Commercial trucking’s future is in the details

September 8, 2020 by  
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Commercial trucking’s future is in the details Rick Mihelic Tue, 09/08/2020 – 01:45 One downside of a career as an engineer is that you are trained to notice detail. Robert Downey Jr., playing Sherlock Holmes in the 2011 movie “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows,” is asked what he sees. His answer: “Everything. That is my curse.” It can make you the invaluable go-to person for information and analyses, and it also can make you the brunt of sarcasm and stereotyping. You are what you are. I had my son snap this photo as we were driving. I thought this one image captured a great deal of salient points I’ve learned after several years of researching medium- and heavy-duty alternatives such as battery electric, fuel cell electric and a variety of hybrid systems for the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). Let’s start with the obvious first: Feeding North America requires trucks and truck drivers. Trucks require energy. This energy has to be replenished regularly. COVID-19’s impact on the North American supply chain, hopefully, has heightened everyone’s appreciation that while food does grow on trees, a truck and driver probably has to get it to you. Over 70 percent of all freight moved in the United States is on trucks. If the trucks don’t move, you do not get food, toilet paper or masks. Those trucks are driven by people. They are taking risks now, and always have, to get you products you need to survive. The trucks need energy, whether diesel, gasoline, natural gas, electricity, hydrogen, propane, etc. That has to come from somewhere on a reliable and consistent basis or you do not get fed. Diving deeper into the photo: Fleets are commercial businesses that exist to deliver product to you. “Free delivery.” It’s a great advertising tag line, but there are no free rides; someone always pays somewhere. Buried in the cost of products are the costs of getting the product from its point of origin to you, the consumer. You may never see it, but fundamentally at some level you understand that the primary purpose of businesses is to be profitable. Embedded in the price you pay for goods are things such as vehicle maintenance, insurance, driver labor, warehouse labor, packaging labor, fuel energy, transport tolls, packaging disposal and, of course, profit margin. Profit is the whole reason a business exists in the first place. Companies that do not make a profit eventually collapse. Little of this detail is visible to you as a consumer. You generally have just a price and applicable taxes on your receipt. Occasionally “shipping and handling” are itemized, but this is probably only the last leg of the delivery. The “supply chain” is all of that infrastructure that gets the product to your door. Many corporations exist to make money from finding and delivering energy to transportation. There is a phenomenal amount of money invested, profits made and infrastructure tied to transportation related energy. They know change is coming. Energy providers such as Shell want to be around for a long time, so they are diversifying into a number of possible energy streams. Vehicle and component manufacturers are similarly diversifying with examples such as Cummins trying to cover most of the alternative technologies in their product portfolio. Utilities such as Duke Energy are getting engaged as well, forecasting major growth in demand for electricity, whether that’s for charging battery electric vehicles or for producing fuels such as hydrogen for fuel cell electric vehicles. Fleet operators such as UPS are experimenting with many alternatives trying to get experience to aid in planning investments. Venture capitalists also are everywhere seeking the next great investment. NACFE presented in its ” Viable Class 7/8 Alternative Vehicles Guidance Report ” the “messy middle” future, where a wide range of powertrains and energy forms are competing for market share. The future is not known yet. This diversity of choices is powering investment in all the alternatives as companies try to position themselves for this future. Prudent regulators are attempting to be technology-neutral while incentivizing significant improvement in market adoption, performance, affordability, emissions and durability. Fifteen states have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop action plans to ensure 100 percent of all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales are zero-emission by 2050 with an interim target of 30 percent zero-emission sales by 2030. California already has enacted regulations requiring all trucks and vans sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2045. The near future may be the “messy middle,” but the longer view is heading toward zero-emission technologies. The gas station/truck stop paradigm is not necessarily the future. It’s an easy trap to fall into that we predict the future based on past experience. Psychologists label this sometimes as a familiarity bias. The gas station/truck stop paradigm we have evolved into may not reflect the future of transportation. Think of past examples. When the Eisenhower administration rolled out the national highway system in the 1950s, fuel stations and towns on venerable Route 66 suddenly found that they had been bypassed by the new multi-lane freeways. Higher speeds enabled by the freeways enabled fuel stations to be farther apart and co-located at key exits. The transition from coal steam trains to diesel electric ones in the 1940s and 1950s saw many fundamental shifts in infrastructure, with trains no longer needing water and coal refill stops. The development of jet commercial aviation in the 1960s largely eliminated the passenger rail system in the U.S. The advent of portable cellular phones has eliminated the ubiquitous phone booth system and all its infrastructure. Today, transportation is seeing daily innovations in alternative energy powertrains in parallel with major innovations in automation. The future is not known, but I bet the traditional gas station/truck stop will not look or operate like the ones of today. Even simplistically, a fully autonomous truck will not need to stop for food, snacks or a bathroom break. It won’t need to be located near convenient shopping or restaurants. As the alternative powertrains mature and become more capable, ranges will improve dramatically. When EVs come into existence that are capable of traveling 500 to 600 miles, energy stations planned around vehicles with a 100- to 200-mile range may be as endangered in the future as were the Route 66 gas stations in the past. Concepts in Europe to electrify highways with either in-pavement wireless or overhead catenary charging might eliminate fuel stations entirely. Some regions with growing numbers of EV cars have found that they primarily charge at home, and they rarely see a commercial charging station. Other regions see heavy use of commercial charging stations, but they may be tied to locations such as shopping centers or grocery store parking lots. In predicting the future, I like to refer to the cautionary note required on nearly all investment advertising, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Predictions are easy. Really knowing the future is easier once you get there. Topics Transportation & Mobility Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Connor Mihelic Close Authorship

