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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Volvo Cars and Geely to establish JV to boost synergies, accelerate next-gen electrified vehicle technology

July 20, 2017

Volvo Cars plans to set up a new joint venture technology company with Geely Holding, the Chinese car group, to share existing and future technology, to deepen industrial synergies and to provide the economies of scale that will allow them to develop next generation electrified vehicle technology more rapidly.

According to a Memorandum of Understanding signed today, Volvo Cars, Geely Auto and LYNK & CO will share vehicle architecture and engine technologies via cross licensing arrangements of technologies managed by the new joint venture. They will also cooperate more deeply by commonly sourcing components and cutting procurement costs.

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BMW i Ventures makes strategic investment in GaN Systems; next-gen power electronics

July 18, 2017

BMW i Ventures has made a strategic investment in GaN Systems, a fabless power transistor company at the forefront of semiconductor technology. Gallium Nitride (GaN) is a wide band gap (WBG) semiconductor material that allows for higher energy efficiency, smaller form factors and higher performance.

GaN devices offer a number of benefits compared to silicon-based devices, including high dielectric strength; high current density; high switching speeds; low on-resistance; and the ability to withstand higher operating temperature. Compared to silicon, gallium nitride has ten times higher electrical breakdown characteristics, three times the band gap, and exceptional carrier mobility.

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The Technical Failure That Could Clear The Oil Glut In A Matter Of Weeks

July 16, 2017

by Cyril Widdershoven for Oilprice.com

OPEC exports have come under pressure this week from technical threats to oil fields, with Saudi Arabia’s Manifa problems grabbing the headlines.

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser, while addressing the World Petroleum Congress in Istanbul, stated that the outlook for oil supplies is “increasingly worrying”, due to a loss of $1 trillion ($1,000 billion) in investments last year. The skepticism shown by a majority of financial analysts and oil commentators about the real threat to global oil (and gas) production volumes was countered by the news that the production at Saudi Aramco’s main offshore oil field, Manifa, has been hit by technical problems. News sources reported that the output from Saudi Aramco’s massive Manifa oilfield has been hit by a technical problem. The impact of this possible technical mishap is not to be underestimated.

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Every Mazda 2017 US model tested earned IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating

July 12, 2017

All US 2017 Mazda models tested by the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), including the all-new Mazda CX-5, have been awarded the nonprofit organization's highest safety rating, Top Safety Pick+, when equipped with optional front crash prevention and adaptive LED headlights.

IIHS evaluates crashworthiness with five tests: moderate and small overlap frontal crashes, a side crash, a roof strength test and a head restraint and seat test that simulates a rear impact. In addition, headlight performance and frontal crash prevention by means of auto-braking and forward collision warning systems are evaluated.

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Toyota Research Institute launches Toyota AI Ventures with $100M investment

July 11, 2017

Toyota Research Institute (TRI) is investing an initial $100 million to launch Toyota AI Ventures, a new corporate venture capital subsidiary designed to provide early-stage financing to startup technology companies.

TRI launches the venture by contributing initial investments it has made in three technology companies: Nauto, SLAMcore and Intuition Robotics. The venture will also cultivate select start-ups by offering them mentorship and support on-site at TRI's Silicon Valley headquarters. Investment will focus in the areas of Artificial Intelligence; Robotics; Autonomous Mobility; and Data and Cloud Technology.

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ICCT working paper highlights benefits of current and emerging light-duty diesel technology; “promising pathway for compliance”

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), one of the organizations at the root of uncovering the Volkswagen diesel emission scandal (earlier post), has published a new analysis of developments and trends in advanced diesel engine technology.

The ICCT team—John German and Aaron Isenstadt—concluded that diesels have and will retain two significant advantages over gasoline engines: significantly better fuel economy and cargo hauling and towing ability. Those attributes make diesels a strong option for customers who put a high priority on towing or fuel economy and manufacturers that want to market high fuel economy, they conclude. “Diesels offer a promising pathway for compliance and another option in manufacturers’ toolboxes.

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Hydro fully acquires Sapa to create a global aluminum company fully integrated across value chain and markets

Norsk Hydro will acquire Orkla’s 50% interest in Sapa—a 50/50 joint venture between Orkla and Hydro formed in 2013, and the world’s largest aluminum extrusion company. The transaction gives Sapa a total enterprise value of NOK 27 billion (US$3.24 billion). Sapa will become a new business area in Hydro named Extruded Solutions. Anticipated closing of the transaction is in the second half of 2017.

The combination will make Hydro the only global company in the aluminum industry that is fully integrated across the value chain and markets. Hydro will have strength in technology, R&D, innovation and product development, as well as a product and service offering for more than 30,000 customers throughout the world.

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Volkswagen’s Electrify America supplement discusses ZEV charging investments in disadvantaged California communities

July 03, 2017

Volkswagen subsidiary Electrify America last week submitted supplemental information to the California Air Resources Board (ARB) detailing its proposed charging investment in and benefit to underserved, low-income, and disadvantaged communities in the state as part of its court-mandated investment plan. (Earlier post.)

The supplement also adds the Fresno metro area as a focus for community charging investments; outlines an education and outreach proposal targeted at the unique barriers to ZEV use in low-income and disadvantaged communities; and presents a new strategy to explore the use of more affordable pre-owned ZEVs. ARB is initiating its review of the Supplement; the Board will conduct a public hearing later this summer to consider the approval or disapproval, in whole or in part, of the full Investment Plan, which now includes the Supplement.

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LiquidPiston receives $3M Rapid Innovation Fund award from US Army for 2kW hybrid-electric genset

June 28, 2017

LiquidPiston, Inc. (LPI), a developer of advanced multi-fuel-capable rotary combustion engine technology, has been awarded a $3-million Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) award from the US Army to develop an innovative ultra-portable 2kW diesel Compact Artillery Power System (CAPS). The RIF process is extremely selective, with only five percent of whitepapers ultimately being selected for the award.

CAPS is a compact, lightweight, quiet, low-vibration and efficient hybrid-electric diesel generator set capable of supplying up to 2kW of electric power while running on Jet Propellant 8 (JP8) or diesel fuel. The CAPS Genset prototype objectives include less than 30 pounds (13.6 kg) (dry weight), 1.5 ft3 (bounding volume), and less than 60db at 7 meters. This is a 75% reduction in generator weight compared to the MEP-501A, the current 2kW JP8 generator in use today, which weighs 124 pounds (56.3 kg).

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Volkswagen IT expands deep learning competence via partnership with NVIDIA

Volkswagen IT is cooperating with US technology company NVIDIA with a view to expanding its competence in the field of deep learning. At the Volkswagen Data Lab—named the Group’s center of excellence for AI and data analysis—IT experts are developing advanced AI systems with deep learning.

The Volkswagen Group is already partnering with NVIDIA in other areas, such as in a strategic partnership for the new Volkswagen Group Future Center California in Silicon Valley, where the teams are at work developing an AI-based cockpit. (Earlier post.)

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Stock-flow modeling suggests energy transition within transportation will take several decades

June 26, 2017

Using a stock-flow model based on data from Norway, a researcher at the country’s Institute of Transport Economics (TØI) has calculated the energy transition time lag for motor vehicles under a number of scenarios.

In his paper in the journal Energy Policy, Lasse Fridstrøm finds that in the most optimistic scenario for the energy transition affecting Norwegian registered vehicles, zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) would constitute 90% of the flow of new passenger cars in 2024; however, 90% penetration of ZEVs into the stock of passenger cars would not occur until 2039.

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ICCT calculates consumer benefits of increased efficiency in 2025-2030 light-duty vehicles in the US

June 23, 2017

A new report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) estimates Consumer benefits of increased efficiency in 2025-2030 light-duty vehicles in the US.

According to the analysis, under current standards, buyers of model year 2025 vehicles would fully recoup the extra cost for technology in the vehicle in the third year of ownership under a cash-purchase scenario. Those who finance their vehicles will see a net positive cash flow—again, specific to the additional cost of technology—starting immediately. Consumer benefits would be more than 3 times the costs of the standards. Fuel savings are 2.4 times the costs if fuel prices stay low for the next several decades.

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Roland Berger and fka Index: China to dominate EV market and industry in foreseeable future

June 22, 2017

In the latest E-Mobility Index report (2Q/2017), consultancy Roland Berger and partner Forschungsgesellschaft Kraftfahrwesen Aachen (fka) find that China has for the first time moved into the pole position. The consultancy says that China will dominate both the market and the industry in the foreseeable future. France, however, has moved past Germany to take the lead in technology, according to the index. The two countries had jointly held the lead in Q1.

