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BETWEEN 1998 and 2013, the Earth’s surface temperature rose at a rate of 0.04°C a decade, far slower than the 0.18°C increase in the 1990s. Meanwhile, emissions of carbon dioxide (which would be expected to push temperatures up) rose uninterruptedly. This pause in warming has raised doubts in the public mind about climate change. A few sceptics say flatly that global warming has stopped. Others argue that scientists’ understanding of the climate is so flawed that their judgments about it cannot be accepted with any confidence. A convincing explanation of the pause therefore matters both to a proper understanding of the climate and to the credibility of climate science—and papers published over the past few weeks do their best to provide one. Indeed, they do almost too good a job. If all were correct, the pause would now be explained twice over.This is the opposite of what happened at first. As evidence piled up that temperatures were not rising much, some scientists dismissed it as a blip. The temperature, they pointed out, had fallen for much longer periods twice in the past century or so, in 1880-1910 and again in 1945-75 (see chart), even though the general...
To your very good health, sir! GENE therapy usually works by repairing a broken gene or creating a new one where none previously existed. Breaking a working gene to effect a cure is a novel approach. That, though, is what Carl June of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues are trying to do. As they explain in the New England Journal of Medicine, by damaging a gene called CCR5 they hope to treat—and possibly cure—infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.CCR5 encodes a protein that sits on the surface membranes of T-lymphocytes, cells which are part of the immune system. The protein’s job is to latch onto signal molecules called chemokines. Unfortunately, it also latches onto strains of HIV, assisting their passage into the lymphocyte, where the virus then reproduces.A consequence is that those whose CCR5 genes are broken are immune to infection by these strains. Moreover, an HIV patient called Timothy Brown (pictured) who, in 2007 and 2008, had bone-marrow transplants from a donor with broken CCR5...
Could Chennai become India's model green city?
Thanks to a revamped public transport system, Tamil Nadu's seaside capital has cleaner air, better health and less traffic
Eukaryotic algae and cyanobacteria can produce hydrogen under anaerobic and limited aerobic conditions. Now, a research team from South Korea and the US reports finding two novel microalgal strains (Chlorella vulgaris YSL01 and YSL16) that can produce hydrogen via photosynthesis using CO2 as the sole source of carbon under aerobic conditions with continuous illumination.
A paper on their discovery is published in the journal Nature Communications.
Hydrogenases, the enzymes which produce molecular hydrogen, typically are inactivated by oxygen; the new strains can produce hydrogen due to an oxygen-tolerant hydrogenase under natural aquatic conditions for microalgae.
The experimental expression of HYDA and the specific activity of hydrogenase demonstrate that C. vulgaris YSL01 and YSL16 enzymatically produce hydrogen, even under atmospheric conditions, which was previously considered infeasible. Photoautotrophic H2 production has important implications for assessing ecological and algae-based photolysis.—Hwang et al.
Hwang, J-H. et al. (2014) “Photoautotrophic hydrogen production by eukaryotic microalgae under aerobic conditions.” Nature Communications doi: 10.1038/ncomms4234
More i-Roads in Toyota City will be made available to residents at vehicle-sharing stations. Later this year, i-Road vehicles will be part of a vehicle-sharing project in Grenoble, France, that will last until 2017.
Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in 2013, the i-Road seats two in tandem and under cover, and has a range of up to 30 miles (50 km) on a single charge. Using “Active Lean” technology, it is safe, intuitive and enjoyable to drive, with no need for driver or passenger to wear a helmet.
The all-electric powertrain uses a lithium-ion battery to power two 2 kW motors mounted in the front wheels, giving brisk acceleration and near-silent running. The battery can be fully recharged from a conventional domestic power supply in three hours.
Toyota’s Active Lean system uses a lean actuator and gearing mounted above the front suspension member, linked via a yoke to the left and right front wheels. An ECU calculates the required degree of lean based on steering angle, gyro-sensor and vehicle speed information, with the system automatically moving the wheels up and down in opposite directions, applying lean angle to counteract the centrifugal force of cornering.
