Volkswagen has updated its electric car plans. The German automaker will have 16 production sites and invest $25 billion in battery cell contracts.  The plants will start producing electric vehicles by 2022. By 2025 the company hopes to produce three million electric vehicles annually and market 80 new electric models. The batteries will be produced in Europe and China. Over the next 5 years VW expects to invest $84 billion (81 billion euros) in EV cars and batteries.

The UK has commenced a 3 year review of self-driving vehicle laws. The government wants to make sure that it remains one of the best places in the world to develop, test and drive self-driving vehicles. The research will be undertaken by the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission, and led by Transport Research Laboratory. The review will examine how existing driving laws can support the next generation of vehicles and check whether there are any legal obstacles for the introduction of self-driving vehicles as well as highlight the need for regulatory reforms. Subjects to be investigated include who will be classed as the driver of or responsible person for an autonomous car, and how to allocate criminal and civil responsibility in case of some shared control in a human-machine interface. It will also determine whether new criminal offences are required to cope with novel types of conduct and interference and what is the expected impact on other road users and how they can be protected from risk. UK Roads Minister Jesse Norman said:

 “The UK is a world leader for self-driving vehicle research and development, and this work marks an important milestone in our continued commitment to the technology. With driving technology advancing at an unprecedented rate, it is important that our laws and regulations keep pace.” 

So far, the UK government has spent £120 million on research and development projects for the development of self-driving vehicles and has pledged another £1 billion to examine autonomous vehicles in difficult and hostile environments.

An executive order by California Governor Jerry Brown has set an official target of 5 million electric cars on the US state’s roads by 2030. To reach this goal, California will spend $2.5 billion between now and 2025 to install more EV charging stations and hydrogen fueling stations throughout the state. It will also increase incentives and rebate programs to subsidize people who buy zero emissions cars. Currently there are some 350,000 zero-emissions vehicles in the state. Fast charging stations will increase from 1,500 to 10,000 and hydrogen refueling stations will jump from 31 today to 200. The program will be partially funded by the money the state received from the Volkswagen diesel scandal and from its carbon emissions trading scheme.

France announced it will spend an extra €700 million euros ($862 million) by 2022 to assist developing countries with their solar energy projects. Emerging economies will get the assistance in the form of loans and donations. 

A new report from Zion Market Research finds the global biomass pellets market accounted for $7.7 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $16 billion by 2022.

Straw will provide heat and electricity at a facility in southwest France. Designed to be operational in 2019, Biotricity Maubourguet’s plant will generate 16 megawatts (MW) of electricity and 33 MW of heat using straw and other agricultural crop residues as inputs supplied by agricultural cooperatives Euralis and Vivadour. The plant will process about 150,000 tonnes of biomass annually. The electricity will be sold to the power distribution grids of France and Europe under a 20 year contract, while the heat will be used by nearby food-processing factories and for the production of biofuels.

A biomass combined-heat-and-power project in southwest England will generate heat and power for nearby homes and Discovery Park, a center for science and innovation in Kent, England. To be operational by August, the Kent Renewable Energy CHP plant will use locally sourced wood as fuel to generate more than 27 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply 50,000 homes. 15 to 20% of the electricity will be supplied directly to the tenants of Discovery Park, who will also benefit from the heat generated by steam from the plant.

The US Energy Information Administration projects wood biomass is expected to be used to generate 120,000 megawatt hours per day of electricity this year, increasing to 121,000 MWh per day next year. Waste biomass is expected to be used to generate 59,000 MWh per day of electricity this year, increasing to 60,000 MWh per day next year. The EIA also predicts 2.2 million U.S. households will use wood as a primary heating fuel this winter, with 1/3 of these households being in the western part of the country.

North America’s first fully integrated closed-loop organic waste management system opened in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Surrey’s Biofuel Facility converts curbside organic waste into renewable biofuel to fuel the city’s fleet of natural gas-powered waste collection and service vehicles. Under this closed loop system, waste collection trucks will literally be collecting their fuel source at curbside. Excess fuel will go to the new district energy system that heats and cools Surrey’s City Centre. The Biofuel Facility will divert 115,000 tons of organic waste from the landfill, produce approximately 120,000 Gigajoules of renewable natural gas and produce approximately 45,000 tons of nutrient-rich compost annually. All of the waste is contained and processed within the plant which means no odors are emitted into the atmosphere.

Waste from sugarcane is generating electricity in Mexico. A plant in Oaxaca owned by a joint-venture of Mexican bottlers is capable of generating 50 megawatt hours per day using waste from sugarcane milling. The electricity will go to operating the sugarcane mill and to associated bottlers. Excess power is delivered to the Mexican Federal Energy Commission.

What may be the world’s largest solar energy farm is now operating in the Indian state of Karnataka. Located in the southwest part of the country, the solar farm is called Shakti Sthala and spans 13,000 acres across five villages. Farmers from these villages are being paid for the land they have leased to the project. Capable of generating some 2 gigawatts of electrical power, most of the energy will be delivered to people in the local area.


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