The index assess the relative competitive position of the seven leading automotive nations (Germany, France, Italy, the US, Japan, China and South Korea) on the basis of three key indicators: technology; industry; and market.

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Ford to import next-gen Ford Focus for N. America from China; production starting 2H 2019

June 20, 2017

Ford announced a series of global manufacturing actions centered on improving the company’s operational fitness, among them that it would source the next-generation Ford Focus for North America primarily from China, rather than Hermosillo, Mexico.

Production of the next-generation Focus begins in the second half of 2019, with models coming from the company’s existing Focus plants globally. Most new North American Focus models initially will come from China, with additional variants coming from Europe later, Ford said. Production of the current North American Focus at the Michigan Assembly Plant continues through mid-2018. Following that, the plant will be converted to produce the Ranger midsize pickup truck in late 2018 and the Bronco midsize SUV in 2020.

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Volkswagen Group expands presence in Russia with agreements with GAZ

June 16, 2017

The Volkswagen Group and GAZ Group have extended their manufacturing agreement for Volkswagen and ŠKODA models in Russia until 2025. Furthermore, the Volkswagen brand will in future supply 2.0 TDI engines for GAZ light commercial vehicles, opening up new business opportunities in international markets.

Additionally, Volkswagen Truck & Bus signed a letter of intent with GAZ Group which will enable the companies to identify the possibilities for a long-term strategic partnership. The main focus will be on the delivery and joint assembly of components as well as joint product concepts.

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UBC engineers use fiber from recycled tires to develop more resilient concrete

University of British Columbia (UBC) engineers have used polymeric scrap tire fibers (STF) to develop a more resilient type of concrete that could be used for concrete structures such as buildings, roads, dams and bridges, while reducing landfill waste.

The researchers experimented with different proportions of STF and other materials used in concrete—cement, sand and water—before finding the optimal mix, which includes 0.35% tire fibers, according to researcher Obinna Onuaguluchi, a postdoctoral fellow in civil engineering at UBC. A paper on the work is published in the journal Materials and Structures.

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Michelin Vision concept wheel/tire: airless, connected, rechargeable, organic

June 14, 2017

At Movin’On 2017, Michelin presented its new Vision concept tire. The concept tire—which combines the functions of wheel and tire—is airless, connected, rechargeable, customizable and organic, is both a wheel and a tire. Michelin Group Executive Vice President of Research and Development Terry Gettys said that the VISION concept is achievable as it represents the convergence of innovations already being explored by the Group’s R&D teams.

The Vision tire combines 4 innovations: an organic tire, developed from bio-sourced, biodegradable materials; a rechargeable tire printed in 3D, according to the level of wear and mobility needs; an airless tire enabled by its alveolar interior architecture; and a connected tire.

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US new light-duty diesel sales dropped slightly in 2016 to 280,000 units from 300,000 in 2015

June 07, 2017

The US added more than 280,000 new diesel passenger vehicles across the country in 2016, with Texas, California and Florida having the highest numbers of diesel vehicles, according to a Diesel Technology Forum analysis of the latest Vehicles in Operation (VIO) data compiled by IHS Automotive (December 2016). The number of diesel car, SUV, full-size pickup trucks and vans in operation reached 8 million in 2016.

The 2016 increase in diesel sales was about 6.7% smaller than the some 300,000 added to the US vehicle parc in 2015, but still demonstrated resilience in a market that had 25% fewer model choices available. The 2016 increase in diesel registrations was due to the expanding popularity and increasing number of choices in the light-duty pickup market, DTF said. This more than offset the decrease in diesel car registrations due to the 25% drop in number of choices available on the market.

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IBM Research Alliance builds new transistor for 5nm technology

June 05, 2017

IBM, its Research Alliance partners GLOBALFOUNDRIES and Samsung, and equipment suppliers have developed an industry-first process to build silicon nanosheet transistors that will enable 5 nanometer (nm) chips. The details of the process will be presented at the 2017 Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits conference in Kyoto, Japan this week. In less than two years since developing a 7nm test node chip with 20 billion transistors, scientists have paved the way for 30 billion switches on a fingernail-sized chip.

Compared to the leading edge 10nm technology available in the market, a nanosheet-based 5nm technology can deliver 40% performance enhancement at fixed power, or 75% power savings at matched performance. This improvement enables a significant boost to meeting the future demands of artificial intelligence (AI) systems, virtual reality and mobile devices.

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Has Permian Productivity Peaked?

June 03, 2017

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

The U.S. shale industry might have just received a huge windfall with the nine-month extension of the OPEC cuts. Shale output was already expected to come roaring back this year, but the extension of the cuts provides even more room in the market for shale drillers to step into.

The sky is the limit, it seems. However, there are growing signs that the U.S. shale industry could be reaching the end of the low-hanging fruit. Or, more specifically, drilling costs are starting to rise and the enormous leaps in production that can be obtained by simply adding more rigs also appears to be running into some trouble.

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Linde and Praxair to merge; global industrial gas major valued at > $70B

June 02, 2017

Linde AG and Praxair, Inc. have entered into a definitive business combination agreement (BCA) to come together under a new holding company through an all-stock merger-of-equals transaction. Linde and Praxair expect the transaction to close in the second half of 2018, subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.

The proposed merger brings together two leading companies in the global industrial gas industry, leveraging the proven strengths of each. Based on 2016 reported results, the combination will create a company with pro forma revenues of approximately US$29 billion (€27 billion), prior to adjustments, potential divestitures and regulatory limitations, and a combined current market value in excess of US$70 billion (€66 billion).

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Ford continues executive shuffling in wake of replacement of CEO; Marakby back from Uber to lead electrification

May 25, 2017

On Monday, Ford Motor Company announced the immediate replacement of Mark Fields as CEO by Jim Hackett, who had led Ford Smart Mobility LLC since March 2016. Ford also announced changes in roles for three top executives: Jim Farley (Global Markets), Joe Hinrichs (Global Operations) and Marcy Klevorn (Mobility). (Earlier post.)

Today, Ford announced another set of senior leadership changes around the world, completing the newly reorganized team led by President and CEO Hackett. Among those changes is the return of Sherif Marakby from Uber to become Ford vice president, autonomous vehicles and electrification.

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Six mobility start-ups launching Volkswagen’s incubator program at Transparent Factory

May 24, 2017

Volkswagen has selected the first six teams for the new start-up incubator at Volkswagen’s Gläserne Manufaktur (Transparent Factory, earlier post) in Dresden: the start-ups Smart City System from Nuremberg; LoyalGo from Dortmund; Tretbox from Berlin; and Ekoio from Leipzig were declared winners on Thursday evening following a pitch competition at the factory. Volkswagen announced the incubator program at CeBIT 2017 in Hanover earlier this year.

They will move into the Gläserne Manufaktur in summer, together with the start-ups Geospin from Freiburg and CarlundCarla.de from Dresden. There they will be able to develop their ideas for the market with support from Volkswagen experts and financial support from the state capital, Dresden.

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Today’s Stunted Oil Prices Could Cause Oil Price Shock In 2020

by Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com

As oil prices remain unsteady and OPEC continues to make headlines every hour, the world is focused on oil’s immediate future. As Saudi Arabia announces plans to slash production and move their economy away from oil dependency, many industry insiders are predicting that the now over-saturated market will reach an equilibrium with higher commodity prices by 2018 and U.S. shale production will continue to grow along with global demand.

Robert Johnston, the CEO of one of the world’s biggest political risk consultancies, is unconvinced. In a speech made at the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators’ 2017 International Petroleum Summit, Johnston laid out his concerns for the future of oil.

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Proposed 2018 Trump budgets cuts EPA funding 31.4%, DOE 5.6%, DOT 12.7%, NSF 10.7%

May 23, 2017

The Trump Administration released its proposed FY 2018 budget, which it calls “A New Foundation for American Greatness”. To help achieve the Administration’s overall budget goal in 10 years, the FY2018 budget includes $3.6 trillion in spending reductions over 10 years, the most ever proposed by any President in a budget.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is targeted for the largest percentage reduction in FY 2018, with a $2.6-billion cut (31.4%) in discretionary spending to a proposed $5.7 billion. The US Department of Energy (DOE) faces a $1.7-billion cut (5.6%) to $28 billion, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) faces a $2.4-billion cut (12.7%) to $16.2 billion, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) is looking at a cut of $800 million (10.7%) to $6.7 billion. (Health and Human Services faces the largest dollar cut: $12.7 billion, or 16.2%).