The system also operates when the PMV is being driven in a straight line over stepped surfaces, the actuator automatically compensating for changes in the road to keep the body level. The minimum turning circle is just three meters.
A team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has provided an update on China’s proposed Phase 4 fuel consumption standard for passenger cars. The proposal was published on 21 January 2014 by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
The proposed regulations cover passenger cars sold in China from 2016 to 2020, and project an overall fleet-average fuel consumption of 5L/100km (47 mpg US) for new passenger cars in 2020, as measured over the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), from an expected fleet average of 6.9L/100km (34 mpg US) in 2015. This works out to an overall reduction of about 28%—6.2% annually—between 2015 and 2020.
In absolute terms, the proposed standard would put China third, behind the EU and Japan, with respect to passenger car fuel consumption and equivalent GHG emissions requirements during the 2016–2020 period. However, the ICCT cautions, looking only at the absolute fleet targets does not give the full picture of the regulatory stringency of the standards.
The proposed Phase 4 regulation includes both vehicle-maximum fuel consumption limits and a corporate-average fuel consumption (CAFC) standard for each manufacturer based on vehicle curb weight distribution across the manufacturer’s fleet. Manufacturers and importers must meet both standards.
The CAFC standard also sets separate targets for regular vehicles and two types of special-feature vehicles, which in this case are defined as: vehicles of curb mass less than or equal to 1,090 kilograms with three or more rows of seats; all other vehicles with three or more rows of seats.
However, the ICCT authors note, the regulation is expected to contain a variety of compliance flexibilities and credits that will likely reduce the overall stringency of the program.
The proposed Phase 4 standard provides three types of credits:
New-energy vehicles (battery-electric, fuel cell and plug-in hybrids). New energy vehicles are counted as multiple vehicles towards manufacturers’ CAFC calculation for compliance. The multiplier is set at 5 in 2016–2017, falling to 3 in 2018–2019, and then to 2 in 2020. For the CAFC calculation, the energy consumption of battery-electric vehicles, the electric-drive part of plug-in hybrid vehicles and fuel cell vehicles are counted as zero.
An alternative possible accounting for pure electric and the electric portion of PHEVs would be to use converted gasoline-equivalent fuel economy with an equation developed from a separate regulatory proposal.
Other ultra-low fuel consumption vehicles with combined fuel consumption no more than 2.8L/100km (84 mpg US) will be counted as 3 vehicles in 2016–2017, 2.5 in 2018–2019, and 1.5 in 2020.
Vehicles equipped with innovative technologies leading to real-world fuel saving (off-cycle technology credits). Currently the regulatory agency is considering four types of technologies eligible for the credits: tire pressure monitoring system; high-efficiency air-conditioning system; start-stop system; and transmission gear shift reminder.
Manufacturers that install one or more of these technologies with demonstrated fuel-saving are eligible for up to 0.5 L/100km credit towards their CAFC standard compliance. The details of the off-cycle fuel-saving technology credits will be specified separately and issued at a later date.
The proposed Phase 4 standard will phase in gradually, beginning in 2016. The proposed standard does not specify any enforcement mechanism.
The UK and China have agreed to a new £20-million (US$33-million) three-year program that will support research to develop new low carbon manufacturing processes and technologies, low carbon cities and offshore renewables in the two countries.
Representatives from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Energy Program, signed a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) at a meeting in London which was witnessed by the UK’s Minister of State for Climate Change, Greg Barker.
Under the MoU, the UK and China will each commit £10 million of matched resources over the next three years and there will be approximately £6.6 million (US$11 million) available each year. The agreement, is the latest collaboration in a series of joint research programmes stretching over the last five years.
