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Water in smog may reveal pollution sources

Pipe: Climate and Health - Mon, 2015-03-02 15:07
The chemical signature of water vapor emitted by combustion sources such as vehicles and furnaces has been found in the smoggy winter inversions that often choke Salt Lake City. The discovery may give researchers a new tool to track down the sources of pollutants and climate-changing carbon dioxide gas.

Ethanol champion wants more

Pipe: Passenger vehicles - Mon, 2015-03-02 14:52
Vehicle manufacturers have already acknowledged that E30 is a premium fuel, meaning it offers power and good fuel economy, Swayze says.

Consumer Reports 2015 Top 10 Car and SUV Picks: Tesla Model S Takes Overall, Buick Regal <b>...</b>

Pipe: Passenger vehicles - Mon, 2015-03-02 13:56
All functions are within a finger reach of an infotainment system. The Quattro all-wheel drive gives you security with a commendable fuel economy.

Ford expands Smart Mobility projects with connected e-bike study

Pipe: Advanced tech - Mon, 2015-03-02 13:14

Ford Motor Company is expanding its global Ford Smart Mobility plan (earlier post) with a new experiment to study how connected electric bicycles can work seamlessly with cars and public transport to deliver faster and easier daily commutes and help businesses operating in urban centers.

Ford detailed the new experiment called Handle on Mobility at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Ford Smart Mobility is the company’s plan to help change the way the world moves through innovation in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience and big data. These experiments will help test transportation ideas for better customer experiences, more flexible user-ship models and social collaboration that can reward customers.

Traffic problems and overly-long commutes have a significant economic and social impact in large cities. According to the European Commission, congestion within the European Union costs about €100 billion (US$112 billion) per year. A study by the UK Office of National Statistics shows that each minute added to a commute affects anxiety, happiness and general well-being.

The prototype MoDe:Me and MoDe:Pro ebikes. Click to enlarge.

Handle on Mobility. As a starting point for the experiment, Ford challenged employees around the world to submit designs for e-bikes. The prototype MoDe:Me and MoDe:Pro e-bikes presented at Mobile World Congress are among the top designs from more than 100 submitted.

Both e-bikes are equipped with a 200-watt motor with 9-amp-hour battery that provides electric pedal assist for speeds of up to 25 km/h (15.5 mph). The prototype e-bikes offer technology inspired by the automotive industry including, for example, a rear-facing ultrasonic sensor. This enables a rider alert system that both warns the cyclist when a vehicle is overtaking, by vibrating both handlebars, and alerts motorists of the presence of the e-bike by illuminating handlebar lights.

The bikes, which fold easily into Ford vehicles, meet the needs of different users:

  • The MoDe:Me e-bike, built with the help of bicycle manufacturer Dahon, is intended for urban commuters to keep moving in congested city traffic. It folds and stows easily, allowing commuters to park on the city outskirts, take the e-bike onto public transport and travel to the center, then ride the e-bike to their destination.

  • The MoDe:Pro e-bike, built by a Ford team, is intended for urban commercial use such as by couriers, electricians, and goods and delivery services. It is designed to stow safely into commercial vehicles such as Transit Connect, which can act as carrier and support vehicle, and be combined with more than one e-bike.

The prototype MoDe:Me and MoDe:Pro e-bikes work with a prototype app called MoDe:Link compatible with the iPhone 6. Real-time information from the app enables the e-bikes to deliver:

  • Navigation: Handle-bar grip vibrations let the rider know when to turn. Turn signals are triggered automatically for safety. The app can identify bike-friendly roads, hazards and alerts, and will be able to sense, and communicate with other vehicles.

  • Multimodal navigation and smart routing: Integrates journey planning with personal vehicle and public transportation networks, which can be filtered by cost, time, and amount of biking. Map includes weather, parking costs, and charging stations.

  • Speed and comfort: Electric pedal assist rate can be adjusted based on heart rate, “No Sweat” mode reduces the requirement to pedal, allowing riders to arrive fresh at their destination.

