The electric Vespa scooter of your dreams is coming in 2018

November 8, 2017 by  
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Environmentally-conscious commuters, rejoice ! Vespa’s first electric scooter will hit the market next year, and it will have a range of about 62 miles. The good news was announced at the Milan Motorcycle Show by parent company Piaggio. Though the price of the Vespa Elettrica has not yet been revealed, an eager fan base can’t wait to get their hands on the chic electric two-wheeler. Vespa’s first electric scooter is as high-tech as it gets. A 4.3-inch TFT color display sits between the handlebars, displaying information on speed, range, and charge level. When the scooter is connected to the Vespa Elettrica app, messages and phone calls can also be received. Vespa is currently developing a special helmet that is equipped with a built-in Bluetooth speaker and microphone for just this purpose. The app can also be used on a smart phone to keep track of diagnostic information and locate the vehicle on a map. According to Piaggio, the Elletrica will have “superior performance” to a 50cc scooter – although its range is about three times less than the 174-mile range of the 50cc Vespa Primavera . Piaggio says that the new Vespa Elettrica is “perfect for city environments.” The electric scooter charges in four hours from a normal wall outlet, and Vespa Elettrica owners can expect 10 years (or approximately 50,000 to 70,000 km) of use from the scooter . Piaggio is also developing a hybrid version of the Elettrica that has a gas-powered generator . The Elettrica X will have a range of approximately 124 miles. + Vespa Via The Verge Images via Vespa

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US will temporarily halt use of cyanide bombs to kill Colorado wildlife

November 8, 2017 by  
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The United States government has employed M-44s, or cyanide bombs, to kill animals . But those against the use of cyanide capsules just won a small victory: the United States Agriculture Department’s Wildlife Services will suspend their use in Colorado during an environmental analysis. The Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit in April saying Wildlife Services didn’t fully asses the potential impact of killing bears and cougars on other native wildlife such as the Canada lynx in Colorado, according to Reuters . Federal officials had also intended to shoot up to 75 bears and 45 mountain lions . Related: Congress just voted to allow the slaughter of tens of thousands of wild horses and burros Under a recent stay of the lawsuit, Wildlife Services must finish a new environmental assessment by August 1 of next year. They’ll evaluate the consequences of their predator-control actions, according to Reuters. Under the agreement they will not use or fund the use of M-44s on Colorado public lands. They also won’t hunt or trap mountain lions or black bears to study the impact on ungulate populations. Attorney Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center said in a statement, “This agreement represents a sign of good faith moving forward to do the right thing when it comes to Colorado’s wildlife and ecosystems. It’s a big swing to go from deciding to ignore the best available science to halting potentially harmful wildlife killing while improving the science.” This isn’t the only time cyanide bombs have made headlines this year. An M-44 killed a family dog and sprayed a 14-year-old boy in Idaho earlier this year. The boy’s father, physician Mark Mansfield, reportedly said in a petition to the White House, “The USDA maintains they resolve conflict between wildlife and people ‘in the safest and most humane ways possible,’ but the nature of the cyanide bomb is neither safe nor humane. Cyanide gas has been used throughout history to murder masses of people.” Via the Center for Biological Diversity and Reuters Images via Depositphotos and USFWS Mountain-Prairie on Flickr

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Tiny Montana company signs $300M contract to help restore power in Puerto Rico

October 24, 2017 by  
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The majority of Puerto Rico ‘s 3.4 million residents still lack electricity in the wake of Hurricane Maria . Now, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) is looking to a two-year-old Montana -based company, Whitefish Energy , to help them switch the power back on. But some people are wondering why PREPA would sign the $300 million contract, the largest issued yet, with a company that only had two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria hit the island. Whitefish Energy has been tasked with repairing and reconstructing electrical infrastructure in Puerto Rico. The company said this week they have 280 workers laboring now, and that they’re close to finishing work that will provide power to key industrial facilities that will help get the local economy going again. Related: Germany company steps in to help Puerto Rico with microgrid installations PREPA signed the contract with Whitefish instead of activating mutual aid agreements – which have aided United States utilities in recovering after natural disasters – with other utilities. As Puerto Rico is bankrupt, many people are wondering why they’d hire a company instead of turning to the mutual aid network. Former Energy Department senior official Susan Tierney told The Washington Post, “The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why [the utility] would go to Whitefish. I’m scratching my head wondering how it all adds up.” PREPA executive director Ricardo Ramos told reporters Whitefish was the first firm “available to arrive and they were the ones that first accepted terms and conditions for PREPA.” Whitefish is based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown, but Zinke’s office said he didn’t play a role in the Puerto Rico contract. Whitefish had landed a $1.3 million federal contract just before Hurricane Maria to replace and upgrade parts of an Arizona transmission line 4.8 miles long in 11 months. There are 2,400 miles of transmission lines in Puerto Rico, where an estimated 80 percent of the grid has been harmed. Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló recently said 95 percent of power would be on by Christmas. Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski seems to disagree, saying, “I don’t know where he got that and what information he was using. Without doing a full assessment countrywide, I couldn’t fathom how many months, if it’s going to be two months, three months, five months.” Via The Washington Post Images via Whitefish Energy on Twitter ( 1 , 2 )