Since 2007, RCUK has invested more than £29 million (US49 million) in joint UK-China energy research projects, most of which have been supported by matched resources from Chinese funders, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
The collaborative efforts have included a number of calls:
In 2008-2009, the initial UK-China energy calls were launched, in partnership with MoST; topics included renewable energy technologies and cleaner fossil fuels;
In 2009, RCUK funded four innovation-focused projects through the RCUK Science Bridges initiative. One of these collaborations was in the theme of sustainable energy and the built environment;
The RCUK Energy Programme launched co-funded calls with both CAS and NSFC in 2010-2011: RCUK and NSFC invested £5.6 million (US$9.4 million) in the first call, supporting research into carbon capture and storage technologies; the second call focused on solar cells, solar fuels and fuel cells, with £5 million (US$8 million) investment from RCUK and CAS;
In 2012-2013, two further calls were run by RCUK and NSFC. The first was in smart grids; RCUK and NSFC investment totalled £6.6 million (US$11 million). The second call focused on the integration of smart grids and electric vehicles, with a total investment of £8.2 million (US$14 million);
In 2013-2014, RCUK and NSFC supported five joint projects in energy storage, with £10 million investment from the RCUK Energy Programme and NSFC.
Mitsubishi Motors (MMC) is showcasing its three new hybrid drive concepts—two plug-ins and one 48V mild hybrid—at the Geneva Motor Show. The three vehicles were introduced earlier at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show (earlier post).
Concept GC-PHEV. Concept GC-PHEV (for “Grand Cruiser”) is a next-generation full-time 4WD full-size SUV, fitted with an advanced plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) powertrain. Applying Outlander PHEV’s engineering fundamentals to a much bigger, more powerful, all-terrain (where legal) high-end full-size SUV, Concept GC-PHEV develops plug-in hybrid electric powertrain technology further.
In this case, the PHEV powertrain is made of a 250 kW (335 hp) 3.0-liter V6 super-charged MIVEC gasoline engine, a clutch, an 8-speed automatic transmission, a 70 kW electric motor and a 12 kWh battery pack, the latter installed under the rear cargo floor for better front/rear weight distribution.
As for Outlander PHEV, this new PHEV system automatically switches automatically between pure EV Mode and Hybrid Mode(s) depending on driving conditions, remaining battery charge and other factors.
In the case of Concept GC-PHEV, Mitsubishi Motors engineers took the PHEV concept even further:
Integration of an 8-speed automatic gearbox: integral to the PHEV system. In EV Mode, it is intended to maximize motor output efficiency at all vehicle speeds (within legal limits). Electric range is around 40 km (31 miles). In Hybrid Mode(s), it extracts power from the engine while the high-output motor kicks in to provide additional power as and when required.
Move from two electric motors (front and rear) as fitted to Outlander PHEV to one single motor, saving on weight and friction losses.
Concept GC-PHEV PHEV’s high-capacity battery can be used as an external power source. The 100V AC on-board socket can output up to 1500 watts of electrical energy, ideal for powering equipment when camping or enjoying other outdoor pursuits as well as providing an emergency power source for domestic appliances. The system can supply the equivalent of a day’s power consumption in an average household from the battery alone and up to a maximum of up to 13 days when the engine is used to fill the battery.
Super-All Wheel Control - Drive. Originally introduced with Lancer Evolution and then extended to Outlander PHEV, Mitsubishi Motors’ advanced Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC) integrated vehicle dynamics control system—working mainly by controlling torque distribution to and braking effort at each wheel—has been optimized for Concept GC-PHEV to provide handling that accurately reflects driver intent together with vehicle stability.
In this new application, S-AWC is based on a full-time 4WD system including a rear differential + an Electronically-controlled Limited Slip Differential (LSD) at the front + another Electronically-controlled Limited Slip Differential in the centre + an Electric-Active Yaw Control (E-AYC) unit at the rear. The latter uses torque from the electric motor to precisely control torque distribution to each rear wheel, providing excellent vehicle stability.
Furthermore, low range—to be used off road (where legal)—is obtained through a centrally-mounted Sub-Transmission unit, acting as transfer case. According to road surface conditions and the selected traction mode, S-AWC works in cooperation with the PHEV system to assist the driver in following their chosen line through corners as well as realizing remarkable all-terrain (where legal) performance.