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DOE: gasoline direct injection engine technology showing very rapid adoption; 48.5% market share after 9 years

Gasoline direct injection (GDI) technology has seen very rapid adoption in the US since its first significant use, according to data gathered by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Only nine years after its first significant use in the market, GDI penetration has climbed to 48.5% market share. (First significant use generally represents a production threshold of about 1%.)

Many auto manufacturers have used the combined benefits of GDI and turbocharging for increasing power output from downsized engines. This is evident in the rapid rise of turbo-charged engines in over the past five years, after 11 prior years of desultory growth.

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Ford Motor replaces CEO Fields

May 22, 2017

Ford Motor Company has appointed Jim Hackett as Ford Motor Company president and CEO, replacing Mark Fields, who is retiring, effective immediately. Hackett led Steelcase Inc.’s turnaround, served as interim Athletic Director at University of Michigan, and has led Ford Smart Mobility LLC since March 2016. He served on Ford’s board from 2013 to 2016.

Fields’s 3-year tenure as CEO, succeeding Alan Mulally, saw the share price of the automaker drop 39%. Ford’s US sales are down 5.1% year-to-date, with cars showing the steepest decline of 22.1%. Ford’s US hybrid and electric vehicle lineup—unchanged since 2013—has seen its sales volumes decline 10% from 2014-2016 to a combined 77,511 units in 2016 (with only 872 BEVs). At the annual shareholders’ meeting on 11 May, Fields had taken flak from investors over Ford’s share price and product performance.

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Toyota R&D study finds drivers show significantly more gray matter in brain regions than non-drivers

April 19, 2017

A brain study by researchers from Toyota Central R&D Laboratories, along with a colleague from Japan’s National Institute of Physiological Sciences, has found that drivers show significantly greater gray matter (GM) volume in the left cerebellar hemisphere—which has been associated with cognitive rather than motor functioning—than non-drivers. An open access paper on their work is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Previous neuroimaging studies have found multiple brain areas associated with distinct aspects of car driving in simulated traffic environments. Few studies, however, have examined brain morphology associated with everyday car-driving experience in real traffic, the researchers said. Their goal was to identify gray matter volume differences between drivers and non-drivers.

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Supply Crunch Or Oil Glut: Investment Banks Can’t Agree

April 15, 2017

by Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

In recent years, U.S. shale has thrown in another unknown in the mix of factors driving the price of oil. This year, shale output forecasts combine with OPEC’s production cuts, geopolitical factors, and unexpected outages to further complicate supply/demand and oil price forecasts by Wall Street’s major investment banks.

The biggest banks remain bullish on oil prices, expecting moderate price gains by the end of the year, even after last month WTI prices dropped below $50 for a couple of weeks.

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Dalia Research: Globally, 40% would consider an EV, but held back by logistics

April 12, 2017

Worldwide, 40% of those planning to buy a car within the next five years say they are likely to buy all-electric (even though not all of them would be able to afford one at foreseeable price points), according to findings from Dalia Research’s global mobility study. The percentage is higher among those who are looking to buy a replacement for their current car (44%), and lower among those who have never owned a car (36%). The Dalia study is based on a census-representative survey of 43,034 people across 52 countries completed in February 2017.

For the US and Canada, the consideration of electric vehicle adoption is 31%; for China, the figure is 58%. Japan is surprisingly low at 16%. (An interactive map showing Dalia findings is available here.)

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JATO Dynamics: US new vehicle sales down 1.9% in Q1; SUVs, pickups increase market share

April 08, 2017

New vehicle sales for the first quarter of 2017 in US fell 1.9% over the same period in 2016, according to figures from JATO Dynamics. Analysts had predicted a small increase for March sales but saw a decline despite reported high incentives spending. SUVs and pickup trucks continue to gain market share, with Honda’s 4.3% increase in share driven by sales from the CR-V and returning Ridgeline, which as re-entered the market after a two model year hiatus.

Continuing the trend of recent years, the market share of SUVs and trucks continue to rise within the United States. In the first quarter of 2017, SUVs, Trucks, and Vans represented 58%—5 percentage points more than what was seen in 2016. This increase was mostly due to the ever increasing popularity of smaller SUVs and crossovers like the Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4.

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When Will Russia Run Out Of Oil?

April 06, 2017

by Viktor Katona for Oilprice.com

On a global level, 2015 and 2016 marked the lowest level of new conventional oil discoveries since 1952. In 2016, only 3.7 billion barrels of conventional oil were discovered, roughly 45 days of global crude consumption or 0.2 percent of global proved reserves. Globally, exploratory drilling fell by almost 20 percent in 2015 and fell even further in 2016. Russia’s exploration activities, which were hit not only by plummeting oil prices but also by a targeted sanctions regime, suffered a double blow during this period.

In 2015, only seven new hydrocarbon discoveries were made in Russia, three of them in the Baltic Sea. In 2016, oil and gas companies in Russia discovered 40 prospective fields, however, the 3P reserves of the largest among them, Rosneft’s Nertsetinskoye, amounted to 17.4 million tons. This stands in stark contrast with pre-sanction period achievements, for instance, 2014’s largest find, Pobeda, is believed to contain 130 million tons of oil and 0.5TCm of gas.

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Porsche and Audi to work on shared vehicle architecture; electrification, autonomy, digitization

April 05, 2017

Within the Volkswagen Group, Porsche AG and AUDI AG now plan to cooperate more closely on future vehicle architectures, with a particular focus on electrification, digitization and autonomous driving.

Brands within the Volkswagen Group have been rolling out modular component matrices, or assembly toolkits, for their light-duty vehicles over the past few years. Until recently, the four main modular toolkits (modularen Baukästen) of the Group were: the MQB (transverse, driven by the Volkswagen brand); the MLB (longitudinal, driven by the Audi brand); the MSB (standard drive, driven by Porsche); and the NSF (New Small Family). (Earlier post.)

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Navigant report puts Ford at the fore of autonomous driving development

April 04, 2017

A new Leaderboard report from Navigant Research finds Ford is the leading company developing automated driving systems, followed by General Motors, the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and Daimler. The report examines the strategy and execution of 18 leading companies, including Tesla, developing automated driving systems.

Advances in computational architectures and sensing technology are driving the development of autonomous driving, the report notes. Coupled with cost reductions, vehicle electrification, and ubiquitous connectivity, highly automated vehicles are nearing a level of maturity that will enable initial deployments for consumers, the market analyst firm said.

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Opinion: There Is No Such Thing As Peak Oil Demand

April 02, 2017

by Dwayne Purvis for Oilprice.com

Notwithstanding that oil demand has increased for over 150 years, it will eventually stop increasing. If oil demand were to reach an actual peak, then the top might be easier to predict. As it stands, the forecast models of demand are likely predicting peak demand far later than it will be.

The so-called balance of supply and demand has always been a moving target, a race to the top in which the two run neck and neck. Imbalances result from out-of-step growth rates and not from movements away from a stationary balance. Perversely, imbalances breed further imbalances as the supply and demand components are provoked in opposite directions but with different timing, magnitudes and inertias. Without sufficient damping, the market has often overcompensated.

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Opinion: What A Westinghouse Bankruptcy Could Mean For U.S. Utilities

March 29, 2017

by Leonard Hyman and Bill Tilles for Oilprice.com

International news services now report that Japan’s Toshiba Corporation (9502.T) is preparing to make a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in the US for its Westinghouse Electric subsidiary. For most of our readers this news evokes little surprise. This is merely another chapter of a slow moving financial and accounting train wreck involving nuclear design and construction firm Westinghouse and its troubled Japanese parent, Toshiba. But like an old, leaky garbage scow, there is much to clean up in its wake.

The two U.S. utilities with the most at risk are Southern Company and SCANA Corp. Westinghouse is presently constructing two unit, AP 1000 nuclear power stations for each utility. These projects are over-budget and behind schedule. It appears that Westinghouse offered both utilities a fixed price contract for these new nuclear plants. Our best guess is that this fixed price construction guarantee has doomed Westinghouse and prevented other potentially willing buyers from stepping in. No one it seems is willing to take on this seemingly open-ended nuclear construction liability.

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Ford investing $1.2B in 3 Michigan plants; focus on trucks, SUVs, big data & mobility services

March 28, 2017

Ford Motor Company is investing $1.2 billion in three Michigan manufacturing facilities to strengthen its leadership in trucks and SUVs and support the company’s expansion to an auto and mobility company.