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Commercial trucking’s future is in the details

How solar-charged HVAC keeps trucking cool

August 11, 2020 by  
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How solar-charged HVAC keeps trucking cool Mike Roeth Tue, 08/11/2020 – 00:01 When most businesspeople travel for their jobs, they retire to their hotel room at the end of the day. However, when long-haul truck drivers are finished with their work, they move to the back of their truck cab into what is called the sleeper compartment. Long-haul, over-the-road truck drivers typically are out on the road anywhere from one to three weeks at a time, delivering the goods we need for our daily lives. Most drivers spend their off-duty time in the sleeper compartments of their trucks, sometimes keeping the truck idling to get power and to cool or heat their space. This idling creates a significant amount of increased emissions, noise and wear on the main engine. To reduce fuel consumption — which by extension decreases emissions — trucking fleets are using auxiliary electric battery HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) units in combination with solar panels installed on truck roofs. Idling to keep cool Providing an acceptable environment to rest and work is critical. Most important, drivers need access to heating and cooling for their comfort and health. In addition, there is the need for electric power for entertainment, completion of necessary work-related paperwork, cooking, etc. While all these so called “hotel” loads consume energy, the biggest energy draw has been the vehicle’s air conditioning system. Historically, drivers’ power needs were supplied by idling their vehicles’ 400 plus horsepower engine. It was common for trucks to have 50 percent idle time during the summer, meaning if they drove for 11 hours, the truck would idle for 11 hours while the driver was not driving. That amounts to over 2,000 hours per year of non-driving idling, which is costly and loud and generates emissions, and which can nearly completely be removed. Reducing idling time The trucking industry has made amazing progress in lowering emissions from these hoteling loads and today long-haul trucks typically have a small unit known as a battery HVAC or electric auxiliary power unit (APU) installed either at the factory when the truck is produced or added later once the fleet takes ownership of the vehicle. These battery-powered units have allowed fleets to significantly reduce their idle time. However, as the effects of climate change have caused higher temperatures, the battery HVAC systems are not powerful enough for long amounts of time. These systems have enough power to make it through a driver’s mandated 30-minute rest break after up to 11 hours of driving. However, they often can’t make it through the 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time mandated after 11 hours of driving. Battery-powered units have allowed fleets to significantly reduce idle time. But as the effects of climate change cause higher temperatures, the battery HVAC systems are not powerful enough for long amounts of time. Even more, the systems usually can’t make it through the 34-hour reset mandated in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations Hours of Service regulations for commercial vehicle drivers after a number of consecutive driving days. The battery HVAC system gets charged while the vehicle is moving down the road. In some cases, fleet terminals or truck stops have shorepower plugs that allow the truck’s HVAC system to run off electricity. But not enough of these options are available, so drivers can’t always rely on their battery HVAC systems to keep them cool. The addition of solar panels to these trucks helps keep the HVAC batteries charged without producing any greenhouse gas emissions in the process. Let’s have a quick look at the savings such a system delivers. For a single week of resting in the sleeper during the summertime, a heavy-duty truck idling 50 percent of the time would burn about 19 gallons of diesel, producing 420 pounds of carbon dioxide. Compare this to burning around two gallons of diesel using a battery HVAC system augmented with solar panels. About 1 million such tractor-trailers are in North America, and given that only 10 percent of current sleepers use these systems today, the industry could save 1.7 million gallons of diesel fuel and reduce CO2 emissions by 19,000 tons each summer week. (See below for a real-life example with a driver using this system.) Multiple benefits of solar-powered HVAC systems While in theory the benefits of using solar panels to power battery HVAC systems sound ideal, having firsthand feedback from a fleet that has deployed this technology provides deeper insights into the real-world performance. Clark Reed, a driver with Nussbaum Transportation, is one of the most energy-efficient drivers on the road today and also participated in NACFE’s Run on Less 2017 fuel efficiency demonstration. During a three-week period in 2017, seven drivers operating trucks specified with commercially available technology demonstrated that 10.1 miles per gallon (mpg) was possible hauling real freight in real world applications. The national average at the time of the run was 6.4 mpg. Using a solar-powered HVAC system, Reed said he was able to get through his 10-hour breaks with zero idling and the 34-hour reset break with little to no idling depending on weather conditions and the amount of hotel load he required. “My idle time is right at 1 percent now, and I am out for weeks at a time, which requires multiple resets [34-hour breaks from driving] on the road,” he said. Reed also said the system allows him to stay comfortable while his truck is being loaded or unloaded at customer locations where idling is not allowed. In addition to the cooling benefits, Reed found some additional value from the system. “The system is quiet,” he said. “There is no motor droning on or turning on and off in the middle of the night [as happens in other idle reduction solutions]. It helps me get better sleep, not just because of the comfort, but also because of its almost silent operation.” There are also benefits for those around Reed. “The unit does not blow smoke and fumes into the truck parked next to me,” he noted. “The air conditioning system is completely clean running, with the only exhaust being from the heater when it is needed.” A cleaner future for trucks  Solar panels on trucks with battery HVAC systems keep drivers cool and help them manage their hotel loads with less fuel use and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Infrastructure development could increase adoption of solar powered truck HVACs, if there were more plugs at places where drivers stop. Given that the electric grid is becoming cleaner because of the increased use of wind and solar, these systems can become even cleaner in the future. Existing and emerging technologies are making trucking fleets more efficient and cleaner than ever, while the trucking industry keeps supplying us with the essential goods we need every day. Pull Quote Battery-powered units have allowed fleets to significantly reduce idle time. But as the effects of climate change cause higher temperatures, the battery HVAC systems are not powerful enough for long amounts of time. Topics Transportation & Mobility Trucking Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Volvo SuperTruck includes an array of solar panels built into the roof of the trailer. Courtesy of Volvo Close Authorship

