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New high-resolution time-to-digital converter from ams offers better object detection and avoidance for LiDAR

24 January 2017

ams AG, a leading provider of high performance sensor solutions and analog ICs, has launched a new version of its market-leading time-to-digital converter (TDC) offering improved speed and precision together with low power consumption. The new TDC-GPX2 also features standard low-voltage differential signaling (LVDS) and serial peripheral (SPI) interfaces, and a new, smaller 9mm x 9mm QFN64 package.

TDCs from ams, which can measure short time intervals with great precision, are widely used in light detection and ranging (LIDAR) and laser-ranging devices, in positron emission tomography (PET) medical scanners, and in automated test equipment (ATE). The introduction of the TDC-GPX2 means that these applications can benefit from increased resolution up to 10ps and a new high sampling rate of up to 70 Msamples/s.

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TU Bergakademie Freiberg launches OTTO-R project with VW Group, Shell, OMV as partners; P2X for green gasoline

24 January 2017

Researchers at the Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg, with partners from the automotive industry (Audi, VW) and the petroleum industry (Shell, OMV) have launched the €1.46-million OTTO-R project for the production of gasoline from “green” methanol produced from CO2, water and renewable electricity.

The new OTTO-R synthesis process is based on the Syngas-To-Fuel-Process (STF) developed by Chemieanlagenbau Chemnitz GmbH (CAC) at the Institute for Energy Process Engineering and Chemical Engineering (IEC). STF first converts natural gas-based synthesis gas to methanol in an isothermal reactor; the methanol is then transformed into high-octane gasoline via the intermediate methanol. Residual methanol and light hydrocarbons are separated downstream and recycled into the process.

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UNIST team boosts performance of perovskite catalyst for metal-air batteries & fuel cells using polypyrrole

24 January 2017

A team of researchers from S. Korea’s UNIST, with colleagues from Northwestern University, have successfully developed a new way to increase the activity of perovskite oxide catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and/or the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) in rechargeable metal-air batteries and fuel cells simply by adding the conductive polymer polypyrrole. A paper on their work was published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.

Oxygen-related electrochemistry is important in next-generation energy conversion and storage. The oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) is the cathodic process of fuel cells and metal air batteries for generating electricity; the reverse, the oxygen evolution reaction (OER), is the anodic processes for splitting water and charging metal air batteries.

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Alstom invests €14M in electric autonomous shuttle company EasyMile

24 January 2017

Rail transport giant Alstom is investing €14 million (US$15 million), and thus taking a minority stake, in EasyMile, a start-up developing the EZ10 electric driverless shuttle. The investment forms part of the start-up’s ongoing capital increase. In parallel, Alstom and EasyMile have signed a commercial partnership agreement aiming at joining their forces to provide integrated solutions for urban transportation. Alstom will be present at EasyMile’s board.

The EZ10 provides shared driverless transportation for the last mile. EasyMile electrical shuttles operate from a transport hub to a final destination within a precinct or confined area. EasyMile shuttles transport up to 12 passengers. Since April 2015, the EZ10 has been deployed in more than 50 sites in 14 countries in Asia, North-America, Middle-East and Europe. Paris is one of the latest cities to begin an EasyMile trial.

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SAE International taskforce agrees on SAE J2954 Wireless Charging Test Station; major step forward in global standardization for wireless power transfer for EVs

23 January 2017

At a standards meeting held in January at Audi AG in Ingolstadt, Germany, carmakers, Tier 1 suppliers, and technology providers from around the world reached agreement on key technical and procedural elements of the upcoming SAE Recommended Practice (RP) Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) and automated parking alignment and charging of electrified vehicles. (Earlier post.)

The Taskforce members have agreed on specifications for the SAE J2954 Test Stations, which automakers will use as a basis to develop their wireless charging systems, and to verify that they will interoperate with charging systems and vehicles sold by other makers.

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AKASOL to provide Li-ion batteries for electric buses to Scandinavian OEM through 2030; up to 4,500 systems

23 January 2017

Germany-based Li-ion manufacturer AKASOL (earlier post) has signed a contract for the supply of Li-ion batteries to an unnamed international commercial vehicle manufacturer in Scandinavia for its entire electric bus fleet through 2023. In total, the order includes the delivery of up to 4,500 battery systems—revenue on the order of up to some triple-digit million euro figure.

The first series production buses fitted with AKASOL-battery systems are expected in 2018. The buses will feature either hybrid or battery-electric drive and have a capacity between 150 and 300 kWh.

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Northwestern team devises new computational design framework for optimized coatings for Li-ion cathodes to prolong cycle life

23 January 2017

Researchers at Northwestern University, with a colleague from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have developed a new computational design framework that can pinpoint optimal materials with which to coat the cathode in lithium-ion batteries. The optimized coatings have the potential to prolong the cycle-life of Li-ion batteries and surpass the performance of common coatings based on conventional materials.

The high-throughput density-functional-theory-based framework, presented in an open access paper in the journal Nature Communications, consists of reaction models that describe thermodynamic and electrochemical stabilities, and acid-scavenging capabilities of materials.