Concept GC-PHEV also features MMC’s next generation electronic “active” safety system in cooperation with connected car technology to provide an enhanced level of vehicle and occupant protection through forward, rear blind-spot assistance.
In the case of Concept GC-PHEV, the system includes:
Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control, with Lane Keep Assist which provides forward visual assistance on motorways and main roads by sharing acceleration/deceleration information on the vehicle in front using vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications to realize more accurate distance-to-vehicle-in-front control, while also encouraging more economical operation of the vehicle and helping to relieve traffic congestion.
Lane Keep Assist function provides appropriate handling support to prevent the driver from drifting out of their lane due to fatigue or inattention. The system includes a Traffic Sign Recognition System which uses an on-board camera to recognize and inform the driver about road signs, and also activates the engine speed limiter in an emergency.
Adaptive Headlamps use the on-board camera to detect the position of oncoming vehicles or pedestrians while the headlamps are on high beam and blank off that area of illumination to prevent dazzling.
For all-directional driver assistance, the electronic “active” safety system employs eight infrared cameras—two at the top of the windscreen, one in each A pillar, one behind each rear door window, and one on either side at the top of the tailgate—to scan the periphery of the vehicle. High definition image processing enables the system to instantly and accurately detect any risk factors close to the vehicle. The system also uses a Night Eye Multi-around Monitor to rapidly alert and warn the driver of the approach of any obstacles or other vehicles.
The Mitsubishi electronic “active” safety system also incorporates many other functions including:
Pedestrian Collision Mitigating Auto-braking: This radar- and camera-based system detects pedestrians ahead of the vehicle at night and in other situations where they are difficult to spot and alerts the driver to their presence. The system will also automatically apply the brakes to avoid a collision or to mitigate injury.
Rearward Blind Spot Vehicle Warning: This system helps avert collisions by alerting the driver to the presence of vehicles approaching from behind. This system also functions to detect and warn the driver of the presence of vehicles or other objects behind the driver’s own vehicle while reversing, such as when parking or leaving their garage.
Driving Safety Support System: promoted by the Japanese National Police Agency, it enhances safety by utilizing communications with vehicles and road infrastructure to warn the driver of traffic signals ahead as well as the approach of pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists at junctions and urge the driver to slow down.
Unintentional Vehicle Move Off Control:When a front-mounted camera spots any objects immediately in front of the vehicle and sensors detect the mistaken use of the accelerator instead of the brake pedal, the system operates to limit engine power and restrain forward movement of the car. The system also urges the driver to be more careful.
Driver Monitor: Uses an infrared camera installed in front of the driver as well as sensors in the steering system and in the driver seat to monitor eye blinking and changes in posture to assess the driver’s level of alertness. If the system detects abnormalities in driving behavior, such as when the car starts to wander on the road, it instantly alerts the driver and urges taking a rest. It also alerts the driver when it determines their concentration has dropped or when they glance away from the road in front.
Concept XR-PHEV. Concept XR-PHEV (“X (cross) over Runner”) is a next-generation C-Segment crossover using Mitsubishi Motors’ plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) powertrain in a front-wheel drive layout and blending SUV functionality with sport coupe design.
Concept XR-PHEV uses a lightweight and high-efficiency front-wheel drive PHEV system derived from the system used to power the Outlander PHEV. In this new configuration, Mitsubishi Motors’ PHEV powertrain is made of a 100 kW (134 hp) 1.1-liter in-line 3-cylinder MIVEC turbocharged gasoline engine; a single (instead of two for Outlander PHEV) lightweight, compact and high-efficiency 120 kW motor with a high-boost converter at the front; and a 14 kWh battery under the floor. The boost converter increases motor and generator output and efficiency.
Opting for a front-wheel drive PHEV system with no motor at the rear reduces weight as well as friction losses and returns improvements in fuel and electricity economy.
From the default mode of pure EV, Concept XR PHEV powertrain automatically selects from two additional drive modes—Series Hybrid and Parallel Hybrid—the one best-suited to driving conditions and remaining battery charge, just like with Outlander PHEV.
