California makes huge investment in ‘widespread transportation electrification’

June 1, 2018 by  
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Even as the U.S. turns away from clean energy, California continues to charge ahead. Empowering the largest investment in the U.S.  by the electric industry to transform a transportation system, the California Public Utilities Commission has approved a collective budget of $738 million for four utility companies to “accelerate widespread transportation electrification.” This move, required by a 2015 clean energy law in California, marks an important step toward developing comprehensive infrastructure to switch transportation from fossil fuels to clean electric power. The unprecedented investment follows the recent approval of 15 pilot programs that, with a collective budget of $43 million, aim to electrify transit buses , school buses, cranes, agricultural trucks, delivery trucks, airport equipment and other vehicles. The pilot programs will run over the course of a year, while the major initiative will unfold over several years. These programs specifically look to benefit communities that have historically suffered under hazardous levels of air pollution, a public health threat that the widespread adoption of electric vehicles will alleviate. The initiative will fund, among other things, new charging stations, related infrastructure and services for installing new charging stations in homes. Related: Southern California is losing its clouds, increasing the risk of more intense wildfires These new initiatives in California have received broad support from stakeholders in the state, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, General Motors and the Sierra Club. Although the link between transportation and utility companies may traditionally seem weak, the Commission under California state law determined that the electric vehicle programs serve the utility customer’s interests by offering more reliable, less expensive service. With its most recent investment in the future of transportation, California seems poised to be a leader in clean energy for many years to come. Via NRDC Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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California makes huge investment in ‘widespread transportation electrification’

Endangered shark fins discovered on a Singapore Airlines flight to Hong Kong

June 1, 2018 by  
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Hong Kong is the biggest trading hub for shark fins in the world. Although they’ve taken steps to halt illegal trading, conservation group Sea Shepherd recently uncovered a shipment with fins from endangered sharks that arrived via a Singapore Airlines flight for a Hong Kong dried seafood company. Sea Shepherd said the fins came from whale sharks and possibly oceanic whitetip sharks. Endangered shark fins arrived in a 2,150-pound shipment marked ‘Dry Seafood’ for Win Lee Fung Ltd . The shipment came from Colombo, Sri Lanka by way of Singapore. Singapore Airlines bans shark fin cargo and said they’d sent a reminder to all stations to administer sampling checks on shipments with such a label. They also said they blacklisted the shipper. Sea Shepherd Asia director Gary Stokes told Reuters , “This is another case of misleading and deceiving. The shipment came declared as ‘dried seafood’ so [it] didn’t flag any alarms.” Related: 500-mile-long shark highway could become a protected wildlife corridor Shark fins can be imported in Hong Kong, but for species listed by the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), there must be a permit. The species discovered in the shipment were CITES Appendix 2 species and were concealed among legal fins. Sea Shepherd said smugglers operate by utilizing a vague description — and as Hong Kong Customs is barely able to check 1 percent of containers arriving in the territory, a shipment with a label like ‘Dry Seafood’ could easily escape notice. “Sea Shepherd Global have asked the Hong Kong Government for a mandatory use of the international Harmonized Shipping Codes for all wildlife products at time of booking for any goods destined to Hong Kong,” Sea Shepherd said in its statement. “Only then would Hong Kong Customs and [Agricultural, Fishers & Conservation Department] stand a fighting chance to have more effective inspections on containers when they know the contents before they arrive.” As of now, shark fin smugglers only have to declare what was in a shipment 14 days after it has arrived in Hong Kong or pay a penalty of around $10. The World Wildlife Fund said around 100 million sharks could be killed every year, and they’re frequently targeted for their fins. + Sea Shepherd Via Reuters Images courtesy of Sea Shepherd Global

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Endangered shark fins discovered on a Singapore Airlines flight to Hong Kong

Companies push to start oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

June 1, 2018 by  
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Following Congress’s move to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas production, a long-sought goal of the Republican Party, fossil fuel companies are moving forward with their plans to develop the wilderness and hope to survey the region by winter. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation, two Alaska Native companies, as well as one oil company have applied for a permit to begin seismic surveying on the refuge’s coastal plain. However, despite promises that the process would be as environmentally sensitive as possible, documents obtained by the Washington Post indicate that the Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the initial plan as “not adequate,” noting its “lack of applicable details for proper agency review.” The area the companies hope to explore for oil is also the location of the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd, from which the local Gwich’in First Nation community finds food and cultural significance. In fact, the prospective area where two teams of 150 people are proposed to survey isn’t even visited by the Gwich’in people out of respect for its importance. The speed with which the companies have pushed to begin oil drilling has concerned the locals. “Why can’t they just wait to have more information?” Gwich’in Steering Committee executive director Bernadette Dementieff told Earther . “The oil isn’t going anywhere. There’s nothing wrong with waiting. It makes no sense to rush.” Perhaps the oil companies are concerned that the U.S. may, under a different Congress, return to its long-held status quo of banning oil drilling in the refuge. Related: Spending bill would open the world’s largest intact temperate forest to logging Although the nearby Native town of Kaktovik supported oil and gas drilling in 2005, more recently, the mayor sent a letter to Congress to oppose opening the land to industry. The process has moved forward so quickly since the bill opening the refuge to oil drilling was signed into law that Dementieff was not even aware of the drilling application until she was contacted by Earther. “That is completely insane and disrespectful,” she said. Dementieff believes that Native communities in Alaska will rally together to stop the drilling from ever occurring. “We’ll go to every courtroom. We’ll go to every community meeting. We’re not giving up. We’re not going to allow them to destroy the calving grounds.” Via Earther Images via  Depositphotos and Bob Clarke