Ford is investing $850 million in Michigan Assembly Plant to retool the plant to build the all-new Ford Ranger and Ford Bronco. Employees at Michigan Assembly Plant will begin building Ranger at the end of 2018 and Bronco in 2020.

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Tencent buys 5% stake in Tesla for $1.8 billion

China-based Tencent Holdings Ltd. has acquired a 5% stake (8,167,544 shares) in Tesla for an aggregate price of $1,777,842,836 (including commission), according to a Schedule 13G form filed by Tesla with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Tencent acquired the shares through Tesla’s latest registered offering of common stock (17 March 2017, earlier post) and through open market purchases.

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SAIC-GM Connectivity Strategy 2025 lays out roadmap to cloud-based connectivity, autonomy

SAIC-GM, GM’s Chinese joint venture with SAIC, announced its Connectivity Strategy 2025, which lays out a roadmap for its connectivity development from 2017 through 2025. The strategy will take advantage of its extensive customer base and global resources with a focus on vehicle information, infotainment and intelligent driving.

SAIC-GM will speed up the creation of a cloud-based platform and services, improve its vehicles’ connectivity to build a “people-vehicle-life” ecosystem, and aim to lead the development of a future intelligent vehicle society and lifestyle. In this effort, SAIC-GM is leveraging OnStar’s more than 20 years of experience. The high-level timeline is:

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EIA: US energy-related CO2 dropped 2.7% in 2015; of end-use sectors, only transportation increased

March 27, 2017

According to a report from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), US energy-related CO2 emissions decreased by 146 million metric tons (MMmt) in 2015 to 5,259 MMmt, down 2.7% from 5,405 MMmt in 2014. This decline occurred despite growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.6% as other factors more than offset the growth in GDP. Energy-related CO2 emissions in 2015 were about 12% below 2005 levels.

These factors included a decline in the carbon intensity of the energy supply (CO2/British thermal units [Btu]) of 1.8%; and a 3.4% decline in energy intensity (Btu/GDP). Of the four end-use sectors, only transportation emissions increased in 2015 (+2.1%).

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An OPEC Deal Extension Isn’t As Simple As It Sounds

March 23, 2017

by Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

It’s been six months now that oil prices have been reacting to OPEC, first to the possibility of an agreement, and then to the production cut deal itself, forged by OPEC to rebalance the market. The deal—initially aired as “an agreement to agree on a deal” in September and signed at the end of November—will likely impact the market for at least the next six months.

The agreement clearly states that it is production that OPEC producers are vowing to cut, but Iraqi oil minister Jabbar al-Luaibi has recently claimed—rather emphatically—that it is exports, not production, that serve as the baseline for the cuts. And according to Iraq, the agreed-upon cuts have been all about exports all along.

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ICCT: incremental technology can cut vehicle CO2 by half and increase fuel economy >60% through 2030 with ~5% increase in price

March 22, 2017

With the EPA re-opening its Mid-Term Review of GHG standards for 2022-2025 for light-duty vehicles (earlier post), and with NHTSA yet to weigh in on its Mid-Term evaluation of fuel economy standards for the same period, a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has published a report analyzing emerging vehicle efficiency technologies; their ability to achieve lower emission levels; and their costs in the 2025–2030 timeframe.

Starting from a baseline 26 mpg (9.04 l/100 km) in 2016, the The ICCT team assessed increased consumer label fuel economy (as opposed to the regulatory test fuel economy) to 35 mpg (6.71 l/100 km) in 2025 and to 42–46 mpg (5.6-5.11 l/100 km) (under three scenarios) by 2030. These fuel economy levels are achieved based on a sustained 4%–6% annual reduction of fuel use per mile with incremental technology additions that do not compromise vehicle size or utility at an incremental cost of $800–$1,300 from 2025 to 2030. The resulting trajectory would reduce CO2 emissions by half and increase fuel economy by more than 60% from 2016 through 2030. Based on a detailed analysis of the efficiency technologies used to achieve these lower CO2 emission levels, the ICCT study concludes that vehicle prices would increase by about 5% by 2030.

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IEA finds CO2 emissions flat for third straight year even as global economy grew in 2016

March 18, 2017

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were flat for a third straight year in 2016 even as the global economy grew, according to the International Energy Agency. The data signal a continuing decoupling of emissions and economic activity. This was the result of growing renewable power generation, switches from coal to natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, as well as structural changes in the global economy.

Global emissions from the energy sector stood at 32.1 gigatonnes last year, the same as the previous two years, while the global economy grew 3.1%, according to estimates from the IEA. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in the United States and China, the world’s two-largest energy users and emitters, and were stable in Europe, offsetting increases in most of the rest of the world.

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Trump’s proposed FY 2018 budget cuts overall DOE budget 5.6%; eliminates ARPA-E, ITLGP, ATVMP

March 16, 2017

The Trump Administration has released its “America First” budget blueprint for the FY 2018 budget. The core of the blueprint is a $54-billion increase in defense spending in 2018 that is offset by targeted reductions in other areas.

For the Department of Energy (DOE), the blueprint requests $28.0 billion—a $1.7-billion (5.6%) decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. Within that, the proposed budget would provide a $1.4-billion increase above the 2017 annualized CR level for the National Nuclear Security Administration—an 11% increase. The new budget proposal focuses resources toward early-stage research and development of energy technologies and reflects increased reliance on the private sector to fund later-stage research, development, and commercialization.

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Volkswagen Group and Tata Motors Ltd. to explore strategic alliance for joint development projects; ŠKODA to lead

March 10, 2017

Matthias Müller, CEO of Volkswagen AG, Bernhard Maier, CEO of ŠKODA Auto and Günter Butschek, CEO and Managing Director of Tata Motors Ltd., signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which forms the basis for exploring long-term strategic cooperation in clearly-defined fields. The goal of the strategic alliance is to bundle the expertise of both car manufacturers with a view to jointly developing vehicle components and possibly also vehicle concepts.

Under the terms of the memorandum, the Volkswagen Group and Tata Motors will explore possibilities for a strategic partnership in India. In order to share responsibility among the Volkswagen Group brands, ŠKODA Auto is to lead the project.

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PSA to acquire Opel/Vauxhall & GM Financial Euro operations for €2.2B; partnering on electrification and maybe fuel cells

March 06, 2017

General Motors and PSA Group announced an agreement under which PSA Group will acquire GM’s Opel/Vauxhall subsidiary and GM Financial’s European operations in a transaction valuing these activities at €1.3 billion (US$1.38 billion) and €0.9 billion (US$0.95 billion, respectively. With the addition of Opel/Vauxhall, which generated revenue of €17.7 billion (US$18.75 billion) in 2016, PSA will become the second-largest automotive company in Europe, with a 17% market share.

GM will also own warrants to purchase shares of PSA. GM and PSA also expect to collaborate in the further deployment of electrification technologies. Existing supply agreements for Holden and certain Buick models will continue, and PSA may potentially source long-term supply of fuel cell systems from the GM/Honda joint venture.

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Oil Majors’ Costs Have Risen 66% Since 2011

March 03, 2017

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

The oil majors reported poor earnings for the fourth quarter of last year, but many oil executives struck an optimistic tone about the road ahead. Oil prices have stabilized and the cost cutting measures implemented over the past three years should allow companies to turn a profit even though crude trades for about half of what it did back in 2014.

The collapse of oil prices forced the majors to slash spending on exploration, cut employees, defer projects, and look for efficiencies. That allowed them to successfully lower their breakeven price for oil projects. However, some of that could be temporary, with oilfield services companies now demanding higher prices for equipment and drilling jobs, in some cases upping prices by as much as 20 percent. The result could be an uptick in the cost of producing oil for the first time in a few years. Rystad Energy estimated the average shale project could see costs rise by $1.60 per barrel, rising to $36.50.

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Volkswagen Group returns to profitability with new record for sales revenue and operating result in 2016

February 27, 2017

The Volkswagen Group made progress in 2016 in overcoming its self-inflicted diesel crisis. Sales revenue in fiscal year 2016 rose by €4.0 billion (US$4.22 billion) to €217.3 billion (US$229.4 billion). At €7.1 billion (US$7.5 billion), the Group’s operating result, which dropped into the red in the previous year due to the diesel issue, was back in strongly positive territory. Before special items, the Group’s operating result reached a new record and at €14.6 billion (US$15.4 billion) was substantially higher than the prior-year figure (up 14%); the operating return on sales rose to 6.7% (6.0%).