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Magnetic particles may be the future of data storage

October 24, 2017 by  
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Recently discovered magnetic behavior may have enormous potential to power the next generation of data storage technology , according to new research reported this week in the journal  Nature Nanotechnology.  The promise of data storage based on “skyrmions,” minuscule disturbances in magnetic orientation, offers a potential path to overcome fundamental limitations in computing technology that otherwise may have heralded the end of Moore’s Law, which holds that computing power doubles in strength roughly every two years. Skyrmions, the phenomenon on which this new data technology would be based, were only discovered in 2016 by a team led by MIT associate professor of materials science and engineering Geoffrey Beach. These magnetic particles occur between two thin metallic films from two different kinds of metal and can be wielded using electric fields, allowing long-term data storage without the need of additional energy. While the locations of these skyrmions were originally random, Beach and collaborators at MIT and in Germany  have since demonstrated an ability to purposefully create and harness these magnetic particles, opening the door to new technological possibilities. Related: Scientists turn eggshells into eco-friendly data-storage devices Because skyrmions are very stable in contrast to traditional magnetic storage devices , data could potentially be stored on a magnetic surface perhaps only a few atoms across. This feature is what allows the theoretical skyrmions-based storage devices overcome the physical limitations of traditional magnetic storage devices and continue the computing power expansion under Moore’s Law. The next step is to figure out an efficient way to read the data that has been written into the skyrmions. One solution is to add an additional layer of a different metal to the skyrmion sandwich and then use differences in the layer’s electrical resistance based on the presence of skyrmions to determine the encoded data. “There’s no question it would work,” said MIT postdoc and study co-author Felix Buettner, but further research and development is needed to determine how best to implement the idea. Via Futurism/MIT News Images via Moritz Eisebitt/MIT News and Depositphotos

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Airbus’ flying electric taxi is on track to soar next year

October 9, 2017 by  
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Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles are really taking off, and Airbus is set to launch a VTOL taxi by next year. The multi-passenger CityAirbus is powered by electric motors – and it’s designed to one day operate autonomously . The CityAirbus could allow commuters to escape traffic by turning to an affordable, environmentally friendly new mode of travel . Airbus announced they just finished their first full-scale testing for the CityAirbus’ propulsion system, describing the testing phase as successful. This means they’re on track for their first flight, scheduled for the end of next year. Related: Airbus and Italdesign unveil modular urban land and air transport system CityAirbus chief engineer Marius Bebesel said in a statement, “We now have a better understanding of the performance of CityAirbus’ innovative electric propulsion system, which we will continue to mature through rigorous testing while beginning the assembly of the full-scale CityAirbus flight demonstrator.” The CityAirbus boasts what Airbus describes as a four-ducted propeller configuration, which boosts safety and helps yield a low acoustic footprint. 100 kilowatt electric Siemens motors and four batteries help the CityAirbus get from point A to point B. As many as four people will be able to ride in a CityAirbus, which will cruise at a speed of 120 kilometers per hour, or around 75 miles per hour, along fixed routes. In the beginning a pilot will fly the VTOL, but Airbus plans for the vehicle to one day pilot itself. Airbus said there are benefits to adding a third dimension of travel to urban transportation , such as opening up accessibility for underserved or remote areas of a city . Self-piloted vehicles in particular can operate around three times faster than a typical road vehicle, and are energy efficient , running off electricity. Airbus said their VTOL method of travel will be quick and affordable. Via Airbus Images via Airbus ( 1 , 2 )

