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UK’s First ‘Hydrogen Train’: A Sign Of Its Commitment To Decarbonization

[bctt tweet=”Look: HydroFLEX, the UK’s first hydrogen train is green-lighted for test runs.” username=”Z6Mag”]

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HydroFLEX takes after Germany's Coradia iLint, the world's first hydrogen-powered train. Photo: Linus Follert | Flickr.com | CC BY-SA 2.0

In recent years, climate change has become more evident. Reports on unusual heat waves and rapid melting of global ice have been correlated to direct effects of global warming. 

Concerned citizens call for everyone’s support to reuse, reduce, and recycle; now more than ever. In the UK, the government is working on lowering diesel transportation in the hopes of completely removing them by 2040. This move includes replacing diesel-engine trains with eco-friendly ones.

Today, Porterbrook and University of Birmingham confirmed that the first hydrogen train would do a test run on UK’s mainline railway. Porterbrook, one of the three major rolling stock operating company in the UK, has teamed up with University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) to produce HydroFLEX in September 2018.

HydroFLEX uses a “Class 319” electric engine that was modified to receive hydrogen as an additional energy source. Yes, this means that the HydroFLEX can still run on electric railways. 

Mary Grant, Porterbrook CEO, is incredibly proud to be part of this important project. “This is a[sic] first test, but we are excited about being in a position to provide HydroFLEX as a viable offering very soon,” said Grant.

Alex Burrows, Director at Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, emphasized supporting the government’s goal to reduce dependency on diesel. “This is a great success story for the UK Rail Industry, which shows our capability and commitment to helping the government meet decarbonisation targets,” Burrows said.

How do hydrogen trains work?

There are four components to a hydrogen-powered train. There are hydrogen storage tanks, fuel cell converter, lithium batteries, and the electric motor. 

HydroFLEX houses the hydrogen in four fuel storage tanks. Through a network of pipes, the hydrogen is carried to a fuel cell converter. In the converter, the hydrogen and oxygen turns into water and electricity. It is then carried to two lithium batteries for storage. When the train is in motion, the electric motor gets energy from the batteries.

The two lithium battery storage is key in saving electricity. In theory, even if HydroFLEX can run on electricity, with the batteries, there is less need to consume electricity from the railways.

This kind of design is deemed an almost zero-emission train. No amount of the hydrogen is spilled and no harmful by-product is created from the energy conversion. According to BBC News, the HydroFLEX’s exhaust emits water that has no smell, whatsoever. 

With the continuous study and improvement of the hydrogen train, the UK hopes to provide more accessibility to public transportation thereby, lessening personal car usage that contributes to pollution.

Why is diesel being replaced? 

In 2014, reports show that diesel’s nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions led to increase in air pollution. Studies show that nitrogen dioxide can cause inflammation in the airways that can be associated to heart and lung diseases and respiratory illness such as asthma. 

Aside from its negative effects in one’s health, diesel-engine vehicles contribute carbon dioxide which indirectly causes global warming.

What are alternatives to diesel?

First to replace diesel as a primary fuel source is the gasoline. However, gasoline’s carbon dioxide emissions also caused substantial adverse effects on the environment. Another issue with gas is its production. Oil spills from poor management of oil mining sites caused irreparable damage to the environment.

Next solution was to use electricity. Although most of it comes from gasoline, multiple countries and companies have invested in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy. 

Since 2010, the UK has switched to electric railways with 36% of the entire network done by 2018. 70% of their trains use electric-powered engines, and 6% have electro-diesel hybrid engines. The remaining 24% of the UK’s trains are still using diesel engines.

Now, more and more countries are finding ways to replace diesel and gasoline. In 2018, Germany showed the world the first hydrogen train with a travel speed of 140 kilometers per hour.

Which countries are also looking for alternative fuels for their vehicles?

Aside from the UK and Germany, other countries are looking into alternative fuel sources.

