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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.]

Toyota announces aggressive environmental targets through 2050; cutting new vehicle CO2 by 90% compared to 2010

October 14, 2015

Addressing key global environmental issues such as climate change, water shortages, resource depletion, and degradation of biodiversity, the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 aims to reduce the negative impact of manufacturing and driving vehicles as much as possible. The challenge comprises six individual challenges across three areas: Ever-better cars, quantified as reducing global average new-vehicle CO2 emissions by 90% by 2050 compared to Toyota’s 2010 global average; ever-better manufacturing (zero CO2 emissions at all plants by 2050); and enriching the lives of communities.

As a key step toward achieving these long-term targets, Toyota is announcing its Sixth Toyota Environmental Action Plan, which will be enacted between April 2016 and the end of March 2021.

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Bridgestone successfully builds passenger car tires with 100% guayule-derived rubber

October 02, 2015

Bridgestone Corporation has successfully built passenger tires with 100 percent of its natural rubber-containing components derived from guayule, a desert shrub that grows in arid regions. Natural rubber is contained in the plant’s barks and roots. (Earlier post.) Built at the Bridgestone Technical Center in Japan, the tires were constructed using the company’s guayule natural rubber cultivated by Bridgestone at its Biorubber Process Research Center (BPRC) in Mesa, Arizona.

Bridgestone built similar passenger tires at its operations in Rome, Italy earlier this summer. In those tire builds, all of the tire’s major natural rubber components—including the tread, sidewall and bead filler—were replaced with natural rubber extracted from guayule grown and harvested by Bridgestone.

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Honda launches new “Green Path” initiatives for manufacturing and operations; new $210M paint line at Marysville with new 4C2B process

September 25, 2015

Honda has announced several initiatives under its new “Green Path” approach to reducing the total life-cycle environmental impact of its products and operations in North America. Among these is a $210-million investment in a new, more environmentally responsible auto-body painting facility and innovative paint process at its Marysville, Ohio auto plant (MAP), the largest of Honda’s eight auto plants in North America. MAP produces the Honda Accord Sedan and Coupe along with the Acura TLX and ILX for customers in more than 100 countries.

Honda has established a voluntary goal to reduce its total GHG emissions—including customer use-phase—by 50% by the year 2050, compared to 2000 levels; this works out to a reduction of 90% per unit sales—a difficult task, noted Ryan Harty, a former Honda R&D engineer who now manages Honda’s new Environmental Business Development Office.

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RobecoSAM annual review names Volkswagen Group world’s most sustainable automaker

September 13, 2015

Volkswagen Group took the top spot again as the world’s most sustainable automaker in RobecoSAM AG’s 2015 annual review of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI). As in 2013, Volkswagen is thus one of only two automakers to be listed in both DJSI World and DJSI Europe.

Launched in 1999, the DJSI World is the first global index to track the leading sustainability-driven companies worldwide based on RobecoSAM’s analysis of financially material Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors. RobecoSAM invited the world’s largest 3,400 companies from developed and emerging markets to take part in its annual Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA). This year, RobecoSAM assessed 85% of the invited universe’s free float market capitalization, for the DJSI review.

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Ford launches Hsuehshan Tunnel Transformer Challenge in Taiwan; Mobility Challenge Series 2.0

September 11, 2015

Building on the success of Ford’s Innovate Mobility Challenge Series (IMCS) 1.0 in 2014 (earlier post), Ford has launched the Hsuehshan Tunnel Transformer Challenge in Taiwan, which asks developers to submit traffic-busting solutions for the main highway artery between Taipei and popular tourist destination Yilan.

The Hsuehshan Tunnel Transformer Challenge will task developers with optimizing traffic between the Taipei metropolitan area—home to seven million residents—and Yilan, a popular tourist destination for weekend and holiday getaways. The most common route for cars and buses is Freeway 5, which can get highly congested during peak times. This is particularly true on the stretch between Nangang and Toucheng, where traffic can become severely backed up at Hsuehshan Tunnel.

