A no-brainer stimulus idea: Electrify USPS mail trucks

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Electric vehicles for the US Postal Service would reduce noise, air, and carbon pollution in every community.

With the US trapped in a historic lockdown, everyone agrees that enormous federal spending is necessary to keep the economy going over the next year and beyond — and everyone has their own ideas about how, exactly, that federal spending should be targeted. A whole genre of essays and white papers devoted to clever stimulus plans has developed almost overnight.

I’ve contributed to that genre: Go here for my ideal recovery/stimulus plan, here for what I think Democrats’ bottom-line demands should be in stimulus negotiations, here for my take on the wisdom of investing in clean energy, and here for why devoting stimulus money to fossil fuels is short-sighted.

Now I want to offer a much more modest idea — a fun idea, even. It’s a win-win-win proposal that would be worth doing even if the economy were at full employment, but a total no-brainer in an economy that needs a kickstart. The cost would be a tiny rounding error amid the trillions of dollars of stimulus being contemplated, and it would produce outsized social benefits in the form of improved public health, more efficient public services, and lower climate pollution.

I’m talking about electrifying mail trucks.

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Fusion energy gets ready to shine – finally

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Three decades and $23.7 billion later, the 25,000-ton International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor is close to becoming something like the sun.

UNTIL 1920, HUMANS had no real sense of how the sun and stars create their vast amounts of energy. Then, in October of that year, Arthur Stanley Eddington, an English astrophysicist, penned an essay elegantly titled “ The Internal Constitution of the Stars.” “A star is drawing on some vast reservoir of energy by means unknown,” he wrote. “This reservoir can scarcely be other than the sub-atomic energy which, it is known, exists abundantly in all matter; we sometimes dream that man will one day learn how to release it and use it for his service.”

From that moment, scientists began the quest to harness unlimited, carbon-free power on earth. They’ve built more than 200 reactors that have tried to slam hydrogen atoms together and release fusion energy. It’s a dream perennially called delusional, impossible, and “always 20 years away.” In 1985, recognizing that no country had the will to solve the world’s most complicated puzzle alone, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev called for an international effort to give it a go.

In 1988, engineers began designing the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, now just ITER. Along the way, 35 nations have split the $23.7 billion price tag to construct its 10 million parts. Now, surrounded by vineyards in France’s Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, the 25,000-ton machine is set to be flipped on in 2025.

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The most important US energy chart of the year is out: 8 big takeaways

 

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The numbers represent “quads” or quadrillion BTUs, with the total consumption totalling 100.2. Conveniently, you can pretty much interpret the below numbers as a percentage of total US energy usage.

1. Overall energy usage declined by 1%

That’s significant. Compare to 2018 below and you can see: The biggest shock to most people is that over two-thirds of energy produced in the US is “rejected.” What does that mean?

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Energy-harvesting design aims to turn Wi-Fi signals into usable power

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Terahertz waves are pervasive in our daily lives, and if harnessed, their concentrated power could potentially serve as an alternate energy source. Imagine, for instance, a cellphone add-on that passively soaks up ambient T-rays and uses their energy to charge your phone.

Any device that sends out a Wi-Fi signal also emits terahertz waves —electromagnetic waves with a frequency somewhere between microwaves and infrared light. These high-frequency radiation waves, known as “T-rays,” are also produced by almost anything that registers a temperature, including our own bodies and the inanimate objects around us.

Terahertz waves are pervasive in our daily lives, and if harnessed, their concentrated power could potentially serve as an alternate energy source. Imagine, for instance, a cellphone add-on that passively soaks up ambient T-rays and uses their energy to charge your phone. However, to date, terahertz waves are wasted energy, as there has been no practical way to capture and convert them into any usable form.

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This company wants to turn your windows into solar panels

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Ubiquitous Energy solar glass

San Francisco (CNN Business)What if every window in your house could generate electricity? One Redwood City, California-based startup thinks its technology can achieve that by transforming the way solar power is collected and harnessed.

Ubiquitous Energy has developed transparent solar cells to create its ClearView Power windows, a kind of “solar glass” that can turn sunlight into energy without needing the bluish-grey opaque panels those cells are generally associated with. The company, spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012, hopes to use that tech to turn practically any everyday glass surface into a solar cell.

“It can be applied to windows of skyscrapers; it can be applied to glass in automobiles; it can be applied to the glass on your iPhone,” Miles Barr, Ubiquitous Energy’s founder and chief technology officer, told CNN Business.

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If you’re living with an electric car, what type of house you have is more important than you think

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If you live in a flat or don’t have off-road parking, running an electric vehicle may be more difficult than you think, writes Sean O’Grady

If there is one hard lesson I have learned about living with an electric car, it is that it is not for everyone. At least not for now.