China is investing on electrified vehicles, like electric cars and plug-in hybrids, to completely ban gasoline and diesel vehicles. France has started banning gasoline and diesel vehicles. By 2040, car companies can no longer sell cars with diesel and gasoline engines in the country. Due to its heavy air pollution, India is following suit and aims to only have electricity-powered vehicles by 2030.

Other countries like Japan, Denmark, Austria, Portugal, Kenya, Spain, Korea, and Ireland promotes the use of electric cats by setting targets for its electric car sales.

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Tesla Squash Critics With Record-Breaking Second Quarter Numbers

Tesla was previously criticized due to its weak first quarter, but its second-quarter figures easily prove them otherwise.

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Photo by Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

Tesla announced record-breaking numbers Tuesday on its production and deliveries in a press release, which was initially thought to be much lower than critics has expected. The newly announced second-quarter report also picks up after its disappointing first-quarter numbers.

Officially, Tesla’s production and delivery numbers totaled to a record-setting 87,048 electric cars produced and 95,200 delivered. There were 14,417 high-end Model X and Model S produced and 17,650 delivered. Meanwhile, the cheaper Model 3 impressively produced 72,531 and 77,500 delivered.

These number easily met the company’s second-quarter goals and beat last quarter’s 63,000 cars delivered with a 51.1% increase from its admittedly weak first three months of this year, which was also Tesla’s biggest drop in sales. It also surpassed its year-ago quarter, which only delivered 40,740 cars. Notably, the company was still struggling with production and deliveries.

Furthermore, the latest figures of 92,500 sets a new record beating the fourth-quarter of 2018 delivers of 90,700 cars Tesla sold in the last three months of that year.

The electric carmaker’s second-quarter figures also “blew away” analysts’ estimates of 91,000, according to data compiled by FactSet. Deliveries for the company’s biggest seller, Model 3, were only expected at 74,100 while combined shipments for the Model S sedans and Model X SUVs were only estimated at 16,600.

There were an additional 7,400 in transit at the end of the second-quarter even, but Tesla would rather include them in their third-quarter report. Tesla’s orders aren’t fully reflected in its delivery numbers until a buyer takes possession of the new car.

“Customer vehicles in transit at the end of the quarter were over 7,400. Due to the order-to-VIN matching process, we described in our Q1 2019 Shareholder Letter, which we extended to Model S and Model X in Q2 to improve process efficiency, this metric has become less relevant. As a result, we do not plan to disclose the customer vehicles in transit metric going forward.”

Due to particularly unique reasons, Tesla deliveries in the first-quarter dropped and has caused a cash crunch for the company’s share price. Tesla shares have lost more than a quarter of their value since the start of the year. In April, the company posted a first-quarter loss of $702 million.

Notably, Tesla faced a lot of issues during the first three months of 2019. The carmaker was plagued by challenges transporting cars from its factory in Fremont, California, across the world as well as questions about waning customer demand.

Also, the company’s decision to release the cheaper version of its electric cars, the Model 3, faced criticism and analysts told that it was a wrong decision from a strategic position since the company was making more from the pricing of its higher-end models.

Fortunately, the Model 3 turned out to be a prosperous gamble which accounted for Tesla’s impressive number today. In March, Elon Musk, the company founder, said that “given that [a lot happening in Q1], and we are taking a lot of one time charges, there are a lot of challenges getting cars to China and Europe, we do not expect to be profitable. We do think that profitability in Q2 is likely.”

Furthermore, the Securities and Exchange Commission was also on Musk’s heels in February as he tweeted about producing an estimated 500,000 cars by the end of the year when analyst estimates only predicted 400,000 — leading to an SEC filing with Musk breaching a previous settlement.

Today, Tesla is addressing its struggle with production and deliveries as they have “made significant progress streamlining [their] global logistics and delivery operations at higher volumes, enabling cost efficiencies and improvements to our working capital position.”