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Companies push to start oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Nico Nevolo quit his job at Tesla to live in his Model X – and he’s loving it

May 16, 2018 by  
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Van life can be a creative way to lessen one’s impact on the planet, but many van dwellers are still riding in gas-guzzling vehicles. Nico Nevolo, however, has broken away from that trend and become one of the pioneers of a new paradigm: EV van life. A former Tesla employee, Nevolo quit his job in March of this year to share his experiences living in his Tesla Model X under the name TeslaVanLife , and so far he says it’s been the best decision of his life. Inhabitat caught up with Nevolo to hear more about his journey and vision for TeslaVanLife. Nevolo worked at Tesla for just over three years, beginning in customer service and then moving to headquarters, where he worked as an analyst. He started living in his Model X last October, but the infamously expensive Bay Area rents were only one factor in his decision to live in his car. “It’s experiencing life in a different capacity, and a capacity at which I think is bringing me more happiness as I’ve grown older and seen how I want to live my own life,” Nevolo told Inhabitat. Related: Living out of a van has never looked this good He quit his job to take his Tesla love on the road. “I did love working behind a computer for Tesla, I really did love it, but there was something missing,” Nevolo said. “I hadn’t really seen anyone living in an electric vehicle , let alone a Tesla, and I recognized I had a very interesting experience…I’ve seen the electric vehicle industry grow before my eyes, so I wanted to tell that story.” In his Model X, he can store things in the front trunk and a rear compartment beneath his bed. He didn’t want the inside of his van home to look cluttered, so he doesn’t store anything on his bed. During the day, he folds up his bed and puts his seats up. Nevolo said people always expect him to say one of the hardest things about van life is bathing, but he’s found that facilities are readily available. What is tricky is food. He can keep food cold in an ice chest for around a week, but keeping it at a temperature where it won’t spoil is only possible for about two days. “Managing long term meals is definitely the most difficult thing I’ve encountered,” he said. “Something I’m really going to start experimenting with — and I used to do it even when I lived in an apartment — is buying food and cooking for a day or two. I would just buy enough food for a day or two, which unfortunately doesn’t save you the most money, but you’re getting fresh food.” Battery charging can be another consideration for EV van living, but Nevolo hasn’t found it to be too difficult in California , where he’s spent a large amount of his van life. Supercharging his Model X is free, and he said the Supercharger network is growing exponentially. Also, with the exception of some desolate areas, he found the network connected across the United States on a cross-country road trip to surprise his grandfather in New Jersey with a Tesla Model 3 . The flexibility of van living has opened up new possibilities for Nevolo. “The best thing is honestly being able to say yes to absolutely anything,” he said. “There is no one way of living.” Nevolo took his time taking the Model 3 to his grandfather and traveled around the country for about a month, so he could compare the experiences of living in a Model X versus a Model 3. “The technology in the Model 3: mindblowing,” he said. The Model 3 can charge more quickly because of advanced battery technology . But for long-term van life, the Model X seems to beat out the Model 3. “In the Model 3, you have to bend over like a normal car, it’s very low, and you’re like kinking your back,” Nevolo said. “With the X, I almost have a faux sense of being able to stand up in my home because the door opens up above my head and I actually have two inches of clearance when the door’s all the way up, and I’m six foot one. It feels like I’m in a bedroom.” You can stay tuned for his Tesla adventures by subscribing to TeslaVanLife . Nevolo said, “I want to shed light and entertainment and insight on a whole bunch of communities I’m very interested in, like van life, Tesla, or even music festival communities.” + TeslaVanLife YouTube + TeslaVanLife Patreon + TeslaVanLife Instagram Images courtesy of Nico Nevolo

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Nico Nevolo quit his job at Tesla to live in his Model X – and he’s loving it

