truck emissions by 40% by 2030 and to be completely emission-free by 2050.
Electric truck for inbound logistics.
Ford extends Transit Plug-In Hybrid Van trial to Cologne
Ford will begin commercial trials of the plug-in hybrid Transit Van in Cologne, Germany. This will extend to a third European city research into the use of plug-in hybrid electric vans that run solely on electric power for most city trips.
From spring 2019, Ford, supported by the City of Cologne, will operate a fleet of 10 Ford Transit Custom PHEVs with regional companies in the city to investigate the extent to which PHEVs can help to achieve urban air quality goals.
Funded by Ford, the trial will initially run for 12 months, in cooperation with municipal fleets serving the public sector, complementing testing in London, UK and Valencia, Spain with larger fleets and small-to-medium fleets respectively.
Ford recognizes Cologne as a city of strategic importance regarding future mobility. Together with the City of Cologne, we will start to investigate how we might in future look forward to urban areas that offer better air quality and can also be more productive.
—Gunnar Herrmann, chairman of the management board, Ford of Germany
Ford announced the new trial at its “City of Tomorrow” symposium, in Cologne, which brought together thought leaders from the private and public sector, including urban planners, political decision makers and mobility experts, to discuss a common vision of the future of urban mobility.
Two Transit Custom PHEV commercial vehicles each will be operated by the following regional companies: AWB Abfallwirtschaftsbetriebe Köln (waste management), Cologne Bonn Airport, Häfen und Güterverkehr Köln (harbour and freight traffic), Kölner Verkehrsbetriebe (public transport association) and RheinEnergie (regional energy company).
The Transit Custom PHEV has an advanced series hybrid system that targets a zero-emission range exceeding 50 kilometers (31 miles). This makes it suited for the use in city traffic. The range extender powertrain features the multi-award winning 1.0-liter EcoBoost gasoline engine that charges the on-board compact liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack as required to offer a total range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles).
The batteries have a storage capacity of 14 kWh and the installation of the battery pack under the load floor preserves the full cargo volume of the standard van. The front bumper offers a connection facility to fully charge the battery within three hours via a 240-volt power supply with 16 or 32 amperes.
All partners will use an already existing charging infrastructure and vehicles are equipped with telematics and geofencing systems that help to ensure that they are emission-free within pre‑determined low emission zones.
Ford is the Nº 1 selling commercial vehicle brand in Europe, and last month Ford commercial vehicle sales in its European 20 markets hit their highest October level since 1993. At the IAA Commercial Vehicles in Hannover, in Germany, in September, Ford showcased a production version of the Transit Custom PHEV that is due to go on sale in the second half of 2019.
Ford plans the introduction of another 40 electrified models, including 16 all‑electric vehicles through 2022.