  • SYNC compatibility: While the e-bike is stowed and charging inside the vehicle, Ford’s SYNC voice-activated connectivity system shows the app on the vehicle’s display After users input a destination, the MoDe:Link app lists possible journeys and then provides step-by-step or turn-by-turn navigation. This might include driving to a train station, taking an e-bike onto the train, then riding the bike from the train stop to the final destination. The app also updates the route as circumstances change. For example, if a train service is cancelled, the app could recommend that a commuter drive instead.

There are so many ways to get around a city, but what is really needed is a way to connect all of these transport options together. Being able to seamlessly move between cars, buses, trains and e-bikes and react to changing traffic situations can make a big difference both for commuters and for those delivering goods, services and healthcare.—Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering

Info Cycle experiment. Ford at Mobile World Congress is also showcasing for the first time in Europe the Info Cycle experiment, an open-source research initiative to gather information about how bikes are used in different urban areas. The project has been designed to enhance understanding of the biking ecosystem and to improve safety for cyclists, as well as exploring improved mapping, smart journey planning and community-based services. A sensor box on the frame gathers data such as wheel speed, acceleration, weather and altitude.

EPA issues updated <b>fuel economy</b> procedures

Pipe: Passenger vehicles - Mon, 2015-03-02 12:48
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Environmental Protection Association issued on Feb. 23 updated procedures for a critical part of fuel economy testing that ...

Qualcomm adds Snapdragon X12 and X5 LTE modems to Automotive Solutions portfolio

Pipe: Advanced tech - Mon, 2015-03-02 12:23

Qualcomm Incorporated subsidiary Qualcomm Technologies has added the Qualcomm Snapdragon X12 LTE modem (9x40) and Qualcomm Snapdragon X5 LTE modem (9x28) to Snapdragon Automotive Solutions to support connectivity across all tiers of the automotive industry.

  • The Snapdragon X12 LTE modem (9x40) is designed to enable auto manufacturers to develop next-generation systems with advanced telematics and connected infotainment features while supporting greater coverage at download speeds up to Category 10 (up to 450 Mbps in the downlink and 100 Mbps in the uplink).

  • The Snapdragon X5 LTE modem (9x28) is designed to enable automakers to broadly deploy LTE in all cars at download speeds up to Category 4 (up to 150 Mbps in the downlink and 50 Mbps in the uplink).

In addition to leading LTE features, these multimode modems provide support for all major 3G/2G cellular standards; on-chip integration of global position (GNSS) support for all major constellations; and a 1 GHz processor with Linux and built-in software for key global regulatory mandates like EU eCall and ERA Glonass.

The Snapdragon X12 and X5 LTE modems for automotive inter-work with a companion Qualcomm VIVE QCA65x4 chipset with Wi-Fi/BT to support consumer features such as Wi-Fi 802.11ac hotspots and safety applications such as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) with a seamless combination of Wi-Fi, DSRC and LTE. The Snapdragon X12 modem is sampling now and Snapdragon X5 LTE modem is expected to sample in 2H, 2015.

The Snapdragon X12 LTE modem (9x40) supports Carrier Aggregation (CA) across global TDD and FDD radio frequency bands. It is QTI’s latest and most advanced LTE modem in the 20nm technology node and supports up to 60 MHz 3x CA in the downlink and up to 40 MHz 2x CA in the uplink. Separately, the Snapdragon X5 LTE modem (9x28) supports Category 4 across global TDD and FDD radio frequency bands, and is based on the 28 nm technology node.

Both the Snapdragon X12 and X5 LTE modems support the major cellular standards, including LTE, DC-HSPA, EVDO, CDMA 1x, GSM and TD-SCDMA, support the major RF bands and band combinations, and provide global position support for major constellations including GPS, Beidou, Glonass and Galileo for enhanced automotive navigation. Additionally, the modems feature integrated support for VoLTE and key new automotive regulatory safety features such as EU eCall and ERA Glonass. In both chipsets, a Cortex A7 is integrated to provide bill of materials (BOM) cost savings for hosting automotive telematics applications.