World’s fastest electric car charger offers 120-mile range in 8 minutes

April 27, 2018 by  
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Electric vehicle (EV) charging equipment is surging forward — maybe faster than the cars it’s supposed to fill up. ABB recently launched their Terra High Power (HP) charger , which provides a stunning 120 miles in eight minutes, but New Atlas pointed out many EVs can’t yet handle the 350 kilowatts at which this fast charger operates. The Terra HP DC charger can fill cars up at a rate nearly three times that of Tesla Superchargers . ABB said the charger is “the first 350 kW product on the market,” and that gas stations or highway rest stops are ideal for the fast charger. CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer said in a statement , “This high-power fast charger provides electric vehicles with up to seven times more range in the same charging time than previous models.” Related: Germany unveils plans for the world’s largest EV charging station Sounds impressive, but is ABB ahead of its time? New Atlas said there is nothing on the market able to handle 350 kW. Many vehicles are limited to 50 kW; preserving battery life is the reason. Charging batteries up super fast can be damaging to battery life. There are cars that can handle more; the 2018 Nissan Leaf is one such example, able to handle 100 kW. But enabling batteries to handle such rapid charging is just one more task on the list of things battery researchers need to tackle, New Atlas said, alongside thermal stability, energy density, and more. Of course, to compete with gasoline-fueled cars at long ranges better, EVs will need to be able to handle super fast charging. Filling up a fossil fuel car at the gas station usually takes just a few minutes right now. New Atlas said the Terra HP units will probably only get close to their charging capability when several cars are plugged in simultaneously — at least for now. + ABB ( 1 , 2 , 3 ) Via New Atlas Images via ABB ( 1 , 2 )

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This charming old-fashioned caravan tiny house is 100% self sustaining

April 27, 2018 by  
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This caravan tiny house is a blast from the past. Designed and constructed by father-and-son builders Nick and Aaron Troisi ( The Unknown Craftsmen ), the tiny home on wheels is 100 percent self-sufficient. The wandering caravan includes a curved roof, custom woodwork and round windows. The home also has LED lighting, and it’s designed to operate completely off-grid . The home’s exterior is clad in pine panels painted red. A deck, built with raw-cut wooden logs, leads to the charming curved door. The father-son duo strategically designed a double-height roof to create a sleeping loft. The curved roof greatly enhances the tiny home’s interior and has three circular windows to bring in natural light . Related: Steve Areen’s incredible DIY wagon home built with mostly recycled materials Inside, the home resembles a hobbit-esque cavern. Lined with wooden beams, the high ceiling allowed the builders to add a quaint sleeping loft, accessible by stairs. The living area includes a curved reading nook with a small sofa, bright throw pillows and a cute window that lets in light. The designers incorporated a number of repurposed items into the home, including a brass bucket used as the kitchen sink. The round windows are actually repurposed theater light lenses — a feature that pays homage to the owner’s long career in the performing arts. Custom woodwork abounds — from the panels on the walls to the kitchen counter top, which was made from an apricot tree. The home was crafted with several types of wood cut from the owner’s own yard: pine, apricot, cherry and more. Aaron Troisi explained that the inspiration behind the wood-heavy design came from a desire to “explore the natural beauty of the organic world.” + The Unknown Craftsmen Via Tiny Living Images via The Unknown Craftsmen

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This charming old-fashioned caravan tiny house is 100% self sustaining

Tesla voluntarily makes their biggest recall ever for 123,000 Model S vehicles

March 30, 2018 by  
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Tesla just issued their biggest ever recall  involving over 123,000 Model S cars. The automaker said they noticed excessive corrosion in power steering bolts, The Verge and Agence France Presse reported. They’re voluntarily recalling the cars and will retrofit impacted cars with a new part that will resolve the issue. Tesla recalled thousands of Model S cars built before April 2016. There haven’t been any crashes or injuries reported connected to the issue — in an email sent to customers, the automaker said this is a proactive move. According to Agence France Presse, the problem has only been observed in locations where salt is used on winter roads to melt ice or snow, but Tesla will retrofit all Model S cars containing the part. No other models are involved in this recall. Related: The Tesla Semi just made its first cargo trip transporting battery packs Tesla’s email said, “If the bolts fail, the driver is still able to steer the car, increased force is required due to loss or reduction of power assist. This primarily makes the car harder to drive at low speeds and for parallel parking, but does not materially affect control at high speed, where only small steering wheel force is needed.” The company said if an owner hasn’t experienced issues, they don’t have to cease driving the cars, and that they would let owners know when retrofits, estimated to take around one hour, were available in their area. The Verge said this is Tesla’s largest recall; in 2015 they recalled 90,000 Model S cars due to a faulty seat belt, and in 2017 they recalled 53,000 Model X and Model S vehicles because of a parking brake issue. The publication also noted the recall comes right as the company is getting ready to report quarterly deliveries — people will be watching to see how many Model 3 cars Tesla has delivered to customers this year. Via The Verge and Agence France Presse Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Tesla voluntarily makes their biggest recall ever for 123,000 Model S vehicles