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California’s new truck rule: It’s big, it’s bold, it’s controversial

July 1, 2020 by  
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California’s new truck rule: It’s big, it’s bold, it’s controversial Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 07/01/2020 – 00:30  California’s epic clean truck rule has arrived. It’s big. It’s bold. It’s controversial.  After months of discussion, last week the California Air Resources Board (CARB) unanimously approved the Advanced Clean Truck rule, which says that more than half of the trucks sold in California have to be zero-emission by 2035. By 2045, all new commercial trucks sold in California must be zero-emission.  The truck rule follows another California law ( passed in 2018 ) that says all new public transit buses sold must be zero-emission starting in 2029. The combination of these policies makes California one of the most aggressive regions in the world pushing electric trucks and buses.  Environmentalists hailed the decision , calling it a win that will help clean up the air for disadvantaged communities that live in areas with a large amount of trucks. For example, in the Inland Empire in Southern California, where there’s an Amazon distribution hub, growth in e-commerce has led to tens of thousands of trucks per day on the roads. CARB estimates that 2 million diesel trucks cause 70 percent of the smog-causing pollution in the state. Transportation emissions represent 40 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, and without taking aggressive steps the state will not be able to meet its climate goals.  The rule also could help kick-start an electric truck market, which has been slow to emerge.   The rule also could help kick-start an electric truck market, which has been slow to emerge. Adoption has been delayed partly because of costly and short-range batteries, and hesitancy from many traditional commercial automakers. But in the past year, truck makers such as Daimler and Volvo Trucks have started to take electric trucks much more seriously.  Nonprofit CALSTART predicts that 169 medium and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicle models   will be available by the end of 2020, growing 78 percent from the end of 2019. All-electric truck companies such as BYD, Rivian and Tesla are set to capitalize on the trend.    So who’s not so enamored with the rule? Some traditional truck and auto parts makers:  The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association  has been pushing against more stringent regulations in the face of COVID-19, citing concerns over added costs.  Some oil industry and low-carbon fuel companies:  The Western States Petroleum Association, an oil industry lobbying group, has opposed the rule , saying it would eliminate promising efficiency and low-carbon fuel technologies.  Smaller truck fleet operators: Many are worried about the higher upfront costs to buy zero-emission trucks and new fueling infrastructure. It’ll be a challenge no doubt. And potentially might be challenged itself.  But I’ll leave you with a quote from CARB’s Mary Nichols  about the rule (from The New York Times). This might be Nichols’ last major regulation before she retires later this year:  This is exactly the right time for this rule. … We certainly know that the economy is in a rough shape right now, and there aren’t a lot of new vehicles of any kind. But when they are able to buy vehicles again, we think it’s important that they be investing in the cleanest kinds of vehicles. This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe  here . Pull Quote The rule also could help kick-start an electric truck market, which has been slow to emerge. Topics Transportation & Mobility Clean Fleets Zero Emissions Featured Column Driving Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Trucks – CC license by Flickr user Andrew Atzert

