Category Archives: Vehicle
The quest to find an alternative to heavy rare-earth elements in magnet manufacturing came after a 2010 dispute, during which China temporarily banned exports of rare-earth minerals. Even before that, however, Honda had been working to reduce the use of the materials in its manufacturing, as China began cutting back export quotas starting in 2006.
The motor is not completely without rare-earth elements. It still uses the light rare-earth element neodymium. But neodymium can be sourced from countries other than just China.
Carmakers use neodymium magnets because they have the highest magnetic force of any magnet. Demand for these magnets is expected to soar in coming years as more consumers buy all-electric and hybrid vehicles.
Magnet manufacturers usually add heavy rare-earth metals such as dysprosium or terbium in order for the magnet to have the high heat-resistance properties needed to operate in a car motor. But the reliance on these elements adds price volatility and supply chain uncertainty, especially when they can only be sourced from one location.
Research firm Technavio estimates that the rare-earth metals market will grow at 14 percent annually and will be worth more than $9 billion by 2019. There are 17 elements considered to fall into the rare-earth category. The growth in the global market is largely fueled by the need for magnets for hybrid vehicles and electronics manufacturing.
Japanese companies such as Toyota, Toshiba, Sony and Honda have all been looking to source rare-earth metals outside of China or reduce their reliance on them all together. Even as mineral exploration expands globally, China will remain the dominant producer and consumer of rare-earth metals in the near future, according to Technavio.
To overcome the barrier of relying on these elements, Honda teamed up with Daido Steel, a company with a unique approach to making neodymium magnets. It uses a process called “hot deformation,” which creates nanometer-scale crystals. The nanometer crystal structure is much smaller than the crystal structure formed through the more common method of manufacturing, according to Honda. The nanostructure allows for magnets to achieve higher heat resistance without requiring heavy rare-earth metals.
Honda worked with Daido to reshape the magnet to better suit it for applications in a motor, while also redesigning the motor to accommodate the new magnet.
Honda wants two-thirds of its cars to be hybrids, all-electric or fuel-cell vehicles by 2030, according to Reuters. Japan is one of the top countries for electric-vehicle sales and boasts more charging stations than gas stations.
The new motor will hit the market this fall in Honda’s Freed hybrid minivan, which is sold in Japan and other Asian markets.
Any curbs would be aimed at weeding out the weak, said a senior executive with the state-backed auto manufacturers’ association, and they may push as many as 90 percent of EV startups toward extinction, a government-linked newspaper said. So far, only two ventures have obtained approval to build cars, based on a review of National Development and Reform Commission documents. Three others say they plan to apply for permits.
Vox: California Is About to Find Out What a Truly Radical Climate Policy Looks Like
Within the United States, California is No. 1 (by far) in solar power and No. 3 in wind power. It boasts the third-lowest carbon dioxide emissions per capita behind New York and Vermont. Since 2000, the state has managed to shrink its overall carbon footprint slightly even as its population grew and economy boomed.
But now California is taking on a far, far more audacious task: trying to prove to the world that it’s possible — desirable, even — to pursue the really drastic emission cuts needed to stave off severe global warming
The state is already on track to nudge its greenhouse-gas emissions back down to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Then last week, after much fierce debate, the California Assembly and Senate passed a new bill, known as SB 32, that would go much further, mandating an additional 40 percent cut in emissions by 2030
Electrek: Tesla Will Soon Introduce New Autopilot Safety Functions
After the recent and widely covered series of Tesla accidents while on Autopilot, Tesla CEO Elon Musk talked about focusing on better educating Tesla owners on how to use Autopilot features. Last month, he mentioned an upcoming blog post to highlight “how Autopilot works as a safety system and what drivers are expected to do after they activate it.”
We have yet to see that blog post, but now Electrek has learned that Tesla will introduce new Autopilot safety restrictions in order to reduce the risk of similar accidents happening again. Tesla owners are often wary of new Autopilot restrictions. They feel like Tesla is rolling back features that they have paid for, but they shouldn’t worry about the new restrictions, since they will not really affect owners using the system properly.
Nature World News: Scientists Create ‘4-D Printing’ Useful for Solar Energy and Aerospace
Objects created through the 3-D printing process may be extremely versatile. However, once the printing is done, the objects are limited to one form. The new advancement in 3-D printing discovered by scientists hopes to change this. Through 4-D printing, objects can change shape once subject to electricity, light or heat.