In spite of further challenges resulting from the diesel issue and the persistently difficult conditions in vehicle markets such as Brazil and Russia, the Group delivered 10.3 million vehicles to customers worldwide in the past fiscal year—up 3.7% from 9.931 million in 2015. The Group therefore reached not only its targets for 2016 but also a new record, helped in particular by increases in Western and Central European markets and in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Alfa’s first SUV: the Stelvio

February 23, 2017

Alfa Romeo is introducing its first SUV, the Stelvio. The Stelvio is Italy’s highest mountain pass and Highway 38, which crosses it, more than 20 kilometers in length and with more than 75 hairpin bends, has iconic status. The new SUV delivers sports-car-handling, with balanced weight distribution, the most direct steering ratio in the segment and state-of-the-art suspension with the exclusive Alfalink technology.

Stelvio features extensive use of ultra-lightweight, hi-tech materials including carbon fiber for the drive shaft and aluminium for the engines, suspension systems, hood, wings, doors and the tailgate. The Stelvio SUV also features the Alfa Romeo Q4 all-wheel drive system, and can be equipped with mechanical self-locking rear differential on request.

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7-state Midwest EVOLVE project to promote electric vehicles; Ford, GM, Nissan initial automotive partners

February 10, 2017

The American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest announced the launch of Midwest EVOLVE, a three-year project to promote electric vehicles in seven Midwestern states: Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota.

In partnership with eight Clean Cities coalitions, Midwest EVOLVE (Electric Vehicle Opportunities: Learning, eVents, Experience) will demonstrate the performance and environmental benefits of plug-in electric vehicles through showcases, ride and drives, and events in communities throughout the seven-state region.

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Hitachi Automotive Systems and Honda to establish a joint venture for electric vehicle motors

February 07, 2017

Hitachi Automotive Systems and Honda Motor have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aiming to establish a joint venture company for the development, manufacture and sales of motors for electric vehicles. Initially, Hitachi will hold 51%, Honda 49% of the new JV, the name of which is still to be determined.

Subsidiary operations of the new Japan-based joint venture are planned for the US and China, each with manufacturing and sales functions. Together with the establishment of these operations, the new company will expand the global supply of motors by creating a robust response to demand from Honda and other vehicle manufacturers.

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Valeo to form transmission JV with S. Korean partner Pyeong Hwa Group; torque converters and CVTs; boosting sales to Hyundai-Kia

France-based Valeo has signed an agreement with its long-standing South Korean partner Pyeong Hwa Group to create a 50/50 joint venture for transmissions; the new company will be called Valeo-Kapec. The partners intend for Valeo-Kapec to become the world leader in torque converters and CVTs.

Each partner will contribute to this Joint-Venture its respective torque Ccnverter business, located for Valeo at Nanjing (China), Atsugi (Japan), San Luis Potosi (Mexico) and Troy (USA) and located for Kapec in Daegu, Waegwan and Seongju (South Korea).

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The Oil War Is Only Just Getting Started

February 03, 2017

The Oil War Is Only Just Getting Started

by Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

It’s been a month now that investors and analysts have been closely watching two main drivers for oil prices: how OPEC is doing with the supply-cut deal, and how US shale is responding to fifty-plus-dollar oil with rebounding drilling activity. Those two main factors are largely neutralizing each other, and are putting a floor and a cap to a price range of between $50 and $60.

The US rig count has been rising, while OPEC seems unfazed by the resurgence in North American shale activity and is trying to convince the market (and itself) and prove that it would be mostly adhering to the promise to curtail supply in an effort to boost prices and bring markets back to balance. In the next couple of months, official production figures will point to who's winning this round of the oil wars.

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Takata to plead guilty, pay $1B in criminal penalties for airbag scheme; 3 Takata execs indicted

January 14, 2017

Tokyo-based Takata Corporation, one of the world’s largest suppliers of automotive safety-related equipment, agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and pay a total of $1 billion in criminal penalties stemming from the company’s fraudulent conduct in relation to sales of defective airbag inflators. An indictment was also unsealed charging three Takata executives with wire fraud and conspiracy in relation to the same conduct.

According to the company’s admissions, in the late 1990s, Takata began developing airbag inflators that relied upon ammonium nitrate as their primary propellant. From at least in or around 2000, Takata knew that certain ammonium nitrate-based inflators were not performing to the specifications required by the auto manufacturers. Takata also knew that certain inflators had sustained failures, including ruptures, during testing.

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Volkswagen AG agrees to plead guilty and pay $4.3B in criminal and civil penalties; 6 execs and employees indicted

January 11, 2017

Volkswagen AG has agreed with the US government to resolve criminal and federal environmental and other civil claims against the company relating to the diesel emissions cheating débâcle. As part of the resolution, Volkswagen has agreed to plead guilty to three criminal felony counts, to pay penalties and fines totaling $4.3 billion, and to a series of measures to further strengthen its compliance and control systems, including the appointment of an independent monitor for a period of three years.

In addition, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Michigan returned an indictment charging six VW executives and employees for their roles in the nearly 10-year conspiracy.

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New Opel Insignia to offer torque-vectoring all-wheel drive with Twinster system

The all-new Opel Insignia Grand Sport, arriving in the market early this year, will be available with a torque vectoring all-wheel drive system. The new Opel Insignia uses a GKN Twinster all-wheel drive system with a rear drive module that uses a twin clutch system without differential. The two clutches distribute torque between the front and rear axle and between the two rear wheels.

Torque vectoring provides intelligent control of the vehicle dynamics by sending precise amounts of torque to individual wheels; by over-speeding the outside wheel in a corner, torque vectoring can induce a yaw-moment, helping steer the vehicle. Conventional torque vectoring systems use a set of planetary gears either side of the differential to achieve only very low levels of over-speeding. Other systems use braking to achieve a similar effect—but waste energy and slow the vehicle in the process.

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GM posts 2016 delivery record in China; 3.87M vehicles, more than 1/3 of global sales

January 06, 2017

General Motors and its joint ventures delivered a record 3,870,587 vehicles in China in 2016, which was an increase of 7.1% from the previous high in 2015. China remained GM’s largest market in terms of retail sales for the fifth consecutive year, accounting for more than one-third of the company’s global sales. For comparison, GM brands reported retail sales in the US of 2,446,582 vehicles for CY 2016.

Last year, GM launched 13 new and refreshed models in China, putting it on track to fulfill its plan to introduce 60 models through 2020. It is focused on the luxury, SUV and MPV segments. About 40% of GM’s product launches in China through 2020 will be SUVs and MPVs.

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ECS requesting proposals for third ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship for projects in automotive green energy technology

January 05, 2017

ECS (The Electrochemical Society), in partnership with the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), is requesting proposals for the third ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship from young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology.

The automotive industry currently faces three challenges regarding environmental and energy issues: (1) finding a viable alternative energy source as a replacement for oil; (2) reducing CO2 emissions; and (3) preventing air pollution. Although the demand for oil alternatives—such as natural gas, electricity and hydrogen—may grow, each alternative energy source has its disadvantages. Currently, oil remains the main source of automotive fuel; however, further research and development of alternative energies may bring change.

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Liberty Mutual Insurance’s Solaria Labs unveils new developer portal for future products and apps; from safest routing to damage assessment

January 04, 2017

Solaria Labs, an innovation incubator established in 2015 by Liberty Mutual Insurance, is introducing an open API developer portal that combines public data with proprietary insurance knowledge, helping to inform future products and apps for customers. This technology will be able to help consumers do everything from finding the safest driving route—e.g., one on which you are less likely to have an accident—to assessing auto damage from a fender bender with a smartphone camera.

The Solaria Labs developer portal will aggregate public data on auto theft, parking citations as well as crashes using proprietary insurance knowledge. After signing up, developers and data scientists can analyze the aggregated data to identify, for example, the safest driving routes and places to park in major US cities. Providing this comprehensive collection of data will help fuel the development of future apps to improve safety for both drivers and passengers.

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MIT CSAIL, Cornell study finds rides-sharing theoretically could cut taxi traffic in NYC by 75%

January 03, 2017

A new modeling study by a team from MIT CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) and Cornell suggests that using ride-sharing from companies like Uber and Lyft theoretically could reduce the number of taxis on the road in New York City by 75% without significantly impacting travel time. A paper on their work will be published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Led by Professor Daniela Rus of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the researchers developed a dynamic ride-sharing algorithm that found that 3,000 four-passenger cars could serve 98% of taxi demand in New York City, with an average wait-time of only 2.7 minutes. The team also found that 95 percent of demand would be covered by just 2,000 ten-person vehicles, compared to the nearly 14,000 taxis that currently operate in New York City.