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POSTECH, Hyundai team develops new more thermally robust catalyst for NOx reduction with diesel engines

23 January 2017

A team from Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in S. Korea, with colleagues from Hyundai Motors’s R&D group and the University of St. Andrews in the UK has developed a new, more thermally robust catalyst for NOx aftertreatment systems for diesel engines. A paper on their work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

The catalyst—divalent copper ions fully exchanged into high-silica LTA zeolites(Cu-LTA)—demonstrated excellent maintenance of activity for NOx reduction with NH3 under vehicle-simulated conditions even after hydrothermal aging at 900 °C, a critical temperature that the current commercial Cu-SSZ-13 catalyst cannot overcome owing to thermal deactivation.

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California utilities submit projects to CPUC to expand EV infrastructure, adoption and awareness

23 January 2017

Three investor-owned California utilities—Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)—have submitted applications to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) outlining programs and investments aimed at achieving multiple electric transportation and emission-reduction goals set by the governor and state agencies.

The applications filed demonstrate the utilities’ support of the objectives in Senate Bill 350 (De León) [Chapter 547, Statutes of 2015] which called upon utilities “to file applications for programs and investments to accelerate widespread transportation electrification to reduce dependence on petroleum, meet air quality standards, achieve the goals set forth in the Charge Ahead California Initiative, and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.”

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Volkswagen Truck & Bus launches two truck platooning projects; Scania in Singapore, MAN and Schenker in Germany

23 January 2017

Volkswagen Truck & Bus companies have launched two truck platooning pilot projects: one, with Scania in Singapore (earlier post), the other with MAN and Schenker DB in Germany. Platooning is system in which several trucks drive in a convoy with the support of advanced driver assistance and control systems. They are linked by an “electronic drawbar”. The driver of the first vehicle sets the speed and the direction. Each platoon truck has a driver on board who is able to intervene in an emergency.

In Singapore, in the world’s largest pilot project of this kind, Scania will be developing and testing a comprehensive platooning solution. Truck platoons each composed of four trucks will cover a distance of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) on public roads to transport containers between various port terminals. The driver of the first truck will set the speed and direction, with the following three vehicles driving autonomously. This project has been commissioned by the Singapore port authority and the ministry of transport.

During the first phase of the project, Scania will be trialing the technology at its own test facility in Södertälje, Sweden, where it will be customizing it to meet local conditions. After this has been completed, the second phase will involve testing in Singapore.

MAN and logistics specialist DB Schenker are also forging a platooning partnership. This marks the first platooning alliance between an automotive manufacturer and a logistics company. Its purpose is to test platooning under realistic conditions over an extended period of time to gain meaningful data. For this purpose, a truck platoon is to travel on the A9 motorway between Munich and Nuremberg from 2018. In the ensuing step, the platoon is to be used at DB Schenker’s facility in Nuremberg.

Given the growing volume of traffic on public roads, there is a strong need for improved traffic flows. The advantages of platooning are obvious: thanks to the small distance of only 10-15 meters between the trucks, fuel savings of up 10% can be achieved. This also results in a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions. A further advantage is the lower risk of accidents.

The pilot projects are key components of more efficient transportation of goods on the road. Platooning is beneficial for the environment, improves the flow of traffic and increases road safety. What we now need is the legislative framework allowing us to introduce platooning on public roads.

—Andreas Renschler, Member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG and Chief Executive Officer of Volkswagen Truck & Bus GmbH

The use of platooning in Europe will be technically possible from around 2020. However, implementation is contingent upon the legislative framework being duly modified in EU countries.

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S. Korean organizations collaborate on development of near-supersonic (~1,000 km/h) Korean Hyperloop train

23 January 2017

The Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) signed a multi-year strategic partnership agreement with seven Korean research institutes—KICT (Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology); KOTI (Korea Transport Institute); KIMM (Korea Institute of Machinery & Materials); KERI (Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute); ETRI (Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute); KRRI (Korea Railroad Research Institute); and Hanyang University—to accelerate the realization of government’s new plan to build a futuristic transportation system.

In the memorandum of understanding, the eight organizations promised to collaborate on the development of core technologies for the near-supersonic Korean Hyperloop train, also known as Hyper Tube Express (HTX). The Hyper Tube Express (HTX) is an ultra-fast transit system powered by magnetic attraction that would move at nearly 1,000 km/h (621 mph) inside a tube under partial vacuum—a concept similar to Elon Musk’s Hyperloop. (Earlier post.) At this speed, traveling from Seoul to Busan would only take about 20 minutes; the 412-km (256-mile) trip is currently a little less than three hours on the KTX (Korea Train eXpress).

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FLAC project seeks 40-80% weight reduction in automotive components through 3D printing

22 January 2017

Engineers at The University of Nottingham are developing lightweight automotive components using new additive manufacturing processes to boost vehicle fuel efficiency, while cutting noise and CO2 emissions as part of the Functional Lattices for Automotive Components (FLAC) project. FLAC aims to achieve significant weight reductions in mass (40-80%) and optimized thermo-mechanical performance in new vehicle components.

The Nottingham team will construct components using selective laser melting (SLM). SLM uses a 3-Dimensional Computer Aided Design (CAD) model to digitally reproduce the object in a number of layers. Each layer is sequentially recreated by melting sections of a bed of aluminium alloy powder using a laser beam. Layer by layer, the melted particles fuse and solidify to form novel structures that can be made up from complex lattices to provide a light-weight component. SLM helps increase functionality and lower the number of separate components in production. This significant mass saving cuts component costs and increases overall vehicle efficiency.

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