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Ole Scheeren’s modular office building looks like a giant Jenga tower

October 6, 2017 by  
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Architect Ole Scheeren unveiled images of his first project in Europe- a residential tower that will offer panoramic views of Frankfurt’s skyline. The designer will overhaul an entire 1970s office block to create 200 living units on the banks of the River Main. The modular apartments will be inserted into the framework of the building, with some recessed and others cantilevering out into space. The Riverpark Tower will be developed in cooperation with GEG, one of Germany ’s most prestigious real estate investment platforms. It will house 220 units on 23 floors, ranging in size from small apartment to four-room suites. Related: Thailand’s tallest building opens with new green spaces for Bangkok “This project is about the positive reinterpretation of an existing structure,” said the architect. “It’s quite a serious intervention, prompted by necessity not ambition,” he added. Modular , glass-fronted units will be inserted into the existing, free-spanning structural framework. They will cantilever out at some points, introducing an element of irregularity to the silhouette. New loft apartments will occupy the space at the four corners of the building which will be cut away at the top. + Buro Ole Scheeren Via Dezeen

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Tesla nears halfway mark on world’s largest battery installation in South Australia

October 2, 2017 by  
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Tesla just announced that the world’s largest battery installation is about halfway finished. The 100MW/129MWh utility-grade battery bank near the site of the 100MW Hornsdale Wind Farm in South Australia will be the largest system connected to an energy grid. This massive undertaking was inspired by a bet between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who could not believe that Tesla was able to install its grid-tied battery systems as quickly as it claimed. Musk, confident in his company’s work, promised to install the world’s largest battery bank in 100 days or the State of South Australia would receive it for free. The clock is now ticking. After accepting the challenge, Tesla participated in a competitive bidding process to unlock a $115 million renewable energy fund from the State of South Australia , which has suffered disruptive blackouts in recent summer seasons. After estimating that the world’s largest battery bank would cost $32.35 million, excluding labor costs and taxes, Tesla was awarded the contract in partnership with the French company Neoen, which owns the Hornsdale Wind Farm on which the battery bank is being built. Musk made clear that the negotiation phase did not count towards the 100 days deadline. The stakes are high; if Tesla fails to complete its task within 100 days, it could suffer a loss of $50 million or more. Related: Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico Last Friday, Tesla officially announced the start of its 100-day challenge, though it would seem that the company gave itself a bit of a head start. The battery bank, which is being built at the Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada , is nearly halfway complete as is the installation of batteries into the bank. “To have that [construction] done in two months … you can’t remodel your kitchen in that period of time,” said Musk at a kickoff event, seeming to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation. If any company is up to this kind of challenge, one based on a bet between billionaires, it’s Tesla. Via Ars Technica Images via Tesla

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New Passenger Drone can fly you to work hands-free with zero-emissions

September 28, 2017 by  
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Get ready to commute in style. For the past three years, Passenger Drone has been developing a zero-emissions , easy-to-use passenger drone that has the potential to eliminate stressful commutes. With 16 electric engines, the drone can travel up to 80 km/h while barely making a noise. Not only will the Passenger Drone limit air and noise pollution , it could reduce stress levels and improve the general health of commuters around the world. Daily commutes to the office can be quite burdensome to the average worker. In the United States, the average travel time to work is 25.4 minutes. Most of that time is spent sitting in traffic or in public transportation — environments that can produce stress even before the workday has begun. Passenger Drone seeks to improve the overall health of the populace and reduce pollution by improving daily commutes. The newly-unveiled electric aircraft is slightly larger than a car and allows commuters to select their destination, then sit back and relax. The quick-flying drone can travel up to 80km/h, and it features a lightweight body made of carbon fiber composites. The Passenger Drone’s 16 electric engines offer some distinct advantages – according to the company, the “engine system sheds the complexity of most quad-copters providing enhanced safety, performance, greater payload and range, and less noise than anything else available on the marketplace.” Related: Drones are planting an entire forest from the sky Passenger Drone envisions the aircraft becoming the “go-to” form of daily transportation for hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of commuters in the future. Said the company, “Air travel has historically been seen as an expensive proposition, due in great part to the small volume of production seen in today’s aerospace industry. Mass production of the Passenger Drone could potentially revolutionize traditional notions of transport .” + Passenger Drone Images via Passenger Drone

