The government of Scotland announced it has received “overwhelming public support” to ban the practice of fracking for shale oil and gas. Fracking has been under a temporary halt in the country since 2015, and public consultation on its long-term future was carried out earlier this year. 99% of the 60,000 responses opposed fracking. The proposed ban will be put to the Scottish Parliament for a vote later this year. In 2014, the British Geological Survey estimated there was 80 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in central Scotland.

The International Energy Agency reported additions of solar photovoltaic (PV) grew faster than any other energy source and surpassed the net growth in coal last year. This was the first time this has happened. New solar PV capacity increased by 50% in 2016.  Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said:

“What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV…We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology through 2022. We see renewables growing by about 1,000 gigawatts by 2022, which equals about half of the current global capacity in coal power, which took 80 years to build.”

Japanese electronics giant Toshiba unveiled a new battery made from “titanium niobium oxide” which it claims can provide 200 miles (320 km) range for an electric car with just 6 minutes of charging. The company says the new titanium niobium oxide anode material doubles the lithium storage. Dr. Osamu Hori, Director of Corporate Research & Development, revealed Toshiba expects to bring the battery to market in 2019. He added:

“Rather than an incremental improvement, this is a game changing advance that will make a significant difference to the range and performance of EV.” 

Ford Motor Co Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett announced the automaker will shift capital investment away from sedans and internal combustion engines to develop more trucks and electric and hybrid cars. Ford will be open to more partnerships to spread the costs and risks of simultaneously developing new EV technology and services. He referred to a partnership with ride services company Lyft to deploy future Ford self-driving cars, an alliance with Indian automaker Mahindra, and a potential alliance with Chinese electric vehicle maker Zotye. The company is planning to have two-thirds of its cars electric by 2030 – the year some European governments have proposed banning petroleum fueled cars. Ford had already promised 13 new electric or hybrid vehicles within the next five years.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, says electric vehicles will mean automobile factories can have a final assembly area that is half the size, requires half the capital investment and 30% fewer labor hours per car. In addition, auto factories of the future will occupy less space and use more robots and artificial intelligence.

Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said that Audi will build electric cars in all of their factories around the world, including plants in Mexico and Hungary. Up to now, the company’s plans only included Germany. The change was brought about by Audi’s need to bring EVs into main focus, rather than as a side project, given that the future of the automotive industry is heading in that direction. The company’s first EV will be produced next year and by 2025 it expects to have a dozen battery only models on the road.

Amnesty International cautions about The Dark Side of Electric Cars: Exploitative Labor Practices.

Quartz tells us China’s booming electric vehicle market is about to run into a mountain of battery waste. Electric car batteries are toxic if not disposed of properly, and the world’s largest electric car market is facing a slew of batteries that can no longer hold a charge. The average lifespan of a lithium-iron phosphate battery, the dominant type in China’s electric vehicles, is around five years and many will be retired in 2018. In 2020, nearly 250,000 metric tons (276,000 tons) of batteries, or 35 gigawatt-hours of batteries are set to be retired — nearly 20 times those depleted in 2016. Recycling EV batteries is not easy, due to the sophisticated chemical procedures involved. If not done properly the heavy metal contained in the battery can lead to contamination of soil and water. Currently China does not have a national policy for retiring EV batteries and the clock is ticking.

Shell Oil’s petrol stations in the UK and Netherlands are being adopted to electric car charging.  See story and photo here.

BMW revealed plans to bring wireless charging to the market in 2018, Using inductive charging the auto company’s pad uses provide electricity to plug-in hybrid vehicles without needing to plug a compatible car into a charging socket. Once the BMW pad is connected to a 220 volt power outlet, all a driver needs to do is position their hybrid electric BMW over the charging pad. The lithium-ion battery, by generating a magnetic field between the pad’s electrical coil and another on the car’s floor, allows for 3.2 kilowatts of power to to be transferred to the car wirelessly. The battery is fully charged in 3.5 hours. While BMW has not announced a price for the pad yet, estimates are in the $1000 range (850 euros).



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