Looking forward to next quarter’s deliveries, “orders generated during the quarter exceeded our deliveries, thus we are entering Q3 with an increase in our order backlog. We believe we are well positioned to continue growing total production and deliveries in Q3.”

The company is “well positioned to continue growing total production and deliveries” in the coming quarter. Tesla also received more new orders last quarter than the total number of deliveries it recorded. That could indicate that there’s still strong demand for Tesla vehicles.

The company’s stock jumped by about 7% in after-market trading. Tesla also hinted at a strong third-quarter.

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Europe Wants Electric Cars To Make Noise

The European Union set new rules on electric vehicles that require them to make a noise at certain speeds to improve pedestrian safety.

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Photo by Moritz Kindler on Unsplash

The European Union set new rules regarding electric cars sold in its territory to produce “noise” to ensure pedestrian safety. The new guideline follows Europe’s promise to become zero-carbon by 2050.

The European Union deems that electric and hybrid vehicles sold from here on out should be able to produce noise when traveling at speeds below 19 km/h (12 mph) to alert unsuspecting pedestrians and cyclists.

Furthermore, the new rule also applies to electric vehicles already sold and operating in any of the union’s countries by 2021. Manufacturers and users will then have to find a workaround or retrofits to comply.

The noise-making system called Acoustic Vehicle Alert System or AVAS, an ironic move by Europe whereas electric vehicles were initially marketed as a quieter version of the conventional four-wheeled cars on the streets.

Quite reasonably, the charity Guide Dogs complained that electric cars were hard to hear when they were approaching. In a written submission to the British Parliament in November 2017, the charity pointed to a research that says, “electric and hybrid vehicles are 40 percent more likely to be involved in an accident which causes injury to a pedestrian.”

Notably, the charity is part of the British Blind Association where they offer guide dogs services for the partially blind and fully blind.

Roads minister Michael Ellis told BBC that the government wanted “the benefits of green transport to be felt by everyone” and understood the concerns of the visually impaired. “This new requirement will give pedestrians added confidence when crossing the road,” he added.

However, the charity noted that the artificial sound should be present in all speeds, given that electric and hybrid vehicles can jump from 0 to 60 mph speeds in just a few seconds. But they did welcome the new rule set by the Union.

In a tweet by BBC News, they provided an auditory demonstration of how these sounds may perform on the streets. Though they may sound less futuristic and more of a metallic clank, manufacturers can still develop it in the future.

“New regulations will require all new electric vehicles to feature a warning noise to alert pedestrians and cyclists. Listen to the warning noise below.”
BBC Radio 5 Twitter

The new rule set by Europe also follows its commitment to producing zero emissions by 2050. Furthermore, the Union also noted that they would ban the sale of all carbon cars by 2040. Paris even wants to it earlier by setting a 2030 deadline.

As of the moment, more than one million plug-in electric passenger cars and vans have been registered in Europe by June 2018, making the region the world’s second largest market after China. Furthermore, the European passenger plug-in vehicle market scored some 37,000 registrations in April, growing 30% compared to the same period last year.

In April, fully electric vehicles (BEVs) jumped 70% year over year (YoY), to some 24,000 deliveries, and were responsible for 65% of all plug-in sales in the month while plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) share jumped to 2.8%, and that makes the 2019 plug-in vehicle (PEV) share 3.0%.

Top 15 selling plug-in electric car models in Europe in 2017:

Ranking Model Total sales/
registrations
1 Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV 100,097
2 Renault Zoe 91,927
3 Nissan Leaf 84,947
4 BMW i3 59,122
5 Tesla Model S 54,116
6 Volkswagen Golf GTE 38,993
7 Volkswagen e-Golf 33,644
8 Volkswagen Passat GTE 31,632
9 Renault Kangoo Z.E. 29,150
10 Audi A3 e-tron 28,209
11 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid 25,694
12 Mercedes-Benz C 350 e 22,049
13 Volvo XC90 T8 19,969
14 BMW 330e iPerformance 18,808
15 BMW 225xe Active Tourer 16,720

Notably, US electric car maker, Tesla is catching on with rankings as Elon Musk confirmed that it would be expanding its sales across Eastern Europe but not until 2020.