The effect of LTE on connected telematics and infotainment inside the car is transformational, rivaling the one from feature phones to smartphones. Ubiquitous connectivity to cars is enabling industries like automotive, wireless operators, and insurance to come together in unlocking value for consumers. In addition, the cars of tomorrow will not only inform and entertain the consumer, but also communicate with their environment to make driving safer, which is accomplished through system level integration across infotainment, telematics and connectivity subsystems of the vehicle. The X12 and X5 are designed with this integration as a requirement, so we can support the vision of getting these capabilities into all cars.—Kanwalinder Singh, senior vice president of business development for Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

Snapdragon X12 LTE and X5 LTE modems inter-work with QCA6574A, a dual-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 chipset, to support in-car Wi-Fi hotspot functions and Bluetooth profiles, and the QCA6584, which also supports DSRC (dedicated short-range communications). DSRC will be required to comply with future regulations recently announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to increase safety through vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication. The Snapdragon X12 LTE modem, Snapdragon X5 LTE modem and QCA6574 will also be pre-integrated with Qualcomm Technologies’ automotive-grade Snapdragon 602A infotainment processor.

Poland should phase out its ailing coal industry by 2035

Pipe: Homepage Latest Headlines - Mon, 2015-03-02 12:23

Coal is the most polluting fossil energy. It emits roughly twice as much CO2 as gas. From a climate point of view mankind should therefore urgently get rid of coal. This will not be easy as coal is the cheapest fossil energy, which reflects its ample resources in major coal producing countries like Australia, South Africa, Russia, India,USA and Indonesia.

In the EU, Poland remains the single biggest coal producer, followed by Germany which is set to close its last coal mines by 2018, but still leaving it with highly polluting lignite.

For Poland closure of its coal plants, which still employ some 50,000 people, is not only a climate necessity but also an economic one, as most mines need to be subsidised by the government.

The new government has started a clean-up process by closing the biggest loss makers and combining the profitable mines in a single state-owned company. As the recent strikes have shown this requires political courage.

Still, Poland has an economic and ecological interest in closing all mines in the next 20 years and replacing them by wind energy and imported gas.

Considering its substantial wind power potential this should be doable. Poland will also be able to import wind power from other member states, especially through the future Baltic grid and rely on LNG imports from third countries, as the three Baltic countries have decided to do.

This energy mix will be cheaper and much more climate-friendly than the present one depending overwhelmingly on coal.

The price of coal-fired power is bound to rise in the EU, while technical progress will reduce the cost of wind power below that of coal.

Through such a long-term strategy Poland will be able to reduce its C02 emissions by 40% until 2030, as it will to have to in conformity with the EU energy and climate policy.

In the present political situation in Poland with a powerful coal lobby this scenario appears revolutionary. But by 2035 such an energy transformation should be quite realistic. In order to throw more light on the long-term energy perspectives, the Polish government should produce a “Green Book on Polish Energy Supply and Demand by 2035”.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 28/02/2015

Munching bugs thwart eager trees, reducing the carbon sink

Pipe: Climate and Health - Mon, 2015-03-02 12:16
Hungry, plant-eating insects may limit the ability of forests to take up elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, reducing their capacity to slow human-driven climate change, a new study suggests.

Bizarre Car of the Week: 1978 Plymouth Sapporo

Pipe: Passenger vehicles - Mon, 2015-03-02 12:15
In the wake of the fuel crisis of 1972, automakers and buyers alike became obsessed with fuel economy but did not want to sacrifice performance in ...

Availability of Fairchild PowerTrench MOSFETs for automotive in high-power TO-Leadless package; power electronics and motors

Pipe: Advanced tech - Mon, 2015-03-02 12:14

Fairchild , a leading global supplier of high-performance power semiconductor solutions, announced the availability of its next generation PowerTrench MOSFETs for automotive applications in the high-power TO-Leadless (TO-LL) package (JEDEC MO-299). The innovative TO-LL technology offers an extremely low package resistance, a very small footprint, and allows for exceptionally good EMI behavior, the company said.