Sure, there are loads of great things you can say about electrification – all true. When you next get a chance to go to a pub with friends and family, you can argue the toss over whether they are in reality, “well- to wheel” greener than an equivalent vehicle with an internal combustion engine. I’ve seen different versions of that, with different assumptions about the electricity required to manufacture them, the energy need to extract scarce minerals for the batteries, and whether scrapping perfectly sound petrol/diesel/hybrid vehicles. (Generally I think the electrics are, like-for-like still always greener within almost any parameters, and will eventually “break even” over their lifetime in their environmental benefits). You can, over anther pint, enjoy a rational discussion about whether the usual price premium attached electric cars makes sense over any given mileage – balancing price/lease costs with far lower fuel costs and maintenance bills (the more miles you do, the more sensible the electric option can be). You can also take a view on whether they take the “fun” out of driving or not (they don’t, on the whole). And so on.

But the most salient fact is not what kind of electric car you want, but what kind of dwelling you inhabit. If you live in a flat, say, or a terraced house without any off-street parking (and therefore an easy way to charge your vehicle up), the electric car seems to be an impractical proposition. If you do have a way of plugging one in to a faster charging external wall socket, then you’re fine, in principle. It’s about a simple as that. That is why many of the complaints about the very real inadequacy and unreliability of the charging network is a bit beside the point. You shouldn’t need to recharge all that often away from home. You take the car, drive around for a bit, come home and plug it in ready for the next day.

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The coronavirus is showing us how clean the air can be if electric cars were the norm

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With all the loss of lives and financial destruction that the coronavirus has brought us, it’s hard to look at silver linings from this crisis, but there’s one that’s becoming obvious: cleaner air.

It might not last for long, but it’s giving us a glimpse at what we could experience if the world was to rapidly transition to electric transportation.

With shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders all over the world, passenger car traffic has been way down and people have been burning way less petrol.

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Researchers create stretchable super capacitors for our next wearables

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Carbon nanotube forests improve the stretchable supercapacitor’s performanceDuke University

The supercapacitors still functioned well when stretched to eight times their original size.

Imagine a new type of supercapacitor that can be repeatedly stretched to eight times its original size, yet still retaining its full functionality. Only after 10,000 cycles of charging and recharging does it start to lose a little percentage of its energy performance.

Researchers from Duke University and Michigan State University (MSU) have done just that. The team sees their novel supercapacitor as part of a power-independent, stretchable, flexible electronic system that could be used in wearable electronics or biomedical devices.

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Long narrow wires carry heat with little resistance

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Smooth-walled wire traps high energy phonons, low energy phonons carry heat.

Tiny wires may boost heat flow.

Getting rid of heat is one of the central challenges with modern technology. It doesn’t matter whether the technology is a high-end server CPU or some pathetically anemic processor in a no-brand set-top box—someone has had to think about thermal management. One of the central issues in thermal management is thermal resistance, a material’s tendency to limit the flow of heat. The thicker a material, the larger the temperature gradient required to achieve the same amount of cooling because the thermal resistance increases with thickness.

Except when it doesn’t. If the heat is carried by ballistic phonons, thermal resistance stays constant.

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Era of wireless charging for electric vehicles is coming

 

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Wireless charging for electric vehicles is today’s most cutting-edge technology. Why? It is the most efficient, futuristic, scalable–in short–awesome alternative we have to gasoline. While tech giants such as Uber are placing their bets on autonomous cars, major key players such as Jaguar Land Rover are mass-producing electric cars. What’s more, Fordis releasing fully-electric SUV and other market players are on the verge of joining the trend.

The more electric cars roam around the city, the more will be the demand for wireless charging. The global wireless electric vehicle charging market is expected to reach $1.48 billion by 2025, growing at a colossal CAGR of 21.8% from 2018 to 2025.This rapid growth is due to rise in sales of electric vehicles and increase in demand for energy-efficient sources as an alternative fuel.

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Future VW electric vehicles will send power back to the grid


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VW says EV owners will be able to charge when production exceeds demand and sell power back to the grid during peak electricity usage.

The chief strategist at Volkswagen says vehicle-to-grid technology will open up new business opportunities for the automaker.

Cars that support the technology can store excess power and sell it back to the electrical grid in times of need.

The Nissan Leaf already supports this technology, but the feature also needs to be supported by the charger.

Volkswagen’s transition to electrification continues to yield business opportunities, according to its chief strategist, Michael Jost. In addition to vehicle sales, it has the growing Electrify America charging network, and now it looks like the company is planning to use the batteries in the cars it sells to help power the electrical grid.

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UK to get its first electric car forecourt THIS YEAR with 24 superchargers at a specially-designed charging site in Essex

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First of a network of 100 electric forecourts to open this summer near Braintree

It will have 24 350kW superchargers that can boost EV batteries in half an hour.

The site will have a two-storey building with shops, meeting rooms and lounge.

The entire location is part of a £1bn nationwide scheme and uses 100% renewable energy, the company behind it – Gridserve – says.

The first of a £1billion nationwide network of more than 100 electric forecourts is to open this summer near Braintree in Essex.

It claims to be the first custom-built electric charging station in the UK.

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