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Tesla patent reveals plans for a new battery-swapping machine

September 20, 2017 by  
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In the not-so-far future when  electric vehicles (EV) rule the road, don’t expect to sit around in line waiting for your battery to charge. That’s because electric automaker Tesla recently filed a patent for a mobile battery swapping technology that could replace a depleted battery in under 15 minutes. In 2013, the company toyed with the idea of building stationary rigs that can replace a car’s battery pack. However, that idea never took off. Now, the EV maker is improving on the concept and has filed a patent application for a more compact, mobile version that would be placed in strategic locations where Superchargers aren’t always available. As Elektrek reports, Tesla’s original system was designed to be autonomous, while the newer one can be operated by technicians. Additionally, the original battery swap service claimed a 90-second swap, whereas the new one says “less than fifteen minutes” is more plausible. Says the patent application, “In some implementations, the battery swap system is configured for use by one or more technicians, who will monitor certain aspects of the system’s operation and make necessary inputs when appropriate. For example, the battery -swapping system can be installed at a remote location (e.g., along a highway between two cities) and one or more technicians can be stationed at the location for operating the system. This can reduce or eliminate the need for the system to have vision components, which may otherwise be needed to align the battery pack or other components. Using techniques described herein it may be possible to exchange the battery pack of a vehicle in less than fifteen minutes.” As can be seen from the application figures, the patent application references swapping Model S and Model X battery packs. Both vehicles’ battery packs have been designed to be easily swappable. Model 3’s battery pack is not, on the other hand. Because the company aims to expedite the process in 15 minutes or less, it is unlikely the system will apply to more complicated swaps. Related: Tesla to TRIPLE number of Superchargers by end of 2018 When Tesla CEO Elon Musk last mentioned the battery swap system, he said it would likely be developed to support commercial fleets — if pursued at all. Now that plans for Tesla’ all- electric Semi-Truck have been shared, Musk’s vision is coming into focus. + Tesla Via Elektrek Images via Tesla , Pixabay

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Schwarzenegger-backed startup takes on Tesla with new battery tech

September 20, 2017 by  
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Tesla may be the best-known electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer, but its grip on the industry isn’t certain. The Elon Musk-founded company has plenty of competition, including the Austrian startup Kreisel Electric GmbH – backed by former California governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar and his nephew. Having experienced sweeping success in the past two years, Kreisel is moving into a $12 million research center and battery assembly facility where it will test new battery technology. Since 2014, Kreisel Electric GmbH has been operating out of a three-door garage. Now the startup is moving into a $12 million facility where its technology to improve upon its promising technology. “In the past two years, battery development has really taken off, and it’s now becoming incredibly dynamic. We have a different way of going about developing the technology, and we don’t carry any baggage,” said co-founder Markus Kreisel. Now that licensing deals have been signed, the startup’s battery technology will enter production lines with carmakers in 2020. The Austrian company has experienced rapid growth primarily because it promises to squeeze an extra 65 percent from standard lithium-ion batteries using its own patented laser-welding and thermal-cooling techniques, according to Bloomberg. Kreisel has received backing from not one, but two Schwarzeneggers. Patrick Knapp Schwarzenegger, Arnold’s nephew, led an investment round in the start-up, and Arnold hired the brothers to add an electric drivetrain to his Mercedes G-Class off-roader, according to Bloomberg . Though changes are afoot, the startup still faces challenges. So far they have only secured charging infrastructure cooperation with Porsche Holding Salzburg and VLD Groep in the Netherlands, for whom they need to deliver 2,000 electric powertrains and battery packs. The brothers must proceed carefully, though, as 95 percent of technology companies working in the electric and autonomous car spectrum will likely fail, according to BMW’s development head Klaus Froehlich. Related:  Ukraine’s leafy green ‘Tunnel of Love’ is a passageway for trains and lovers One of Kreisel’s tactics to “survive” the competition is to focus on the development of technology and leave mass production to Tesla’s challengers. Markus Kreisel said, “Our goal isn’t to get into large-scale production of batteries but to help carmakers with the development of the technology.” +  Kreisel Electric GmbH Via Bloomberg Images via  Kreisel Electric GmbH

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