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Researchers identify pentlandite as equally efficient alternative to platinum for hydrogen production

27 July 2016

Researchers have identified artificially-produced pentlandite (a natural ore, Fe4.5Ni4.5S8) as a direct ‘rock’ electrode without the need of further surface modifications for hydrogen evolution under acidic conditions. The pentlandite provides high activity and stability at low overpotential for H2 generation. According to their study, artificial pentlandite is just as efficient as the platinum electrodes commonly used today for the electrolytic production of hydrogen from water, but is lower cost.

A team headed by Dr. Ulf-Peter Apfel and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schuhmann of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum describes the results of their work together with colleagues from the Max-Planck-Institute for Coal Research in Mülheim an der Ruhr and the Technical University of Bratislava in an open-access paper published in Nature Communications.

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Daimler Trucks unveils electric heavy-duty Urban eTruck from Mercedes-Benz; fleet trial for the light-duty Fuso Canter E-Cell

27 July 2016

Daimler Trucks has unveiled the Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck, an all-electric, short-radius distribution heavy-duty truck, based on a three-axle truck from Mercedes-Benz. The entire conventional drivetrain has been replaced by an electrically driven rear axle with electric motors directly adjacent to the wheel hubs. Their maximum output is 2 x 125 kW, while the peak torque is 2 x 500 N·m. In combination with the gearing, the torque at the wheel reaches 11,000 N·m.

The power is supplied by a battery pack consisting of three modules of lithium-ion batteries with a total capacity of 212 kWh. This results in a range of up to 200 km (124 miles)—normally enough for a typical day's delivery round. Depending on the desired range, the modular battery pack can be customized by adding or removing batteries. The Urban eTruck is connected to the charging station using the Europe-wide standardized Combined Charging System (CCS) Type 2 connector. With a charging power of 100 kW, the fully discharged batteries are charged to 100% in two to three hours. (The system will support up to 150 kW.)

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Ford, MIT project uses LiDAR, cameras to measure pedestrian traffic & predict demand for new, on-demand electric shuttles

27 July 2016

Ford Motor Company and MIT are collaborating on a new research project that measures how pedestrians move in urban areas to improve certain public transportation services, such as ride-hailing and point-to-point shuttles services.

The project will introduce a fleet of on-demand electric vehicle shuttles that operate on both city roads and campus walkways on the university’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus. The vehicles use LiDAR sensors and cameras to measure pedestrian flow, which ultimately helps predict demand for the shuttles. This, in turn, helps researchers and drivers route shuttles toward areas with the highest demand to better accommodate riders.

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Utah, Minnesota team discover highly conductive oxide-based materials; STO/NTO offer “different road to power electronics”

27 July 2016

Engineers from the University of Utah and the University of Minnesota have discovered that interfacing two particular oxide-based materials—strontium titanate (STO) and neodymium titanate (NTO)—makes them highly conductive, a boon for future power electronics that could result in more power-efficient laptops, electric cars and home appliances that also don’t need cumbersome power supplies. Their findings were published in an open access paper in the journal, APL Materials, from the American Institute of Physics.

The team led by University of Utah electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Berardi Sensale-Rodriguez and University of Minnesota chemical engineering and materials science assistant professor Bharat Jalan revealed that when the two oxide compounds interact with each other, the bonds between the atoms are arranged in a way that produces many free electrons—the particles that can carry electrical current. STO and NTO are by themselves known as insulators—i.e., not conductive at all. When they interface, however, the amount of electrons produced is a hundred times larger than what is possible in semiconductors.

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Broad-Ocean Motor in strategic collaboration with Ballard; $28.3M investment, 9.9% ownership; initial order for 10,000 fuel cell vehicles

27 July 2016

Zhongshan Broad-Ocean Motor Co., Ltd. has entered into a strategic collaboration with Ballard Power Systems, including a $28.3-million equity investment in Ballard, representing 9.9% of the company following the transaction.

Founded in 1994, Broad-Ocean is a global manufacturer of motors that power small and specialized electric machinery for electric vehicles (EVs), including buses, commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles, and for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). Broad-Ocean has 4 business units: EV; Rotating Electrical for Vehicles; HVAC; and EV Operations Platform.

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NTSB issues preliminary report for investigation into Tesla Autopilot fatal crash

27 July 2016

The US National Transportation Safety Board issued its preliminary report for the investigation of the fatal 7 May 2016, highway crash in Florida involving the Tesla Model S and Autopilot. The preliminary report does not contain any analysis of data and does not state probable cause for the crash.

The preliminary report details the collision involving a 53-foot semitrailer in combination with a 2014 Freightliner Cascadia truck tractor and the 2015 Tesla Model S. According to system performance data downloaded from the car, the indicated vehicle speed was 74 mph (119 km/h) just prior to impact; the posted speed limit was 65 mph (105 km/h).