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These new electric trucks from Volvo could soon be collecting your garbage

May 17, 2018 by  
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Swedish multinational manufacturing company Volvo has revealed its two new electric truck models, designed with tasks such as delivery and refuse collection in mind. These electric trucks could replace those currently on the road for these services, vehicles that are a major source of diesel emissions in urban areas worldwide. “This opens the door to new forms of cooperation with cities that target to improve air quality, reduce traffic noise, and cut congestion during peak hours since commercial operations can instead be carried out quietly and without tale-pipe exhaust emissions early in the morning or late at night,” Volvo Trucks President Claes Nilsson said in a statement . Volvo’s new electric trucks seem well suited to European cities, many of which are moving towards reducing or even eliminating the use of internal combustion vehicles in the coming years. The newly revealed models also recognize the rising consumer demand for cleaner air, thus cleaner vehicles. “We believe that the technology today is mature when it comes to performance, range and weight in these type of applications in city use,” said Nilsson. Volvo plans to continue to develop new models of electric trucks going forward. Related: Volvo will only sell electric cars starting in 2019 One of the trucks, the Volvo FL Electric, is smaller than other models so as to better serve the needs of dense urban areas. “Today, each of our 300 conventional refuse vehicles emits approximately 31,300 kg carbon dioxide every year,”  Rüdiger Siechau, CEO of Stadtreinigung Hamburg,  said in a statement. “An electrically powered refuse truck with battery that stands a full shift of eight to ten hours is a breakthrough in technology.” Because of its electric engine, the Volvo FL Electric is able to deliver cargo inside a building without producing health-harming emissions. The silent engine also opens up new possibilities for serving cities. Volvo’s electric trucks follow its previous production of more than four thousand electric buses and their ongoing reconfiguration of its battery supply chain, which would ensure a more positive environmental impact. Via CleanTechnica Images via Volvo Trucks

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These new electric trucks from Volvo could soon be collecting your garbage

Tesla’s all-electric semi truck has a bold new competitor

December 14, 2017 by  
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Just one month ago, Elon Musk made headlines with the debut of his revolutionary Tesla Semi Truck . The super-sized electric marvel is able to get 500 miles on a charge, reach 60 mph in five seconds without a trailer (or 20 seconds with one), and boasts regenerative braking able to recover 98 percent of kinetic energy to the battery. Impressive? Yes. But there’s another kid in town with designs to beat Musk to the market with an electric rig of his own. Dakota Semler, the 25-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Thor Trucks , has developed with his team an all-electric semi that’s been dubbed the ET-One. The ET-One is the first product from the company and Semler hopes it will be the flagship model in a robust, customizable line that will also eventually include delivery vans and work vehicles. The goal, Semler relayed to Bloomberg, is to “work on a one-off basis, customizing clients’ fleets per their specifications.” Related: Revolutionary Tesla Semi Truck arrives with a whopping 500-mile driving range Like Musk’s model, the ET-One boasts a sleek, futuristic aesthetic, an all-electric motor that ditches dirty diesel in whole, and the ability to haul up to 80,000 pounds of cargo—something currently only the industry’s highest class of trucks can tow. The Thor version also uses a 22-inch touchscreen on its dashboard which communicates with the vehicle’s electric motor and battery packs, which can carry the truck 300 miles on a charge. Thor is hoping to bring the ET-One to market in 2019 at an estimated starting price of $150,000; the Tesla Semi is expected to sell for $150,000 with a 300-mile range, and $180,000 with 500 miles of range. The prices are more than that of comparable gas semis which range from $100,000 to $125,000, but wholly competitive over the long term when factoring in the cost of fuel over the life of the truck as well as maintenance.  Electric engines require far less regular maintenance than their diesel counterparts. While Thor has a ways to go before it scales—its team is just 17 employees—it is diligently making plans to make the ET-One more widely available for demos in 2018, and hunting down the capital needed to grow (currently, the project is funded by founder Semler who also has Malibu Wine Safaris and multiple real estate companies in his portfolio). With that said, the inevitability of stricter emission rules in the coming years will surely give Thor the boost it needs. Via Bloomberg Images via Thor Trucks

