UK startup Tokamak Energy Ltd. activated its ST40 fusion reactor last week and achieved first plasma, an early milestone on the path to higher energy tests, and eventually, electricity production. The company is hoping the ST40 will show fusion temperatures—100 million degrees Celsius—are possible in compact, cost-effective reactors. Tokamak’s compact reactor is about 100-times smaller than ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), which is currently under construction in southern France. The company’s goal to achieve the 100 million C threshold next year and reach the energy break-even point in 2020. Ultimately, it hopes to be able to use its compact tokamak to produce electricity by 2025 and have a market-ready product by 2030. In addition to Tokamak and ITER, physicists in Germany switched on another type of reactor known as a stellarator last year. In Canada, General Fusion is working to commercialize yet another type of device that uses a process known as magnetized target fusion. See First plasma in new reactor brings the UK a big step closer to fusion energy.

West Africa is evolving as a new natural gas frontier. BP’s recent discovery of a large natural gas field off the coast of Mauritania and Senegal follows a string of earlier successes off the West African coast. Some believe the Mauritania-Senegal-Guinea-Bissau basin could make West Africa into a hub for liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Germany will permit companies to test their self-driving cars on its roads, as long as they follow a set of conditions. One requirement is that drivers must be sitting behind the wheel all the time. They can take their eyes off the road to use their phone or browse the internet, but they need to be able to take over if the vehicle’s computer system needs them to. The vehicles need to have a black box to record the journey and log whether the computer or the driver is operating the vehicle. The box’s logs will determine who is to blame in case of accidents: if it is a human in charge, then the government will hold the driver responsible. But if it is the computer, then the manufacturer is to blame. Germany will review its requirements in 2019 to determine if new technology will permit driverless testing.

US electric bus manufacturer Proterra is initiating the industry’s first autonomous bus program. In co-operation with other private companies and government agencies and the Nevada cities of Reno and Carson City, the pilot program will deal with real road conditions from the perspective of public transit systems. Initially, electric buses will operate on specific city routes to sense and gather data, which will inform technology and systems development. Armed with this information, the program will then focus on communications and algorithms development and subsequently recommendations for licensing and commercialization.

Global fertilizer company Yara and technology group Kongsberg are working together to build the first autonomous, electric container feeder ship. Container feeder ships collect shipping containers from different ports and transport them to central container terminals, at which they are loaded onto larger container ships or onto rail. The vessel is expected to reduce diesel-powered truck haulage by some 40,000 journeys a year. Operation is planned to start in the latter half of 2018, shipping products from YARA’s production plant to Brevik and Larvik in Norway. The YARA Birkeland will initially operate as a manned vessel, moving to remote operation in 2019 and perform fully autonomous operations in 2020.

The US Energy Department reports that last year the largest share of all-electric vehicle  sales were large cars (35%) and standard sport utility vehicles (23%).  Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) sales were mainly compact and midsize cars, with 42% of EV sales. Of the nearly 347,000 hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) sold in 2016, close to three-quarters were midsize cars. 17.3 million cars were sold in the US last year with EVs accounting for about 3% of all car sales.

ZeroHedge tells us The Inconvenient Truth About Electric Vehicles.

General Motors says it will be the first auto company to make money selling electric cars. Other than saying it would make EVs affordable, the company did not say exactly how it would make this happen. Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president for product development, remarked that GM alone had the ability to “integrate” the whole car and he also hinted that the expansion of all-electric autonomous ride sharing vehicles would drive down costs. Last week we reported that think tank RethinkX predicted there would be a large uptake of self-driving electric cars in the US in the next decade driven by car sharing plans.

Investment banker Morgan Stanley predicts more electric vehicles will be sold in 2040 than gasoline-powered cars.  There will be 16% EV penetration by 2030 with the important switch happening in 2040, when battery electric vehicles are expected to account for 51% of new car sales. Ten years later, that number would rise to 69%. The firm sees 1 billion all-electric vehicles on the roads globally by 2050.

Finland will be home to the world’s largest electric car parking garage. Opening next month, the facility in Helsinki will be able to park 250 EVs. Various chargers will be available to fit different users’ needs. Forecasters predict about 250,000 EVs on Finland’s roads by 2030.

The UK will be home to an Airbnb-style electric car charging system. “Chargie” will allow drivers to book and access available wall-mounted charging points in residential driveways across the country for a fee. Owners of the parking spot and EV charging plug can review profiles of prospective customers and set their own rates. It is expected fees will range between £2 and £4 to cover electricity costs plus a fee for parking – a further £3 using current driveway parking figures. Typical UK residential owners might earn £4,500 a year. This could rise to £7.000 a year in London. Chargie is intended to bridge the gap between the needs of EV owners and the currently limited UK charging infrastructure. The system commences operations this week and is seeking chargepoint owners to register with the service.

The US city of Fremont, California now requires that all new houses must be ready for the installation of electric-car charging stations. All new housing projects must include both solar panels and the electrical wiring required for the installation of a charging station. For commercial or multifamily projects, at least 10% of the parking spaces must have charging stations installed. Neighbouring town, Palo Alto, adopted a similar requirement in 2013.

 

 

with h/t Fred

 

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