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Texas Automated Vehicle Proving Ground Partnership forms; applying for national designation

January 02, 2017

Cities and regions across Texas are partnering with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Transportation Research (CTR), and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to form the Texas Automated Vehicle (AV) Proving Ground Partnership.

The partnership builds upon the momentum of the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) Smart City Challenge, in which Austin was a finalist, and is a direct outcome of the Texas Mobility Summit held 1–2 December 2016. The summit, hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Texas Technology Task Force, brought together nine teams representing 10 cities and three research institutions to galvanize key leadership in developing innovative solutions to the state’s mobility challenges. The teams are committed to continuing the collaboration, beginning with leveraging their collective resources, expertise and opportunities to advance AV technology.

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Ford 2017 trends report: disruption the status quo, “never more difficult” to find objective information

December 25, 2016

For the past five years, Ford has issued an annual trend report exploring societal shifts expected to influence consumers and brands (e.g., earlier post). The reports have focused on microtrends in consumer behavior; the fifth anniversary edition report—Looking Further with Ford: 2017 Trends—revisits three that surfaced in earlier reports, and highlights seven that are emerging.

Sheryl Connelly, Ford global trend and futuring manager, says there is no escaping the fact that disruption is now the status quo. At a time in which truthfulness tends to be subjective, two-thirds of adults say it never has been harder to find objective, fact-based information, while just 55% say what they put on social media is what they really think. An abundance of choice matched with uncertainty in the marketplace is bringing about a reluctance to commit—giving rise to a “sampling society” that prioritizes trying over buying .

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Volkswagen plans integrated mobility concept in Rwanda; vehicle production in Kenya

December 23, 2016

Volkswagen is taking a further step to develop market potentials in Africa. The Hon. Francis Gatare, Director of the Rwanda Development Board, and Thomas Schäfer, CEO of Volkswagen Group South Africa, this week signed a memorandum of understanding for a new integrated mobility concept in Kigali in the presence of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen brand.

Volkswagen also this week inaugurated a vehicle production facility in Kenya. At the inauguration, Diess underlined Kenya’s key role within the Volkswagen brand’s Africa strategy: “After over 60 years of Volkswagen vehicle production in South and North Africa, I am delighted to now have a further site in Kenya. We will systematically continue to develop our position in the fast-growing African car market.

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US Shale Is Now Cash Flow Neutral

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Oil prices are probably already high enough to spark a rebound in shale production.

The IEA says that in the third quarter of 2016, the US shale industry became cash flow neutral for the first time ever. That isn’t a typo. For years, the drilling boom was done with a lot of debt, and the revenus earned from steadily higher levels of output were not enough to cover the cost of drilling, even when oil prices traded above $100 per barrel in the go-go drilling days between 2011 and 2014. Even when US oil production hit a peak at 9.7 million barrels per day in the second quarter of 2015, the industry did not break even. Indeed, shale companies were coming off of one of their worst quarters in terms of cash flow in recent history.

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Not So Prolific: US Shale Faces A Reality Check

December 14, 2016

by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

The collapse of oil prices has forced the US shale industry to slash production costs. In order to improve the breakeven costs for the average shale well, the industry has deployed three general strategies: improving techniques and technology, such as drilling longer laterals or using more frac sand; focusing drilling on the sweet spots; and demanding lower prices from oilfield service companies. All three of those strategies led to a decline in the breakeven price for a shale wells.

But while the industry plays up the efficiency gains, highlighting enhanced technology and better management, merely focusing on the sweet spots has been “nearly twice as important as better technology in reducing well costs,” as The Post Carbon Institute (PCI) notes in a report published on Monday, 2016 Tight Oil Reality Check. This is a process known as “high-grading.” In fact, the so-called efficiency gains over the past two years are a lot less impressive once you dig into the causes.

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US vehicle miles travelled up 3% in first 9 months of 2016 to 2.4 trillion miles

December 05, 2016

US driving topped 2.4 trillion miles in the first nine months of 2016, an increase of 3.0% compared to the same period last year, lengthening a series of consecutive monthly increases that started in April 2014, according to preliminary new data released by the US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The new data, published in FHWA’s latest “Traffic Volume Trends” report—a monthly estimate of US road travel—show that more than 265.5 billion miles were driven in September 2016 alone—a 2.4% increase over the previous September and a 0.4% increase compared with August 2016.

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BMW Group expands BMW i Ventures role with new €500M fund; widened scope of investment, greater independence

December 01, 2016

The BMW Group is expanding the remit of its BMW i Ventures venture capital unit and creating a new fund of up to €500 million (US$531 million) over ten years to support it. The new fund will allow BMW i Ventures to make investments in a wider range of areas, such as autonomous driving and digitalization, and to secure continued access to the technologies of the future.

BMW i Ventures’ previous focus on mobility services and electro-mobility will be expanded to cover the BMW Group’s full innovation spectrum in all areas of Strategy Number ONE > NEXT, even those outside of the traditional automotive value chain. Future topics for exploration will focus on “Enabling Technology and Digital Vehicle Technology”, “Mobility and Digital Services”, “Customer Experience” and “Advanced Production Technology”.

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Geographers provide new insight into commuter megaregions of the US

Geographers from Dartmouth College and the University of Sheffield have provided new insight into the economic geography of commuter megaregions in the US by using an empirical approach that combines visual interpretation with statistical analysis. The findings appear in an open-access paper in PLOS One and shed light on an old geographic problem: how to divide space into coherent unit areas.

These emerging megaregions reflect the economic links woven by millions of commuters traveling to and from work each day. They map out complex networks in which economic systems, natural resources and infrastructure are linked. Understanding the way functional geographic connections cross over the existing borderlines of states and regions is key for developing institutional forms that match the patterns of the contemporary world.

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Nissan announces new strategy for customer ownership experience; leveraging connected car, big data, and personalization

November 29, 2016

In Japan, Nissan announced a new, comprehensive strategy to transform its customer aftersales experience through innovative technology and enhanced services. The company anticipates that, as a result, connected car services and greater choice in accessories and personalization will increasingly drive growth in its aftersales business, anticipated to contribute 25% of aftersales revenue by 2022.

Connected car technology and expanding use of big data will enable Nissan to offer new services, improve the dealership experience and increase customer retention. In the future, Nissan cars will provide customers advance notice when servicing is needed, as well as automatically order parts to ensure dealership availability on customer visits. Connected car technology will also dramatically streamline Nissan’s global supply chain, bringing just-in-time logistics to increase manufacturing efficiency, from plants to the dealer.

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IMI calls on UK Government to invest £30M in hybrid and electric vehicle training; affordability issue

November 21, 2016

In the UK, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is calling on the UK Government to make a £30-million (US$37-million) investment in specialist electric and hybrid vehicle training for thousands of maintenance and repair technicians in the independent retail sector. IMI asserts that the investment is crucial to support the public switch to ultra low emission vehicles (ULEV).

The IMI says the Government will need to spend a proportion of the £600 million (US$815 million) it has set aside to promote the uptake of low emission vehicles, on the technical skills infrastructure across the whole UK. It says the £40 million (US$49 million) already allocated to cities to meet air quality and emission targets, and the Chancellor’s goal of every new car and van being ULEV by 2040 will not work in isolation.

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Global Carbon Project: Low growth in global carbon emissions continues for third successive year

November 14, 2016

Global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels did not grow in 2015 and are projected to rise only slightly in 2016, marking three years of almost no growth, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project. Decreased use of coal in China is the main reason behind the 3-year slowdown.

The projected rise of only 0.2% for 2016 marks a clear break from the rapid emissions growth of 2.3% per year in the decade to 2013, with just 0.7% growth seen in 2014. The new data shows emissions growth remained below 1% despite GDP growth exceeding 3%. Detailed data were made available in the open-access data journal Earth System Science Data (ESSD). This is the fifth update of the global carbon budget published by ESSD in the living data format.

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T&E report: electric cars sales in Europe doubled in 2015; now at 1% market share

Roughly 145,000 new electric vehicles (EV) were sold in Europe in 2015—double the 2014 tally, according to a recent T&E report. EV sales have now reached the milestone of a 1% market share; figures for 2016 to date suggest significantly more than 200,000 plug-in vehicles will be sold in Europe this year. That would take the total number of EVs on the road to more than half a million cars.