Leaked memo shows that EPA staffers were told to downplay the reliability of climate science

March 30, 2018 by  
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees received talking points that appear to fit right in with Administrator Scott Pruitt’s skepticism of humanity’s role in climate change . Meant to develop “consistent messages about EPA’s climate adaptation efforts,” the talking points — obtained by HuffPost — emphasized the uncertainties in what we know about climate change and concluded with, “Administrator Pruitt encourages an open, transparent debate on climate science .” EPA employees got eight talking points from career staffer Joel Scheraga, who worked under President Barack Obama, on how to talk about climate adaptation. The first said the agency “recognizes the challenges that communities face in adapting to a changing climate.” The next three talked about promoting science and working with local and tribal governments on improving infrastructure. Related: Scott Pruitt thinks global warming could be favorable for humans The final four took a detour into the realm of uncertainties. Talking points five and six read, “Human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue. While there has been extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it.” EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman told HuffPost, “This is not an official memo; this is simply an email among colleagues, based on information developed by someone in our office…implying we are telling people to downplay climate change is a gross over misrepresentation of the facts.” The Washington Post said the email had been written based on scientifically unsound, controversial statements from Pruitt. HuffPost said Pruitt personally oversaw moves to remove climate change from agency websites, and has defended President Donald Trump’s decision to yank America out of the Paris Agreement . The Union of Concerned Scientists ‘ Center for Science and Democracy deputy director Michael Halpern told The Washington Post, “The EPA administrator should not be in the business of telling scientists what they should say publicly about basic scientific information. The implication is that EPA wants a political filter on all scientific information emerging from the government , especially if it has to do with climate change.” Via HuffPost and The Washington Post Images via The White House on Flickr and Depositphotos

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Leaked memo shows that EPA staffers were told to downplay the reliability of climate science

This tiny house on wheels can expand to meet the owner’s needs

March 30, 2018 by  
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Owning a house no longer means you have to stay in place. This tiny house on wheels, built to withstand extreme climates, can both change locations at a moment’s notice and expand in order to adjust to specific user needs. The Tiny House Company’s newest design, named Swallowtail, can be used as a primary home, weekender, studio, extended living space, or anything in between. Post-war homes inspired the tiny house’s design – it features a butterfly roof , timber screen, plywood cladding and corrugated sheeting. The butterfly roof has an integrated box gutter and downpipe for easy connection and rainwater collection , all hidden from view beside a paulownia timber screen. Related: This huge ‘tiny house’ on wheels can fit a family of five! The location of the doors and windows maximizes  cross-ventilation , and the walls and roof are well insulated. Durable and low-maintenance cladding and flashing ensure that the house retains a watertight seal at all times. The minimal floor plan keeps the interior looking uncluttered and clean, accommodating a range of optional extras and different furniture arrangements. Owners can add storage, shelving, optional window/door upgrades and additions, awnings, a planter box, higher-end fixtures, and additional cabinetry. Basic models of the home start at around $62,500. + The Tiny House Company Via Apartment Therapy

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This tiny house on wheels can expand to meet the owner’s needs

MINI just unveiled an amazing all-electric model of their iconic car

March 28, 2018 by  
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MINI just unveiled a blast from the past with a modern twist: the classic MINI Electric. This unique all-electric car signals their commitment to zero emissions technology. In a statement , MINI said, “The spontaneous power of its electric motor provides a new dimension to the unmistakable go-kart feeling that helped propel the British small car in its original form to worldwide popularity.” The one-off classic MINI Electric hearkens back to the brand’s historic car – and it’s drumming up excitement for a fully electric production vehicle set to debut next year. The vehicle is a bright red “carefully restored example of the classic MINI Cooper ,” enhanced with yellow MINI Electric logos and a contrasting white roof. Technical specifications are scant – but the vehicle is equipped with a single electric motor, according to Carscoops . Related: MINI re-envisions the Cooper hatchback as an EV “The classic MINI Electric is the result of an imaginary journey through time, where the story of the classic model is extended by a consecutive chapter,” the company said. “The original from the second half of the 20th century becomes a sympathetic ambassador for environmental awareness and a form of sustainable mobility whose future has just begun.” Electrek pointed out that MINI has unveiled three working electric concepts without bringing one to production and it’s about time they did so — they’ve been laboring on EV MINIs for around 10 years now. They produced around 600 examples of 2008’s MINI E, which helped pave the way for the BMW i3 . The company’s production EV is being developed right now, MINI said, and is “based on the MINI 3 Door.” It will go into production in 2019 at their Oxford plant. The unveiling will coincide with the 60th anniversary of their classic car. + MINI Via Carscoops and Electrek Images via MINI

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MINI just unveiled an amazing all-electric model of their iconic car

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