Typical automotive power electronics applications for the TO-LL packaged devices include battery management for electric and hybrid-electric vehicles; battery safety switches; start-stop systems; as well as motor drives for EPS (electric power steering) and active rectification alternators. Fairchild offers devices optimized for traditional 12V battery systems as well as solutions supporting new board-net architectures, such as 48V.

We combine our PowerTrench MOSFET technologies with the current carrying and thermal advantages of the TO-Leadless package to offer power switches with the industry’s lowest on-resistance. This combination gives designers enhanced switching performance and reliability for the most demanding automotive power applications.—Heiner Gschloessl, Automotive Segment Director at Fairchild

At just 2.3 x 9.8 x 10.38mm, the TO-LL package is about 30% smaller compared to a D2PAK (TO263) package and supports up to 300A current handling capabilities. The TOLL is almost half the height, which makes it suited for many automotive applications where space is usually tight.

The combination of Fairchild’s latest PowerTrench shielded gate trench technology with the TO-LL package gives Fairchild’s leadless MOSFET products their extremely low RDS(on) ranges. Both the silicon technology as well as the package design result in excellent switching and EMI performance. Particularly beneficial for switching and PWM controlled applications, this has been verified by early customers of the devices, Fairchild said.

At the same time, it simplifies design, avoids additional passive components and overall enables electronic manufacturers to better serve the markets for high-current applications. Compared to other discrete packages, the number of parallel MOSFETs needed in high-current applications can be significantly reduced, if not eliminated, leading to overall lower system costs.

Fairchild’s TO-LL portfolio now includes 40V, 60V, 80V as well as 150V ratings and will extend to 100V types over the coming months.

The TO-LL package features very low package parasitic compared to a D2PAK (TO263) package. Its inductances are only half the amount and the package resistance is only 40%. Unlike many other leadless packages, the TO-LL allows for automated optical inspection (AOI) due to its tin-plated lead tips. AOI is often used in Surface Mount Technology (SMT) production lines as it supports low inspection cost compared to X-ray systems.

EU moves to reduce use of flimsy plastic bags by 80%

Pipe: India - Mon, 2015-03-02 12:11
The European Union has approved new rules that clamps down on the use of flimsy plastic bags that are hazardous for the environment.

BMW presents “Vehicular Small Cell” at Mobile World Congress; first mobile femtocell for optimized in-car connectivity

Pipe: Advanced tech - Mon, 2015-03-02 12:07

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the BMW Group, peiker acustic GmbH & Co. KG and Nash Technologies GmbH are presenting the “Vehicular Small Cell” research project, which aims to improve mobile reception in vehicles. The Vehicular Small Cell is a mobile femtocell with wireless backhaul for mobile in-car applications.

Although there is a rapid increase in in-car use of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, wireless-enabled wearable technology such smartwatches and many other devices that will in future form part of the “Internet of Things”, the strong signal-shielding effect of the vehicle body can often cause reception problems, particularly when driving in areas with poor cellular coverage.

To address this problem, the BMW Group, network specialists Nash Technologies GmbH and automotive supplier peiker acustic GmbH & Co. KG launched the “Vehicular Small Cell” research project.

A femtocell is a mini cellular base station typically used to provide improved indoor cellular connectivity in businesses or private homes. The “Vehicular Small Cell” femtocell provides optimal access to cellular networks via the vehicle aerial while at the same time reducing electromagnetic radiation inside the vehicle significantly.

The “Vehicular Small Cell” automatically sets up a wireless connection between all mobile devices in the car—including passengers’ devices—and the vehicle aerial. The improved wireless connectivity greatly reduces the number of interrupted phone calls and provides more stable connection quality while driving. Improved connectivity also allows higher bit rates to be transmitted, which significantly improves the performance of functions such as web surfing, e-mail checking and music streaming.

