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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.]

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 Oilprice.com

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

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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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Study: open trash burning worldwide significantly worsening air pollution; unaccounted for in emission inventories

August 28, 2014

Unregulated open trash burning around the globe is pumping far more pollution into the atmosphere than shown by official records. A new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) estimates that more than 40% of the world’s garbage is burned in such fires, emitting gases and particles that can substantially affect human health and climate change.

The new study provides the first rough estimates, on a country-by-country basis, of pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, and mercury that are emitted by the fires. Such pollutants have been linked to serious medical issues. The researchers also estimated emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas produced by human activity. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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MIT team proposes process to recycle lead-acid batteries to fabricate solar cells

August 18, 2014

Researchers at MIT have devised an environmentally-responsible process to recycle materials from discarded automotive lead-acid batteries to fabricate efficient organolead halide perovskite solar cells (PSCs)—a promising new large-scale and cost-competitive photovoltaic technology. The process simultaneously avoids the disposal of toxic battery materials and provide alternative, readily-available lead sources for PSCs.

The system is described in a paper in the RSC journal Energy and Environmental Science, co-authored by professors Angela M. Belcher and Paula T. Hammond, graduate student Po-Yen Chen, and three others.

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