Currently, there are 34 EV models on the European market available, including battery-, plug-in-hybrid- and range-extended-electric vehicles. Established manufacturers have announced new plans to expand their portfolio of EVs within the next five years. Although EVs still constitute only a fraction of all car models available, Europe (including Switzerland and Norway) is the second biggest EV market in the world behind China.

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Navigant Research ranks EV charging network companies

In a new Leaderboard Report, Navigant Research assesses the business strategy and execution of 12 companies offering public charging networks and EV charging services.

Navigant Research estimates the global commercial charging market for plug-ins will be worth $2.7 billion annually by 2025, compared to $168.5 million in 2016—reflecting a 36.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). To date, the market has been driven by a combination of market pull from the growing number of PEVs on the roads in major automotive markets such as North America and Europe and market push from stakeholders such as governments, automakers, and utilities.

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Dürr introduces new generation of painting robots with greater kinematic freedom; Industry 4.0

November 11, 2016

Dürr has introduced its next-generation of painting robot: the new Ecopaint Robot. With its greater kinematic freedom, the EcoRP E043i model with its seven-axis kinematic system enlarges the work zone and can eliminate the need for a linear displacement rail. This can significantly reduce investment and maintenance costs in the paint booth. Another newly developed product, the EcoRCMP2 robot control, is a key module of the Smart Factory.

Conventionally, paint robots are usually equipped with six axes. A displacement rail in the booth wall ensures that the robot can move parallel with the car body in the paint booth and thereby reach all car body areas. The new Dürr robot has now been equipped with a seventh rotatory axis. This significantly increases flexibility and versatility,said Dr. Hans Schumacher, President and CEO of Dürr Systems AG.

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Infineon introduces new switch family supporting trend towards decentralized intelligent vehicle power net

November 04, 2016

Infineon Technologies AG is supporting the trend towards decentralized, intelligent and cost-effective vehicle power net architectures. Infineon now launched Power PROFET, a new ultra-low ohmic smart high-side switch family. These protected switches offer the lowest on-resistance and the highest energy capability on the market. They enable the replacement of electromechanical relays and fuses in power distribution and junction boxes up to 40A DC.

At the system level, Power PROFET switches enable a more accurate system sizing. Also, they simplify significantly the wire harness architecture by reducing the lengths of many wires or removing them completely.

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Volkswagen unveils Atlas; new MQB-based 7-seat SUV; first VW Digital Cockpit in US

October 28, 2016

Volkswagen unveiled the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SUV at an event on the Santa Monica Pier. Built in Chattanooga alongside the Passat, the seven-passenger Atlas offers a full slate of available driver assistance and technology features—including Volkswagen’s first Digital Cockpit in a vehicle for the US—a spacious interior and a choice of two gasoline powertrains.

Atlas, said Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of the North America Region, Volkswagen and President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, is the brand’s first entry into the mid-size SUV segment, “the heart of the American market.” The largest Volkswagen the company has built in the US, Atlas features Volkswagen-style driving dynamics and attention to detail, and will be priced to be attractive in the volume family SUV segment.

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Qualcomm to acquire NXP for ~$38B; semiconductor engine for connected world

October 27, 2016

Qualcomm Incorporated will acquire NXP Semiconductors with an equity offer worth some $38 billion; including debt, the deal is worth roughly $47 billion. The boards of directors of both companies unanimously approved the definitive agreement.

NXP is a leader in high-performance, mixed-signal semiconductor electronics, with innovative products and solutions and leadership positions in automotive, broad-based microcontrollers, secure identification, network processing and RF power. As a leading semiconductor solutions supplier to the automotive industry, NXP also has leading positions in automotive infotainment, networking and safety systems, with solutions designed into 14 of the top 15 infotainment customers in 2016. NXP has a broad customer base, serving more than 25,000 customers through its direct sales channel and global network of distribution channel partners.

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Mercedes-Benz Vans shows pickup truck concepts; market launch in late 2017; diesel V6

October 25, 2016

Mercedes-Benz Vans unveiled two design variants of the Concept X-CLASS, previewing the coming X-Class pickup, in Stockholm. The introduction of the one-ton pickup with seating for up to 5 people will make Mercedes-Benz the first premium manufacturer to account for the changing customer requirements in the global segment of mid-size pickups.

With the pickup, Mercedes-Benz Vans will also expand its product range with a fourth model series. Daimler AG will make investments in the high nine figures (euro) in the new model series by the time of the market launch. The pickup will be launched in late 2017 in Europe under the name Mercedes-Benz X-Class. The key markets will be Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Australia with New Zealand, and Europe.

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US total petroleum demand up in September year-on-year; highest September gasoline deliveries on record

October 22, 2016

Total petroleum deliveries in September increased 1.0% from September 2015, but were down 2.6% from August to average 19.6 million barrels per day, according to figures from the American Petroleum Institute (API). These September deliveries were the highest deliveries for the month in nine years, since 2007.

For the third quarter of 2016, total petroleum deliveries, a measure of US petroleum demand, decreased by 0.1% from the same period last year. For year to date, total domestic petroleum deliveries remained flat compared to the same period last year.

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Nissan completes 34% stake in Mitsubishi Motors; Mitsubishi joins Renault-Nissan Alliance

October 20, 2016

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. has completed an acquisition of a 34% equity stake in Mitsubishi Motors (MMC) (earlier post) and has become its largest shareholder. As indicated in May, when Nissan outlined the deal, MMC is also becoming part of the global Alliance with Nissan and Renault. With the addition of MMC, the Alliance will be in the world’s top three automotive groups by global volumes, with sales of 10 million units in fiscal year 2016.

The investment and alliance comes in the aftermath of revelations of MMC cheating on fuel consumption testing in Japan with mini-cars and other models. Nissan was the one which first brought the discrepancies in minicar testing to light; MMC produces minicar models for Nissan in Japan.

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Volkswagen Group outselling GM in China

October 18, 2016

The Volkswagen Group is having a very strong sales year so far in China. For September, deliveries were up 20.1% to 382,300 units compared to September 2015. For the nine-month period from January to September, VW Group deliveries were up 10.7% to 2,853,900 from the year before.

As a result, the Group is outselling GM, which itself has been posting record results. General Motors and its joint ventures in China delivered a September record 343,773 vehicles, up 16% year over year. For the first nine months of 2016, retail sales by GM and its joint ventures in China increased 9% on an annual basis to a record 2,718,315 units.

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Cumulative plug-in vehicle sales topped 500K units in US in September

October 17, 2016

Cumulative sales of plug-in vehicles in the US topped 500,000 units in September, according to figures gathered by the US Department of Energy (DOE).

The introduction of the first mass market plug-in vehicles occurred in December of 2010 with the introduction of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf. By the end of 2012 there were 11 different plug-in models available, and by September of 2016 there were 27 different models.

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Suzuki and Toyota to explore business partnership; environment, safety, and information technology

October 12, 2016

Suzuki Motor Corporation (Suzuki) and Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) have agreed to start exploring ideas that are directed towards a business partnership.

In a joint statement, the two companies said that, given the rapid change in the auto industry, the industry is required to work not only on conventional automobile R&D, but also on R&D for advanced and future technologies in the fields including environment, safety, and IT. In addition to the R&D that is conducted by individual companies, it is increasingly important to work together with other companies on areas such as infrastructure development, as well as the establishment of new industrial standards.

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Volkswagen Truck & Bus launches RIO: open cloud-based platform for transportation industry digitization

September 21, 2016

At the IAA Commercial Vehicles 2016 show in Hanover, Volkswagen Truck & Bus is presenting itself to the public for the first time as a group of strong brands: MAN, Scania, Volkswagen Caminhões e Ônibus and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

In addition to numerous new products, Volkswagen Truck & Bus is emphasizing alternative drives and connected commercial vehicles. In addition to electromobility for commercial vehicles—from the Volkswagen e-load up! to MAN’s heavy-duty distribution eTruck—Volkswagen Truck & Bus is launching RIO—a new brand bundling digital solutions for transportation & logistics into a cloud-based open platform that can serve as the “operating system” for the entire transportation industry.

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Exascale Computing Project (ECP) announces $39.8M in first-round application development awards

September 08, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) announced its first round of funding with the selection of 15 application development proposals for full funding and seven proposals for seed funding, representing teams from 45 research and academic organizations.