Along the same lines, 100% EV driving is possible through use of Battery Charge Mode or Battery Save Mode. Electric range is around 85 km (52 miles.)
Concept XR-PHEV is also fitted with 100V AC on board sockets capable of giving an external supply of up to 1500W of power. The system can supply enough electricity to power domestic appliances for a full day from the drive battery alone and up to a maximum of 10 days when the engine is used to fill the battery.
Mild hybrid Concept AR (Active Runabout). The front-wheel drive Concept AR is powered by a lightweight mild hybrid Belt-driven Starter and Generator system (BSG). A 100 kW 1.1-liter 3-cylinder direct-injection turbocharged MIVEC gasoline engine mated to a 10 kW, 48 V BSG torque circuit with a 48V, 0.25 kWh lithium-ion battery.
The rear-mounted battery and converter work in cooperation to provide instant engine restarting after an idle-stop and to deliver torque assist under acceleration.
BSG is used to recover kinetic energy during regenerative braking to further improve fuel economy and CO2 emissions and to offer a pleasant experience to all on-board.
During its development, Concept AR has also been subject to a weight reduction program targeting the engine and the hybrid system overall together with the more extensive use of high-tensile strength steel panels as already implemented in Mitsubishi Motors’ latest products (Outlander / Mirage) and also, of lightweight structural materials in strategic locations. This significant weight reduction also contributes significantly to the dynamic and environmental performances of the vehicle.
This weight reduction was extended to the no-frill design of the dashboard, seats and even the choice of upholstery trim. The result is a significant reduction in fuel consumption together with a smoother and more comfortable ride.
Liquid Light unveiled its new process for the production of major chemicals from carbon dioxide, showcasing its demonstration-scale “reaction cell” and confirming the potential for cost-advantaged process economics. Liquid Light’s first process is for the production of ethylene glycol (MEG), with a $27-billion annual market, which is used to make a wide range of consumer products such as plastic bottles, antifreeze and polyester clothing.
Liquid Light’s technology can be used to produce more than 60 chemicals with large existing markets, including propylene, isopropanol, methyl-methacrylate and acetic acid.
Liquid Light’s core technology is centered on low-energy catalytic electrochemistry to convert CO2 to chemicals, combined with hydrogenation and purification operations. By adjusting the design of the catalyst, Liquid Light says it can produce a range of commercially important multi-carbon chemicals. Additionally, by using co-feedstocks along with CO2, a plant built with Liquid Light’s technology may produce multiple products simultaneously.
Liquid Light’s advances that enable commercialization include the development of long-lasting catalyst components; the ability to run continuously for extended times; and major progress in energy efficiency. Results to date highlight promising economics in three key dimensions:
Process performance validated at lab scale: In test runs, Liquid Light has met the targets needed for cost-advantaged production in metrics including energy needed per unit of output; rate of production; yield; and stability/longevity of cell components.
Large savings in feedstock costs: Liquid Light’s process requires $125 or less of CO2 to make a ton of MEG. Other processes require an estimated $617 to $1,113 of feedstocks derived from oil, natural gas or corn. These differences are especially significant as MEG sells for $700 to $1,400 per metric ton.
High project value for technology licensees: Current estimates show that a 400kT per year Liquid Light MEG plant would offer more than $250 million in added project value as compared to a plant built using the best currently available process technology. A 625kTa plant would have a 15 year net present value of more than $850 million to a licensee.
Liquid Light’s process also reduces the overall carbon footprint for chemical production compared to conventional methods, when powered with electricity produced from natural gas, nuclear, advanced coal and renewable sources. Further, Liquid Light’s process can sequester carbon when using energy sources such as solar, hydro, wind or nuclear power. To further demonstrate this potential benefit, the company also showed the process can be powered by intermittently-available renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. The result is that chemicals can be made directly from renewable energy sources and CO2.
Liquid Light’s investors include VantagePoint Capital Partners, BP Ventures, Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, and Osage University Partners.