The “Vehicular Small Cell” allows all mobile devices inside the vehicle to transmit at very low power, which minimizes radiation. Low-power transmission also saves battery power.

The ‘Vehicular Small Cell’ will allow our customers to enjoy uninterrupted in-car usage of all mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and other connected devices of the future – even when driving through areas with poor cellular coverage.—Dr. Peter Fertl, Project Manager BMW Group

Rice graphene aerogel catalyst doped with boron and nitrogen outperform platinum in fuel cell ORR

Pipe: Advanced tech - Mon, 2015-03-02 11:58

Graphene nanoribbons formed into a three-dimensional aerogel and doped with boron and nitrogen (3D BNC NRs) exhibit the highest onset and half-wave potentials among the reported metal-free catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in alkaline fuel cells, and show superior performance compared to commercial Pt/C catalyst, according to a new study by Rice University researchers.

A team led by materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan and chemist James Tour made metal-free aerogels from graphene nanoribbons and various levels of boron and nitrogen to test their electrochemical properties. In research reported in the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials, they reported that versions with about 10 atom % boron and nitrogen were most efficient in catalyzing the ORR.

… developing new active electrocatalysts for ORR has recently become a key to boost the practical applications of fuel cells and metal−air batteries. Although platinum (Pt) and its alloys exhibit high activity for ORR, their performance has been overshadowed by the high cost and scarcity of Pt and by the reduced thermal efficiency caused by substantial overpotential for the ORR. Hence, intensive efforts have been devoted to substitute Pt-based catalysts by employing non-precious metal catalysts and preferably metal-free catalysts. … The research of designing new catalysts to reduce the overpotential and understanding the nature of ORR catalytic sites and mechanisms in metal-free catalysts is still in its infancy.

In general, the adsorption of oxygen and formation of superoxide through a one-electron reduction on metal-free catalysts such as N-doped graphene sheets have been suggested as the initial ORR steps, and O2 adsorption is proposed to be the rate-determining step. Since oxygen is preferred to be adsorbed onto the exposed edges of N-doped graphene rather than the basal planes, it is clear that the edges of N-doped graphene-based catalysts possess high ORR activity while the basal planes remain virtually ORR inactive. Thus, edge-abundant, nitrogen-doped graphene would facilitate the formation of catalytic sites for ORR.

In this regard, unique carbon nanotube−nanoribbon complexes with controllable nitrogen doping have been recently explored via partially unzipping carbon nanotubes and subsequent annealing under NH3 atmosphere, showing enhanced catalytic activity for ORR. However, in rotating-disk electrode (RDE) polarization studies, their ORR onset potentials and half-wave potentials (E1/2) are still lower than those of commercially available Pt catalysts. This would result in high overpotentials of fuel cells at practical operating current densities and cause low thermal efficiency. Thus, developing new strategies to engineer efficient metal-free ORR catalysts still remains challenging.—Gong et al.

Researchers have come to realize that graphene’s potential as a catalyst doesn’t lie along the flat face but along the exposed edges where molecules prefer to interact. The Rice team chemically unzipped carbon nanotubes into ribbons and then collapsed them into porous, three-dimensional aerogels, simultaneously decorating the ribbons’ edges with boron and nitrogen molecules.

First-principles calculations suggested that the resulting excellent electrocatalytic properties originate from the abundant edges of boron- and nitrogen-codoped graphene nanoribbons, which significantly reduce the energy barriers of the rate-determining steps of the ORR reaction.

The key to developing carbon-based catalysts is in the doping process, especially with elements such as nitrogen and boron. The graphitic carbon-boron-nitrogen systems have thrown many surprises in recent years, especially as a viable alternative to platinum-based catalysts.—Pulickel Ajayan

The Rice process is unique, Ajayan said, because it not only exposes the edges but also provides porous conduits that allow reactants to permeate the material.

