Tesla rival Nikola scores deal to make thousands of 1,000-horsepower electric garbage trucks

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If Nikola (NKLA) founder Trevor Milton has his way, the garbage trucks emitting black smoke that troll the streets will eventually be a thing of the past.

 Milton and his team at Nikola took a giant step in that mission on Monday.

The upstart electric- and hydrogen-powered truck maker announced a deal with waste management giant Republic Services for 2,500 electric, zero emission garbage trucks. A dollar amount for the contract wasn’t disclosed. The deal is expandable up to 5,000 trucks. Full production deliveries are expected to begin in 2023 — road testing is set to commence in late 2021 and early 2022.

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The world’s growing concrete coasts

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The world’s coastlines are turning to concrete, at a huge cost to wildlife and the climate. But new technologies may offer a way to shore up coasts while benefiting biodiversity.

It’s one of the most impressive feats in modern engineering, and crossing the world’s longest sea bridge – the 55km (34 miles) Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, which opened in October 2018 at a cost of $20bn (£15.9bn) – certainly has its benefits. But impressive as it appears, this mammoth construction project, like so many others, has come at a cost.

No less than one million tonnes of concrete were used in the eight years it took to build the bridge. It was this concrete that invaded the habitat of the critically endangered pink dolphin, and is thought to be the reason that dead dolphins washed up on nearby shores while the population near the bridge plummeted by 60%. Of course, dolphins weren’t the only victims – habitats are destroyed and countless other marine species are affected when large amounts of concrete are poured into the ocean.

Destruction of this kind is often the cost of using concrete – the most widely used manmade material on Earth. With three tonnes per year used for every person in the world, there are few parts of the planet that concrete hasn’t reached. The production of concrete is also a huge emitter of CO2. At least 8% of humanity’s carbon footprint comes from the concrete industry, mostly from the production of cement – one of concrete’s principal components. The cement industry generates around 2.8 billion tonnes of CO2 per year – more than any country other than China or the US.

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Zin Boats reinvents the electric speedboat in a bid to become the Tesla of the sea

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The automotive industry is knee deep in the vast transition to electric, but one place where gas is still going strong is out on the water. Seattle startup Zin Boats wants to start what you might call a sea change by showing, as Tesla did with cars, that an electric boat can be not just better for the planet, but better in almost every other way as well.

With a minimalist design like a silver bullet, built almost entirely from carbon fiber, the 20-foot Z2R is less than half the weight of comparable craft, letting it take off like a shot and handle easily, while also traveling a hundred miles on a charge — and you can fill the “tank” for about five bucks in an hour or so.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop? Well, it ain’t cheap. But then, few boats are.

Piotr Zin, the company’s namesake, has been designing racing sailboats for 20 years, while working in industrial design at BMW, GM and other major companies. Soon after settling down on a houseboat on Seattle’s Lake Union, he realized that the waterways he had enjoyed his whole life might not exist for the next generation.

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The Great Green Wall of Africa : Is the the next wonder of the world?

 

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“The Great Green Wall promises to be a real game-changer.”

Africa’s Sahara Desert is growing.

In 2018 it was found that the Sahara, the biggest desert in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic, had increased in size by 10 per cent over the last century. This expansion is due to a combination of man-made climate change and natural climate cycles, with most of the change happening along the northern and southern edges of the desert.

Desertification is a major problem around the world, not least in the Sahel region (which runs from the southern belt of the Sahara to the Sudanian savanna below) where some of the world’s poorest communities reside. Despite the Global North being the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, it is people like those living in the Sahel who are paying the price.

The Sahel community are on the frontlines of the climate crisis, dealing with persistent droughts, famines, and rapidly depleting natural resources on an ongoing basis. As a result, millions of people across the region, from Senegal to Djibouti, are being left to handle the severe repercussions of the climate emergency without much help.

This is where the Great Green Wall comes in, a project that could save an entire region from ecological collapse.

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This Company Is Sucking Carbon From the Air and Making Soda With It

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Carbon removal is increasingly seen as a vital part of any climate solution.