The new process called 4-D printing would greatly help in a number of scientific fields, including aerospace and solar energy. Changes in the shape of the objects printed through 4D printing are made possible through “shape-memory polymers.” These polymers have the ability to “remember their original shape even after the shape has been radically distorted.”
Science: Just 90 Companies Are to Blame for Most Climate Change, Says This ‘Carbon Accountant’
Richard Heede has compiled a massive database quantifying who has been responsible for taking carbon out of the ground and putting it into the atmosphere. Working alone, with uncertain funding, he spent years piecing together the annual production of every major fossil fuel company since the Industrial Revolution and converting it to carbon emissions.
The world’s largest automaker has so far sold about 270 hydrogen fuel cell cars in the state, where it delivered nearly 400,000 gas-powered vehicles last year, according to an Edmunds.com analysis of IHS Markit data. Toyota does not currently sell an electric vehicle.
And yet the automaker will have no trouble meeting California’s zero-emission vehicle mandates — because it can satisfy those obligations with state-awarded environmental credits instead of current zero-emission vehicle sales.
ETEnergyworld: Government Revokes India’s Coal Target
The government’s plan to push Coal India Ltd. to produce 1 billion tons of coal by 2020 has taken a back seat as officials now think the Indian economy is not yet equipped to consume the quantity — and huge unsold stocks are testimony to it. Now the company has been asked to produce to match demand.
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This is likely to mean that Coal India will have to be content with producing less than the initial targets set for each year, leading to less than 1 billion tons of production by 2020. “Coal India has now been asked to produce as much as the market can consume. It has also been asked to devise ways so that more coal is sold, including import substitution, as well as to devise new types of e-auctions that can lead to more coal sales,” a coal sector official said.
Toronto Star: Toronto Electric-Car Owner Stuck Trying to Charge on Street
The province is offering citizens big rebates to upgrade to an electric car — but for the thousands of people in Toronto without a garage, it’s not money that’s stopping them from reducing carbon emissions — it’s parking.
After buying a shiny new Chevy Volt in April 2016, Todd Anderson was ready to start saving on gas and the environment with the help of a $12,500 provincial rebate.
But without a garage or driveway, Anderson says he’s stuck trying to charge his car on the street, and city bylaws and red tape don’t make it easy.
Reuters: In China’s Electric-Car Boom, Global Automakers Select a Different Gear
As China’s electrified vehicle production booms, some international industry officials warn in private that the ambitious electric goals of domestic firms could prove too costly, too risky, too far from what consumers actually want — and not a good fit with their operations elsewhere. Still, China doled out $4.5 billion last year alone in green-car subsidies.
“In 2020, most cars we will sell will be combustion engines, so to fulfill [fuel consumption targets] you have to improve the consumption of each and every car of the Audi model range,” Audi China chief Joachim Wedler said at the opening of the new plant. Wedler didn’t comment on Chinese peers’ electric-car plans.
Automakers globally have struggled to agree on what a greener future will hold for the industry. In China, Beijing and state-linked automakers have thrown their weight behind electric vehicles — despite the fact that the electricity they need may be generated from burning coal.
Vox: What the Media Misses in Doomsday Stories About the West
For a journalist, few things make better headlines than a good resource crisis. Which is why reporters writing about water issues in the American West are often attracted to the prospect of apocalypse — the notion that the region is going to run out of water someday.
As the world awaits Elon Musk’s master plan for Tesla, we provide a glimpse into America’s master plan for transportation on this week’s podcast.
Reuben Sarkar, the deputy assistant secretary for transportation at the Department of Energy, joins us to talk electric cars, natural gas cars, autonomous cars, car efficiency and how the public sector can make automotive innovation easier in the private sector. We ask him: How optimistic should we really be about what all the changes underway in the sector?
In the second half of the show, we’ll discuss the end of nuclear power in California. We’ll also ask about Sungevity’s novel approach to going public — a worrying sign, or a clever way to raise money?
In December 2014, energy giant NextEra Energy offered to acquire Hawaiian Electric Industries in a transaction valued at $4.3 billion, which includes the assumption of $1.7 billion in HEI debt. HEI shareholders would receive a premium of approximately 21 percent on the share price. Citigroup Global Markets was the financial advisor to NextEra Energy. J.P. Morgan Securities advised HEI.