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Denmark just opened the "worlds most humane" maximum security prison

December 14, 2017 by  
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The Danish island of Falster is now home to the world’s most humane maximum security penal institution, Storstrøm Prison. Designed by Danish architects C.F. Møller , the building has been hailed for its strategic features that create a vibrant community for the inmates, in lieu of the severe living conditions typically found in prisons around the world. Storstrøm, which can hold up to 250 people, is designed to be a mini-community where inmates can spend their time in an environment that is as “normal” as possible. Working with the Danish Prison Service, the architects created a vibrant community where the inmates would be reminded of a life they once left behind, therefore encouraging an eagerness to leave the system and return to society. Related: C.F. Møller is building a garden-filled vertical village in Antwerp The prison layout spans the size of 18 football fields and is centered around social activities. There are ample options for the inmates to spend their time exercising, studying, creating art , or praying in the onsite church. Additionally, inmates buy their own food at the grocery store. “We have concentrated all buildings around a center for joint activities. Here we have a square with, for example, an activity house, a grocery store, a school, a church and a devotional room. We have also made an effort to promote communication between inmates and staff,” architect Mads Mandrup of C.F. Møller told the Danish newspaper Berlingske. The cell conditions are also designed to provide a bearable lifestyle while incarcerated. The cells are 13 square meters and come equipped with a refrigerator, closet, and a 22-inch television. The cell’s floor-to-ceiling windows flood the interior with natural light , but are angled in a way to protect privacy. Although being hailed as a strategic design to help prisoners adjust to prison life, the various amenities have caused some to criticize the design as being too lofty for lawbreakers. However, officials claim that despite the decent living conditions on the inside, the prison is still a high-security fortress with a six-meter high wall and tension steel wires around the perimeter of the complex. + C.F. Møller Photography by Torben Eskerod via C.F. Møller

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Trump orders review of Obama-era fuel economy standards

March 16, 2017 by  
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In another move aimed at dismantling former President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, President Donald Trump on Wednesday told car executives and auto workers gathered near Detroit that he would order a review of the fuel economy standards for cars and trucks that were put in place by the Obama Administration in 2012. The rules would have raised average fleetwide fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 — well above the current 35.5 mpg requirement that has been credited with decreasing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that climate scientists say are the primary drivers of global warming. Trump spoke at a former WWII bomber factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan that is being repurposed to test autonomous vehicles. The president said that he would “ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs, your factories,” adding that the White House is “setting up a task force in every federal agency to identify and remove any regulation that undermines American auto production.” Related: US vehicle emissions hit record low as fuel economy climbs to record high While Trump talked of ending the “assault” on the US auto industry, it is unclear exactly what he is referring to. Despite carmakers complaining about the EPA’s fuel economy standards, a recent report from the regulatory agency found that Detroit was actually outperforming the GHG emission standards while at the same time selling a record number of new cars and trucks. Last year automakers sold a record 17.55 million vehicles  in the US — the seventh straight year of rising sales. Also, Trump didn’t mention that Obama has been credited with helping to save the domestic auto industry. A bipartisan congressional oversight panel concluded that the government intervention resulted in the industry becoming more efficient, allowing automakers “to become more flexible and better able to meet changing consumer demands, while still remaining profitable.” Via The Christian Science Monitor Image 1 , 2 via Wikimedia

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Six semi-autonomous trucks just drove 1,300 miles across Europe

April 8, 2016 by  
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Six semi-autonomous trucks drove together in a convoy for 1,300 miles across Europe, proving that a platoon is more efficient than a single soldier. In an experiment called the EU Truck Platooning Challenge , trucks representing six brands from five countries were linked together using WiFi to share information about their shared route and road conditions, enabling the trucks to travel in tight formation, taking advantage of their numbers to reduce wind resistance, cut fuel consumption, and even avoid traffic jams. Read the rest of Six semi-autonomous trucks just drove 1,300 miles across Europe

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New labels would show how long it takes to walk off your favorite food

April 8, 2016 by  
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What if instead of counting calories , you could see how many minutes of running or walking it would take to work off your favorite junk food ? Would you think twice about scarfing down a burger? That’s the idea presented by the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) , which suggests “ activity equivalent labeling ” might be a powerful tool to fight obesity . Read the rest of New labels would show how long it takes to walk off your favorite food

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UK’s first solar-powered glazed bus shelter generates enough electricity to power a London home

April 8, 2016 by  
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