 The United Nations calls on countries to curb their emissions and invest in carbon removal technologies to achieve goals set under the Paris climate agreement. Some of these methods are low-technology like planting trees and others, like direct air capture, are cutting-edge. You can join us by taking action here to help achieve the UN’s Global Goal 13 for climate action.

The same carbon that’s heating up the planet could soon be making your soda fizzy.

Climeworks, based in Switzerland, is one of several companies working to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as a way to fight climate change — and soft drinks happen to be one of many destinations for the retrieved element. The majority of the CO2 that Climeworks removes gets stowed deep underneath Iceland, in natural formations made of basalt.

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Tiny weed-killing robots could make pesticides obsolete

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This swarm of robots may herald a chemical-free food revolution

The fleet of Greenfield Robotics weedbots ready and waiting for beta test trials. Photos courtesy of Greenfield Robotics.

Clint Brauer’s farm outside of Cheney, Kansas, could be described as Old MacDonald’s Farm plus robots. Along with 5,500 square feet of vegetable-growing greenhouses, classes teaching local families to grow their food, a herd of 105 sheep, and Warren G—a banana-eating llama named after the rapper—is a fleet of ten, 140-pound, battery-operated robots.

Brauer, the co-founder of Greenfield Robotics, grew up a farm kid. He left for the big city tech and digital world, but eventually made his way back to the family farm. Now, it’s the R&D headquarters for the Greenfield Robotics team, plus a working farm.

When Brauer returned to his agricultural roots, he did so with a purpose: to prove that food could be grown without harmful chemicals and by embracing soil- and planet-friendly practices. He did just that, becoming one of the premier farmers growing vegetables in Kansas without pesticides, selling to local markets, grocery store chains, and chefs.

But it wasn’t enough to make the difference Brauer was hoping for. Sure, he was growing a lot of environmentally friendly, pesticide-free vegetables. But a few acres in chemical-free vegetable production was nothing compared to miles and miles of broadacre, arable farmland that make up the majority of America’s agricultural lands.

Brauer was especially intrigued by no-till solutions for soil health. No-till is exactly what it sounds like: farming without using techniques like plowing and cultivation, which “disturb” the soil to kill weeds. Many U.S. farmers, especially those in America’s heartland of corn, soy, and wheat production, have already switched to or are looking to embrace no-till practices. Over 104 million acres were farmed no-till in 2017, an increase of 8% since 2012. Just over 900 million acres, including no-till land, were farmed in the United States in 2017, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

But parking machinery to improve soil health often comes with a trade that didn’t sit well with Brauer: dependence on chemical weed control. No-till works to improve soil health, but the trade-off in chemical use is not much better for the environment than conventional farming. Regardless of the type of farming, the problem is the same.

“You got to start with weeds. It’s the number one thing that farmers are fighting,” Brauer says.

That’s where the robots come in.

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How green sand could capture billions of tons of carbon dioxide

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The green sand Papakōlea Beach in Hawaii.

Scientists are taking a harder look at using carbon-capturing rocks to counteract climate change, but lots of uncertainties remain.

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A pair of palm-tree-fringed coves form two narrow notches, about a quarter of a mile apart, along the shoreline of an undisclosed island somewhere in the Caribbean.

After a site visit in early March, researchers with the San Francisco nonprofit Project Vesta determined that the twin inlets provided an ideal location to study an obscure method of capturing the carbon dioxide driving climate change.

Later this year, Project Vesta plans to spread a green volcanic mineral known as olivine, ground down to the size of sand particles, across one of the beaches. The waves will further break down the highly reactive material, accelerating a series of chemical reactions that pull the greenhouse gas out of the air and lock it up in the shells and skeletons of mollusks and corals.

This process, along with other forms of what’s known as enhanced mineral weathering, could potentially store hundreds of trillions of tons of carbon dioxide, according to a National Academies report last year. That’s far more carbon dioxide than humans have pumped out since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Unlike methods of carbon removal that rely on soil, plants, and trees, it would be effectively permanent. And Project Vesta at least believes it could be cheap, on the order of $10 per ton of stored carbon dioxide once it’s done on a large scale.