Simulations by Rice theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson and his students found that neither boron nor nitrogen doping alone would produce the desired reactions. Testing found that optimized boron/nitrogen aerogels were far better than platinum at avoiding the crossover effect, in which fuel like methanol permeates the polymer electrolyte that separates electrodes and degrades performance. The researchers observed no such effect in 5,000 cycles.

We have demonstrated that optimally doped boron and nitrogen in graphene nanoribbons show excellent ORR electrocatalytic activity, even better than the commercial Pt−C catalysts. The high activity, excellent tolerance to methanol, high durability, and superior high half-wave potential are achieved for optimally doped (10 atom % BN) BNC NR catalysts in comparison to other metal-free catalysts in alkaline solution. The new BNC catalysts could serve as efficient metal-free ORR electrocatalysts for fuel cells and other electro-chemical and catalytic applications.—Gong et al.

Rice graduate students Yongji Gong and Huilong Fei and postdoctoral researcher Xiaolong Zou are lead authors of the paper. Co-authors are Rice graduate students Gonglan Ye and Zhiwei Peng; Rice alumni Zheng Liu of Nanyang Technical University, Singapore, and Shubin Yang of Beihang University, Beijing; Wu Zhou of Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Jun Lou, an associate professor of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice; and Robert Vajtai, a senior faculty fellow in Rice’s Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering.

The research was supported by the Welch Foundation; the Air Force Office of Scientific Research; Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grants from the US Army Research Office, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research; and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The researchers utilized the National Science Foundation-supported DAVinCI supercomputer administered by Rice’s Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology.


  • Yongji Gong, Huilong Fei, Xiaolong Zou, Wu Zhou, Shubin Yang, Gonglan Ye, Zheng Liu, Zhiwei Peng, Jun Lou, Robert Vajtai, Boris I. Yakobson, James M. Tour, and Pulickel M. Ajayan (2015) “Boron- and Nitrogen-Substituted Graphene Nanoribbons as Efficient Catalysts for Oxygen Reduction Reaction” Chemistry of Materials 27 (4), 1181-1186 doi: 10.1021/cm5037502

Renault will nach Nordamerika: Nie wieder ein "French car"

Pipe: Europe - Mon, 2015-03-02 11:39
Zwei Anläufe, zweimal ist Renault gescheitert - jetzt soll es klappen. Die Franzosen wollen zurück nach Nordamerika. Schaffen soll das der Elektro-Stadtwagen Twizy.

arbcombo -- Consumer survey on small cans of automotive refrigerant

Pipe: Advanced tech - Mon, 2015-03-02 11:26
Do you re-charge your automobile air conditioner using small containers (10 to 22 ounces) of automotive refrigerant? .

2015 Toyota Prius Liftback versus Prius v

Pipe: Passenger vehicles - Mon, 2015-03-02 10:22
All of this contributes to a rated fuel economy of 5.4/5.8/5.6 L/100km (city/hwy/comb), which although slightly higher than the liftback, is stellar for a ...

2015 Hyundai Accent: Easy On The Eyes, Environment &amp; Wallet

Pipe: Passenger vehicles - Mon, 2015-03-02 10:11
The EPA reports that the Hyundai Accent will get you up to 27/38 miles per gallon city/highway, which is outstanding fuel economy. Critics praise the ...

Forager makers ready their big guns for spring

Pipe: Passenger vehicles - Mon, 2015-03-02 10:11
Lighter components have also given a significant weight reduction and improved fuel economy, says Deere. A redesigned interlocking disc kernel ...

California Beach Community Prepares for High-Stakes Vote on Oil Drilling

Pipe: Homepage Latest Headlines - Mon, 2015-03-02 10:08
Hermosa Beach will go to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether to follow through on a longstanding contract for drilling rights or pay millions to kill the deal.

REVIEW: 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro <b>fuel economy</b> crashes what is otherwise a pretty great party <b>...</b>

Pipe: Passenger vehicles - Mon, 2015-03-02 10:00
Toyota's Tundra has been a staple in the company's line-up for more than a decade and it only gets better with age. Last year the Texas-built Tundra ...