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BMW Group leveraging digitalization in production plants; Industry 4.0

August 11, 2015

As part of its continuous optimization of production processes at its plants, the BMW Group is leveraging the opportunities arising from digitalization (i.e., “Industry 4.0”, earlier post). For the automotive manufacturer, digitalization opens up new perspectives with regard to the advancement of innovative and people-oriented production systems.

In turn, the freed potential in the production systems allows the company to respond even more individually to customers’ wishes and to step up the flexibility of the production chain.

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DOE Critical Materials Institute rare-earth recycling invention licensed to US Rare Earths

A new technology developed by the US Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI) that aids in the recycling, recovery and extraction of rare earth minerals has been licensed to US Rare Earths, Inc. The membrane solvent extraction system, invented by CMI partners Oak Ridge and Idaho national laboratories, is the first commercially licensed technology developed through the CMI.

The technology uses a combination of hollow fiber membranes, organic solvents and neutral extractants selectively to recover rare-earth elements such as neodymium, dysprosium and praseodymium. These elements have a key function in permanent magnets used in cars, cell phones, hard disk drives, computers and electric motors.

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Ford working with OSU on sustainable alternative rubber sources for non-tire vehicle applications

August 06, 2015

While there are a number of efforts underway exploring the use of sustainable, natural rubber alternatives for use in tires (earlier post, earlier post, earlier post), cars use a great deal of rubber for non-tire applications as well; the Ford Fiesta, for example, contains about 3 kg of the material, excluding the tires.

Ford Motor Company is thus investigating alternative sustainable sources of rubber for automotive use in these non-tire applications. The company is working closely with The Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s (OARDC’s) Program of Excellence in Natural Rubber Alternatives (PENRA) on researching the use of latex from guayule and Russian dandelion root in applications such as the car’s interior (cup holders), floormats, suspension bushings, engine mounts and so on, said Janice Tardiff, Elastomer Technical Expert at Ford.

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BMW launches operations at Center of Urban Mobility Competence; boosting electromobility through EV sharing

July 17, 2015

BMW Group has officially launched operations at its Center of Urban Mobility Competence, which it established earlier this year. Its experts are working with cities and the relevant stakeholders to develop sustainable concepts for future mobility in urban areas.

BMW established the Competence Center to help bring the goal of creating a sustainable model for urban mobility, reducing traffic volumes and improving the quality of life in cities within reach, through partnerships with cities themselves. At the same time, BMW also announced that 100 all-electric BMW i3 cars are now available for DriveNow car sharing customers in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. In London the BMW i3 was already added to the DriveNow fleet in May, and other cities in Germany and Europe will soon follow suit.

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Argonne researchers developing multifunctional farm landscapes balancing economy, bioenergy and environment

July 08, 2015

In collaboration with the farming community of the Indian Creek Watershed in central Illinois, researchers from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) are finding ways to meet three agrarian land management objectives simultaneously: maximizing a farmer’s production; growing feedstock for bioenergy; and protecting the environment.

Through careful data collection and modeling at a cornfield in Fairbury, the Argonne team found that achieving these goals—which might under some conditions be mutually exclusive—requires a multifunctional landscape. Such a landscape is one where resources are allocated efficiently and crops are situated in their ideal soil and landscape position. As an example, planting bioenergy crops such as willows or switchgrass in rows where commodity crops are having difficulty growing could both provide biomass feedstock and also limit the runoff of nitrogen fertilizer into waterways—all without hurting a farmer’s profits.

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Ford Smart Mobility shifts from research to implementation; company announces new programs, next areas of focus

June 24, 2015

In the opening keynote at Ford’s annual trends conference, 2015 Further With Ford, CEO Mark Fields announced the next phase of the company’s Smart Mobility plan, originally announced in January this year at CES (earlier post). Ford Smart Mobility is the company’s plan to deliver the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data; the initial stage was the creation of 25 mobility experiments across the globe.