But there are huge questions around this concept as well. How do you mine, grind, ship, and spread the vast quantities of minerals necessary without producing more emissions than the material removes? And who’s going to pay for it?

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This 3D printed house reduces carbon emissions and takes 48 hours to build!

The construction industry contributes to 39% of global carbon emissions while aviation contributes to only 2% which means we need to look for alternative building materials if we are to make a big impact on the climate crisis soon. We’ve seen buildings being made using mushrooms, bricks made from recycled plastic and sand waste, organic concrete, and now are seeing another innovative solution – a floating 3D printed house!

Prvok is the name of this project and it will be the first 3D printed house in the Czech Republic built by Michal Trpak, a sculptor, and Stavebni Sporitelna Ceske Sporitelny who is a notable member of the Erste building society. The house is designed to float and only takes 48 hours to build! Not only is that seven times faster than traditional houses, but it also reduces construction costs by 50%. No bricks, cement, and concrete (responsible for 8% of CO2 emissions alone!) are used which means it reduces carbon emissions by 20% – imagine how much CO2 could be reduced if this was used to build a colony. A robotic arm called Scoolpt designed by Jiri Vele, an architect and programmer, will be used in 3D printing and can print as fast as 15 cm per second.

 

The 43 square meter home will have all the essentials – a bedroom, living room, kitchen, and bathroom. It will be anchored on a pontoon and is designed in a way that owners can live in it all year round. Prvok is partially self-sufficient and is equipped with eco-technologies that enable it to recirculate shower water, use a green roof, and host reservoirs for utility, drinking, and sewage water. Each detail and element of the house has been thoughtfully added after making sure it can last for 100 years in any environment. Prvok is an example of what the future of hybrid houses that work for you and the environment could look like.

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These hungry superworms happily munch through plastic

 

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A superworm can eat about eight times more than other plastic-ingesting insects.

Recycling seems like a simple cure for our plastic addiction: just take the plastic we have and make it into new items. But problems abound. Current technology mostly creates plastic of a lower quality than it was before, many types of plastic aren’t recyclable at all, and much of the plastic is floating in the ocean, not even in the recycling stream. So it’s vital that we find new ways to break down plastic, and scientists have just discovered one: a superworm that can eat about eight times more than other plastic-ingesting insects like mealworms.

Superworms are actually beetle larvae, and commonly sold at pet stores as food for reptiles and fish. In a paper recently published by the American Chemical Society, researchers Jiaojie Li, Dae-Hwan Kim, and their team detail how they placed 50 superworms in a chamber with two grams of polystyrene. After 21 days, the superworms had consumed about 70% of the polystyrene.

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Japan to build world’s first all-electric tanker equipped with li-ion batteries

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Japanese shipping company Asahi Tanker has announced it plans to build two “world first” zero-emission electric propulsion tankers which will be powered by lithium-ion batteries.

The little that is known about the details is available only through what appears to be a shaky English translation. But it does give the specifications of the two new vessels that will use the “e5 tanker” planned and designed by e5 Labl – a joint effort announced in August 2019 between Asahi Tanker, Exeno Yamamizu Corp, Mitsui and Mitsubishi Corporation.

Set to work as a marine fuel supply vessel in Tokyo Bay, the new battery-powered tanker will measure in with a gross tonnage of approximately 499 tonnes and be able to reach speeds of around 11 knots.

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These drones will plant 40,000 trees in a month. By 2028, they’ll have planted 1 billion

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One of Flash Forest’s prototype drones.

We need to massively reforest the planet, in a very short period of time. Flash Forest’s drones can plant trees a lot faster than humans.

This week, on land north of Toronto that previously burned in a wildfire, drones are hovering over fields and firing seed pods into the ground, planting native pine and spruce trees to help restore habitat for birds. Flash Forest, the Canadian startup behind the project, plans to use its technology to plant 40,000 trees in the area this month. By the end of the year, as it expands to other regions, it will plant hundreds of thousands of trees. By 2028, the startup aims to have planted a full 1 billion trees.

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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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