Britain announced it will ban all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 amid fears that rising levels of nitrogen oxide pose a major risk to public health. This follows a similar recent announcement by France.  The British ban will also include new hybrid vehicles with an electric motor and gasoline or diesel engine. Currently the government is providing funding to local communities to take steps to mitigate the risk to the public by retrofitting buses and other public transport, changing road layouts and altering features such as roundabouts and speed humps, and reprogramming traffic lights. The City of London has already announced it will soon impose a £10 fee that will be levied on up to 10,000 of the oldest, most polluting vehicles every weekday.

Auto industry officials and politicians in Germany have agreed to clean up diesel vehicles through software updates as part of an auto industry rescue plan for avoiding looming diesel vehicle bans in several cities. The clean up will cost around 2 billion euros (US$2.33 billion) for cars in Germany, with the auto industry agreeing to pick up the expense. After Volkswagen admitted to emissions-test cheating in 2015, the entire German auto industry has come under scrutiny for producing nitrogen oxide emissions in diesel cars, which are blamed for causing respiratory disease. Last week, Porsche’s CEO was quoted as saying the company may abandon diesel engines as its electric cars go to market, and Mercedes announced it will recall 3 million diesel cars in Germany for an engine software fix. With the software updates, the auto industry is able to cut nitrogen oxide pollution by about 20%.

Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 to cheating US and European diesel emissions tests. Independent investigations revealed many VW diesel vehicles were exceeding government allowed pollution limits. As a result of its admission, the company has been required to pay $25 billion to the US government, several US states, as well as diesel vehicle owners. In addition some of its executives face jail terms. The company has also been required to pay heavy fines in Europe. Last week an explosive story emerged that the European Commission’s antitrust regulators are investigating a possible German auto industry cartel involving diesel emissions. The investigation is focusing on whether German automakers VW, Audi,, Porsche, Mercedes  and BMW used German auto industry committees to discuss pricing of diesel components and technologies which included emissions equipment, and whether such talks constituted anti-competitive behavior. Subsequently VW confirmed it was holding an extraordinary supervisory board meeting this week to discuss the allegations internally. The EU investigation could lead to more billions of euros in fines globally as well as lead to government action to ban or limit the production of diesel vehicles in a political climate that is wanting “green” vehicles to address nitrogen oxide pollution and climate change. Any such action could be devastating to the German car industry and the German economy. US antitrust authorities said they were monitoring the EU investigation to determine what action they might take.

A new report from Navigant Research projects more than $80 billion is expected to be spent globally on new electric vehicle infrastructure by the end of 2025, leading to the development of nearly 230 gigawatts of charging capacity. The authors note that the plug-in electric vehicle market is entering a new phase thanks to battery cost declines, making way for longer-range EVs and a wider range of vehicle body types. This is driving demand for investment in charging equipment and specific charging technologies, such as DC fast chargers and smart, grid-integrated chargers. For the next 3 to 5 years, governments, electric utilities and auto manufacturers are expected to provide the greatest source of funding for this investment.

There are reports Japanese automaker Toyota is working on an electric car powered by a new type of battery that significantly increases driving range and reduces charging time, with sales to begin in 2022.  Current EVs use lithium-ion batteries and need 20-30 minutes to recharge even with fast chargers. They typically have a range of just 300-400 kilometers (185-250 miles). Toyota’s new battery will be solid-state, allowing it to be recharged in just a few minutes. Solid-state batteries use solid electrolytes rather than liquid ones, making them safer than current lithium-ion batteries. Toyota spokeswoman Kayo Doi said the company hoped to commercialize all-solid-state batteries by the early 2020s. Having long promoted hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and plug-in hybrids as the new car technology, last year Toyota announced it would add long-range EVs to its lineup, and created a new in-house unit to develop and market EVs. BMW had previously announced it was working on solid state batteries it expected to be ready for mass production next decade.

Bosch and Daimler are working on a pilot project to test automated valet parking at the Mercedes-Benz Museum parking garage in Stuttgart, Germany. With a command from a smartphone, drivers can now automatically park cars in their assigned spots without having to monitor the vehicles’ movements. This is the first infrastructure-based solution for a fully automated valet parking service in real conditions, with and without drivers at the wheel. Next years, visitors to the museum will be able to experience the service for themselves, and save the time they would have spent parking in the garage..

The share of renewable electricity in Brazil rose to 43.5% in 2016 from 41.3% in 2015, the Ministry of Mines and Energy said.  The South American country generated 619.7 terrawatt-hours in 2016, with wind and solar power supply growing 54.9% and 44.7%, respectively.

Renewable energy sources, mainly hydro, geothermal and wind power, generated 99% of Costa Rica’s electricity production during the first half of 2017. Hydropower generated 75%, wind farms and geothermal stations accounted for 12% and 11%, respectively while biomass was 1.5%. As of the end of June, the Central American country had accumulated 160 days in which 100% of its electricity came from renewable sources.

In 2016 renewables accounted for 39% of Spain’s electricity production. 47.3% of the country’s renewable electric power generation came from wind while hydropower contributed 35.5% and solar (photovoltaic and thermal) accounted for 12.9%.

Hawaiian Electric Companies have been given the task of getting renewable energy to supply 100% of the US state’s electricity by 2045. Hawaiian Electric Companies is comprised of 3 separate utilities – Hawaiian Electric on Oahu, Maui Electric on Maui, Molokai and Lanai, and Hawaii Electric Light on the Big Island of Hawaii. In order to meet its 100% target, the utilities are seeking permission to increase electric power rates in increments ranging from 18% to 25% over the next few years.

 

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