Fields said that Ford, which has “learned tons in the past several months” from those initial experiments, is now moving from research to the start of implementation, including new strategic areas of focus, new pilot programs and new mobility product experiments.

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Ford partners with Haier, Trina Solar and Delta Electronics to launch MyEnergi Lifestyle in China

May 27, 2015

At Consumer Electronics Show Asia, Ford launched a strategic collaboration with Haier (home appliance), Trina Solar (solar power) and Delta Electronics (power management) to introduce MyEnergi Lifestyle (earlier post) to China, a holistic approach for lowering the energy costs and carbon footprint of Chinese families.

MyEnergi Lifestyle, designed to address China’s energy needs and air quality concerns, showcases how combining renewable energy sources, efficient home appliances and a plug-in vehicle can significantly reduce energy costs and carbon footprint. Ford introduced a MyEnergi Lifestyle collaboration for the US in 2013, working with Whirlpool, SunPower and Eaton.

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Texas: From Shale Boom to Water Revolution

March 18, 2015

by James Stafford of

Texas is famous the world over for two things on a massive scale: oil and droughts. Now the slick but dry state is becoming famous for water: that precious element that both resolves the drought problem and also makes it possible to pump more oil out of the ground.

Not only does Texas have the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford shale, but it also has the Gulf of Mexico and its massive oil deposits and endless gallons of seawater that are now economically treatable thanks to next generation water processing technology.

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Volkswagen Group invested €11.5B (US$12.9B) in R&D in 2014; ongoing focus on electromobility and digitalization of vehicles

March 02, 2015

The Volkswagen Group invested €11.5 billion in research and development last year, more than ever before and more than any other company worldwide. Speaking on the eve of the Geneva International Motor Show, Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, underscored the Group’s increasingly aggressive R&D stance: “Volkswagen is an innovation think tank. We develop technologies that point the way well into the future.

According to Winterkorn, the company now employs 46,000 researchers and developers as well as more than 10,000 IT experts, all of whom are working on the mobility of the future such as alternative drive concepts or the digitalization of vehicles and factories. He went on to say that the car manufacturer is positioning itself at the forefront of automotive change with its forward-looking “Future Tracks” program. (Earlier post.)

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ARCADIS Sustainable Cities Index: US cities held back by transportation, environmental factors

February 16, 2015

The largest US cities—New York, Los Angeles and Chicago—score best in economic factors but are hindered by poor transportation infrastructure, lack of green spaces and diminishing affordable housing, according to the inaugural Sustainable Cities Index by ARCADIS, a leading global natural and built asset design and consultancy firm.

Well established European cities come top of the overall rankings, with Frankfurt in first place, followed by London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Asian cities show the most divergence, with Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore in the top ten and Manila, Mumbai, Wuhan and New Delhi forming four of the bottom five cites. No North American city makes it into the top ten. Toronto is the highest ranked at 12th; Boston (15th) and Chicago (19th) are the most sustainable US cities.

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DSM wins SPE Automotive Innovation Award for bio-based EcoPaXX integrated crankshaft cover for Volkswagen Group diesels

November 14, 2014

EcoPaXX crankshaft cover. Click to enlarge.

A lightweight multi-functional crankshaft cover in Royal DSM’s EcoPaXX high-performance polyamide 410 was top in the Powertrain category at the Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Division Innovation Awards Competition and Gala in Detroit. The 70% bio-based EcoPaXX is made principally from topical castor beans and is 100% carbon neutral from cradle to gate. Castor oil is obtained from the Ricinus Communis plant, which grows in tropical regions on relatively poor soil, and does not compete with the food-chain.

The EcoPaXX crankshaft cover is produced by DSM’s automotive component specialist partner KACO in Germany for the latest generation of MDB-4 TDI diesel engines developed by the Volkswagen Group. The engines are fitted to various car models made by VW, Audi, Seat and Škoda. Dr. Lutz Wohlfarth from Volkswagen, and Marcio Lima from KACO were both at the Gala in Detroit to collect the SPE award.

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