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Porsche ramping up hiring for Mission E; leveraging the 919 Hybrid

26 July 2016

Porsche said it will hire more than 1,400 new employees in the Stuttgart region to work on the development and production of the first all-electric sports car from Porsche, the Mission E. (Earlier post, earlier post.)

The company plans to recruit in the fields of digitalization, e-mobility, smart mobility and vehicle connectivity. Porsche will also focus on recruiting production planners familiar with Factory 4.0 and digital production and will hire more than 100 IT specialists as well.

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Northwestern study finds Li3PO4 promising coating to limit dissolution of transition metals from Li-ion cathodes

26 July 2016

The dissolution of transition metals (TMs) from Li-ion battery cathodes is a major contributor to cell degradation during cycling and aging. First, such dissolution decreases the amount of cathode material, directly contributing to loss of capacity. Secondly, dissolved TMs can migrate through the electrolyte to the anode, causing chaneges to the Solid Electrolyte Interphase (SEI), resulting in increased impedance, decreased cell capacity, and decreased lifespan.

A study by a team at Northwestern University has found that Li3PO4 is a promising candidate as a stable coating on oxide materials to limit such dissolution of transition metals into the Li-ion electrolyte. An open access paper on their work is published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

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Sales of Ford Fusion Hybrid, Fusion Energi jump in LA in June; up 35% and 40% y-o-y respectively

26 July 2016

Ford Fusion electrified vehicle retail sales spiked in the Los Angeles market during the month of June, the first month of availability for the new 2017 model. Based on Ford June sales figures, Fusion Energi (the plug-in hybrid variant) sales jumped nearly 40% in LA compared to June 2015. During the same time period, Fusion Hybrid sales jumped 35%. Both of these numbers are retail sales and do not include fleet sales.

By comparison, the total midsize sedan segment is down nearly 5% in LA through May, according to IHS Automotive data. Consumer demand for trucks and SUVs continues to rise in Los Angeles and across the country, but sales of the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Ford Fusion Energi plug-in are moving ahead.

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Orbital ATK and ECAPS partner on high performance green propulsion system; bringing LMP-103S to market

26 July 2016

Orbital ATK signed an agreement with leading European green propulsion technology firm ECAPS to develop, demonstrate and market a high performance green propulsion (HPGP) system. The HPGP system, which offers significant cost advantages and reduces the environmental risks associated with traditional monopropellants, is aimed at both attitude control and main propulsion.

Orbital ATK’s team will leverage exclusive use of ECAPS’ LMP-103S, a very-low toxicity monopropellant technology designed as a direct replacement for hydrazine-based systems. LMP-103S—a blend of ammonium dinitramide (ADN), water, methanol and ammonia—offers a specific impulse 6% higher and a propellant density 24% higher than hydrazine-based systems—resulting in a 30% increase in density-specific impulse.

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EPA finds moderate or severe corrosion in majority of diesel fuel underground storage tank systems studied

26 July 2016

In a report released recently on corrosion inside diesel fuel underground storage tanks (USTs), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found moderate or severe corrosion that could affect metal components inside both steel and fiberglass underground tank systems. Corrosion inside USTs can cause equipment failure by preventing proper operation of release detection and prevention equipment. If left unchecked, corrosion could cause UST system failures and releases, which could lead to groundwater contamination.

Beginning around 2007, UST owners reported to servicing companies new incidents of severe and rapid corrosion of internal metal components of tanks storing diesel fuel. These reports usually described severe corrosion of equipment in upper portions of UST systems in the regions generally not submerged in fuel. Prior to 2007, a corrosion risk in diesel fuel tanks was considered minor and, if it occurred, appeared in the wetted, or lower, portion of the tank.

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New nanolithia cathodes may address technical drawbacks of Li-air batteries; scalable, cheap and safer Li-air battery system

25 July 2016

An international team from MIT, Argonne National Laboratory and Peking University has demonstrated a lab-scale proof-of-concept of a new type of cathode for Li-air batteries that could overcome the current drawbacks to the technology, including a high potential gap (>1.2 V) between charge and discharge, and poor cyclability due to the drastic phase change of O2 (gas) and Ox− (condensed phase) at the cathode during battery operations.

As described in a paper in the journal Nature Energy, the cathode consisting of nanoscale amorphous lithia (nanolithia) confined in a cobalt oxide enabled charge/discharge between solid Li2O/Li2O2/LiO2 without any gas evolution. The cathode has a theoretical capacity of 1,341 Ah kg−1, a mass density exceeding 2.2 g cm−3, and a practical discharge capacity of 587 Ah kg−1 at 2.55 V versus Li/Li+.

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