NextEra owns and operates a sizable share of U.S. wind and utility-solar capacity and a number of nuclear reactors. As Hawaii’s utility, HEI supplies power to almost half a million customers on Hawaii, Oahu and Maui. Hawaii has the nation’s highest electricity prices, and roughly 75 percent of the island’s electrical power comes from imported oil. The entire island chain of Hawaii has just 2,400 megawatts of generating capacity.
On the day of the proposal, NextEra CEO James Robo said that NextEra would “find Hawaiian solutions to Hawaiian problems.”
As electric vehicles proliferate, so too will used EV batteries. Car companies and researchers are hustling to figure out how to safely adapt and reuse those depleted batteries when that time comes.
The basic pitch is simple enough: cars demand very high performance from their batteries, so once the battery’s capacity declines past a certain point 70 percent or 80 percent, depending on who you talk to it needs to be swapped out. At that point, though, the battery can still handle a lot of charge and discharge, making it useful for storage in less intensive stationary settings.
The sheer expense of developing and building those batteries in the first place makes a compelling case for capturing some additional value after their initial use. Second-life applications also delay the need to dispose of these resource-intensive products, which nobody has yet figured out how to do economically. If storage vendors can resell used batteries as a cheaper alternative to new storage, they could help more people consume their own rooftop solar generation, or reduce their peak demand, or any number of other uses that would advance the progress of a low-carbon grid.
This is new territory, so there are a lot of questions yet to be resolved. What are the engineering challenges involved in taking batteries from mobile use to stationary use? Will they perform as well in the new capacity? How do you standardize across different degrees of wear and tear?
There is also the matter of setting up markets around used batteries and determining who benefits from that trade. Before that can happen, the physics of the transition have to be worked out. GTM asked some people pioneering the field about what they’ve encountered so far.
How do you standardize quality from disparate used batteries?
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Commodities markets rely on some degree of standardization to ensure that customers know what they’re getting for a certain price. New EV batteries have to meet exacting specifications, but the ones that come out of the chassis after years of driving will perform at all kinds of different levels.
“Batteries are a lot like people: They each have their own individual state of health depending upon what they’ve been exposed to and how they’ve been treated over the course of their life,” said Ken Boyce, who’s developing a safety standard for second life batteries at Underwriters Laboratories, a major safety certification firm.
Also like people, batteries are made up of multiple interlocking systems — the health of the pack as a whole depends on the health of each of the modules, which depend on the health of the cells within them. Second-life developers have to account for differing wear and tear at each of these levels, in order to standardize the packs and put together storage units that perform at a consistent and predictable level.
Moreover, they’ll have to ascertain that information without wrecking the cells in the process. Noninvasive procedures are necessary for the batteries to remain useful after the assessment.
The good news is that methods for testing the batteries are not daunting. Evaluators can track rates of electrical charge and discharge, use thermal imaging to screen for abnormal performance, and parse data from the battery management system, which governs its functions.
Once the standard, known as UL 1974, comes out — Boyce said it should be ready by the end of the year — that will guide second-life battery developers in the level of quality they need to meet.
“Making sure that we’ve thought through that collectively as a technical community and captured those requirements in a standard is really important, so that as they go into that brand new application, everybody can really feel comfortable about that and expect that they will perform in a safe and sustainable manner,” he said.
How do you match up old batteries?
Meeting the UL standard won’t be easy. It requires studying the differences of each used battery and accounting for them in the stationary system design. But it’s possible, because it’s already been done.
The University of California at San Diego set up the first large-scale second-life battery installation back in 2013. It networked 100 kilowatts and 160 kilowatt-hours of batteries from BMW’s first EV, the Mini E, and connected it to the microgrid that powers almost all of the campus’ electricity needs.
“It took a lot of effort; no one had done this before at the time,” said William Torre, program director of energy storage research at UCSD. “We had a lot of challenges with the development of the control systems and getting them communicating properly.”
Once they’d figured out the battery management systems for each pack, they had to create a “super BMS” to oversee all the different battery management systems. The next key step was categorizing each of the batteries so they could group together batteries with similar states of charge and capacity.
“You can do some things with the control system to accommodate some variance in the battery packs and their voltages, but if you can keep them closely within range, you’re going to get more use out of the batteries and more capacity out of the system,” Torre said.