The awards, totaling $39.8 million, target advanced modeling and simulation solutions to specific challenges supporting key DOE missions in science, clean energy and national security, as well as collaborations such as the Precision Medicine Initiative with the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute. Exascale refers to high-performance computing systems capable of at least a billion billion calculations per second, or a factor of 50 to 100 times faster than the nation’s most powerful supercomputers in use today.

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Fujitsu develops low power consumption technology for 5G

September 07, 2016

Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. has built a prototype wireless unit incorporating inter-subarray coding technology, which makes it possible to achieve high-speed transmissions, in excess of 10 Gbps, for 5G mobile wireless base stations and access points. It has achieved these high speeds while maintaining low power consumption levels on par with Wi-Fi.

In verification tests, the prototype successfully transmitted signals simultaneously to multiple devices. In order to achieve 5G ultra high-speed communications, for which development is ongoing with the aim of practical implementation by about 2020, attention is centered on technology that uses the millimeter waveband and multiple antenna elements to simultaneously transmit signals as beams to each individual device.

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Volvo Cars and Autoliv to create joint venture for next-gen autonomous driving software

September 06, 2016

Volvo Cars and Autoliv have signed a letter of intent to set up a new jointly-owned company to develop next-generation autonomous driving software. The planned new company will have its headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, and an initial workforce taken from both companies of around 200, increasing to over 600 in the medium term. The company is expected to start operations in the beginning of 2017.

The new company, which has yet to be named, will develop advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous drive (AD) systems for use in Volvo cars and for sale exclusively by Autoliv to all car makers globally, with revenues shared by both companies.

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Volkswagen Truck & Bus enters into strategic alliance with Navistar, takes 16.6% stake; entry into N. America

Volkswagen Truck & Bus has formed a wide-ranging strategic alliance with Navistar International Corporation, which includes an equity investment in Navistar by Volkswagen Truck & Bus and framework agreements for strategic technology and supply collaboration and a procurement joint venture.

Volkswagen Truck & Bus will purchase from Navistar newly issued common shares representing, pro forma for such issuance, a 16.6% stake (19.9% of pre-transaction outstanding common stock) in Navistar for a price per share of $15.76 and an aggregate purchase price of approximately $256 million (or approximately €229 million at current exchange rates). To underscore the long-term nature of the alliance, Volkswagen Truck & Bus has agreed to hold these shares for a minimum of three years.

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Why Wall Street is throwing billions at the Permian

August 31, 2016

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

The collapse of oil prices has ground shale drilling to a halt, but the one region where drilling is still active, and even increasing, is in West Texas.

The Permian Basin is one of the last profitable areas to still drill with sub-$50 oil, and as other regions fall by the wayside, an increasing portion of drilling activity and spare investment dollars are flowing into the Permian. The rebound in the rig count in the U.S. is largely concentrated in the Permian. The West Texas shale basin has captured two-thirds of the 90 oil rigs that have been added since hitting a nadir in May.

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Opinion: Could A Lithium Shortage De-Rail The Electric Car Boom?

August 26, 2016

by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

We’ve gone electric, and there’s no going back at this point. Lithium is our new fuel, but like fossil fuels, the reserves we’re currently tapping into are finite—and that’s what investors can take to the bank.

You may think lithium got too popular too fast. You may suspect electric vehicles are too much buzz and not enough real future. You may, in short, be a lithium skeptic, one of many. And yet, despite this skepticism, lithium demand is rising steadily and sharply, and indications that a shortage may be looming are very real.

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OPEC’s Output Freeze: What Has Changed Since Doha?

August 25, 2016

by Rakesh Upadhyay for Oilprice.com

It’s possible that OPEC is crying wolf with hints of an output freeze next month in Algiers; but it’s also possible that they are ramping up production to take the sting out of a freeze. This is a delicate balancing act that the Saudis need to play very carefully.

The official chatter is that the OPEC meeting in Algeria from September 26 to 28 could conclude with an agreement to freeze production by the member nations, with even Russia joining forces in a freeze that may prevent further oil price erosion. But everyone’s a bit gun-shy after the false hopes of the last round in Doha—even if a freeze at levels that existed then wouldn’t have meant much either—and it’s hard to blame them. The question is, how many times can the Saudis cry wolf without forever losing the ability to leverage this chatter to affect a rise in oil prices?

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Ford targeting highly autonomous vehicle for ride-sharing in 2021; new tech company investments, staffing up in Silicon Valley

August 17, 2016

Ford intends to have a high-volume, highly autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle in commercial operation in 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service. To achieve this, the company is investing in or collaborating with four startups to enhance its autonomous vehicle development, doubling its Silicon Valley team and more than doubling its Palo Alto campus.

Autonomous vehicles in 2021 are part of Ford Smart Mobility, the company’s plan to be a leader in autonomous vehicles, as well as in connectivity, mobility, the customer experience, and data and analytics.

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Lux: Total is leading example of oil supermajor expanding into solar plus storage and distributed generation

August 09, 2016

France-based Total is the first oil supermajor aggressively to enter new areas of business including solar plus storage and distributed generation, notes Lux Research in a new report: “Superpower Darwinism: What Big Oil Can and Cannot Do About Total’s Billion-Dollar Battery Move.”

Even though viable battery companies have become harder and more expensive to buy since Total’s $1-billion acquisition of Saft (earlier post), the oil supermajors—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Total—have cash piles ranging from $5 billion to $30 billion each, despite shrinking profits since 2012 and uncertainty about timing of the eventual recovery of oil prices.

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Fujitsu develops technology to enable high-speed deep learning

Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. has developed software technology that uses multiple GPUs to enable high-speed deep learning powered by the application of supercomputer software parallelization technology. This newly developed technology was implemented in the Caffe deep learning framework, where, in a test measuring learning time using AlexNet on 64 GPU-equipped computers, it achieved a learning speed that is 27 times faster than a single GPU.

Compared with before this technology was applied, it achieved learning speed improvements of 46% for 16 GPUs and 71% for 64 GPUs (according to internal comparisons). Using this technology, the time required for deep learning R&D can be shortened, such as in the development of unique neural network models for the autonomous control of robots, automobiles, and so forth, or for healthcare and finance, such as with pathology classification or stock price forecasting, enabling the development of higher-quality models.

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Survey: Fuel efficiency top criterion for US buyers regardless of size of vehicle; good news for start-stop

August 03, 2016

American consumers are strongly influenced by fuel efficiency and the price of gas when purchasing a vehicle, according to a new survey conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of Johnson Controls. Of the 1,006 people surveyed, fuel efficiency (57%) is top of mind for consumers when they go to buy any size automobile, followed closely by cost (55%) and safety (54%).

That preference is consistent with a similar survey conducted five years ago, despite falling gas prices, which are down more than 37% from the national average in 2011. The new survey also found consumers are sensitive to the price of fuel when considering a new vehicle, with 64% saying it directly impacts their purchase. This is up 14% from 2011.

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TÜM study finds reduction in fuel consumption from eco-driving training, even with incentives, to be fleeting

August 01, 2016

A study of the persistence of effects of eco-driving training by a team from Technische Universität München has found that, while there is an immediate reduction of the average fuel consumption following eco-driving training along with the provision of an incentive, there is an attenuation of this effect after six months.

Further, they also found no impact on fuel consumption from purely theoretical eco-driving training—i.e., without incentives—either short-term or long-term. A paper describing their study is published in the journal Energy Policy.

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Report: Uber to invest $500M in global mapping project

July 31, 2016

The Financial Times reports that Uber will invest $500 million into a global mapping project in an effort to decrease its dependence on Google Maps and to prepare for autonomous driving. The FT cited “a person familiar with Uber’s plans” as the source.

Uber has already hired Brian McClendon, formerly the head of Google Maps for more than a decade. In a post on the Uber site last week, McClendon noted that “Accurate maps are at the heart of our service and the backbone of our business.

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California releases Sustainable Freight Action Plan to transform freight system; 25% more efficient by 2030

July 30, 2016

In response to an Executive Order issued last year by California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., state agency leaders on Friday released the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan, a comprehensive document that serves as a blueprint for transforming the state’s multi-billion dollar freight transport system into one that is environmentally cleaner, more efficient, and more economically competitive than it is today.

The revised document is similar to the draft version issued in May 2016, but reflects new input provided by industry, labor, regional and local government, and community and environmental group stakeholders, who submitted more than 85 comments on the draft plan.

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