In a monthly model report this June by Clean Technica, the Tesla Model 3 ranked second after French automaker, Renault. “After a delivery peak in March, the poster child for electromobility has dropped to more “normal” performances, with Tesla delivering 3,738 units of its sedan in April. Looking at individual markets, the midsize model was mainly delivered in Norway (720 units), Germany (514), the Netherlands (467), Switzerland (492), and Sweden (446).”

In a global perspective, Europe isn’t the only regulator that is taking more precautionary measures with the rise of electric cars. In the US, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will require that all hybrid and electric vehicles emit artificial noise by September 2020, but at faster speeds of 18.6 mph.

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‘Tesla’ Developing Own ‘Electric Car Batteries’ In A “Secret Lab”

Tesla is developing its own lithium-ion batteries to help solve the problem of mass production delays.

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Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

Tesla is discreetly developing its own “advanced” lithium-ion batteries in a “secret lab” that they hope will be able to go into mass production in the future for Tesla vehicles.

Today, Tesla is setting the foundation on becoming more independent and “vertically integrated” as much as possible by developing its batteries for its electric vehicles to decrease dependence on its partner, Panasonic.

The said batteries are being developed in “a “skunkworks lab” at the company’s Kato Road facility, a few minutes from its car plant in Fremont, California. This is the same factory that Tesla makes the Model 3, Model S and Model X vehicles 

“Employees in Tesla’s battery R&D teams are now focused on designing and prototyping advanced lithium-ion battery cells, as well as new equipment and processes that could allow Tesla to produce cells in high volumes,” employees and former employees said.

However, there were already reports indicating that Tesla has been working on developing its battery cells “for the better part of the last decade” under Jeffrey Brian Straubel’s supervision. “JB” Straubel is part of the founding team and the Chief Technical Officer of Tesla Inc. and oversees the technical and engineering design of the vehicles.

Furthermore, speculation says that Tesla started developing its lithium-ion battery cells after the electric car company bought Maxwell Technologies for its ultracapacitor technology, and its work on battery density back in February.

Currently, it is easy to assume that Tesla is already making its battery cells since it claims to have the biggest battery factory in the world. However, the automotive giant is still sourcing its battery cells from Panasonic, which has been the company’s partner since 2014.

In its Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, Panasonic occupies part of the factory who owns cell production lines. Tesla then buys those cells from the Japanese supplier to make battery modules and packs with them in other sections of the same factory.

The news comes in a time when Tesla continues to struggle with mass production, especially when it announced during the first quarter of this year its Tesla Model 3— which is a lesser-end and more affordable electric vehicle towards the general public.

“There is a lot of speculation regarding our vehicle deliveries this quarter,” Musk told employees in an email Tuesday. “The reality is that we are on track to set an all-time record, but it will be very close. However, if we go all out, we can definitely do it!”

Initially, Musk tweeted last February 19 claiming that Tesla will make around 500,000 cars by 2019. Tesla’s initial forecast indicated only a maximum of 400,000 this year. So far, the electric car company has delivered only 63,000 vehicles to customers in the first quarter.

“We already have enough vehicle orders to set a record, but the right cars are not yet all in the right locations,” Musk wrote.

“Logistics and final delivery are extremely important, as well as finding [the] demand for vehicle variants that are available locally, but can’t reach people who ordered that variant before the end of the quarter.”

Furthermore, during Tesla’s 2019 shareholders meeting, the CEO highlighted the fact that Tesla’s product rollout is currently limited by the scaling of battery production.

“As we scale battery production to very high levels, we have to look further down the supply chain and we might get into the mining business… I don’t know. A little bit at least. We do whatever we have to to ensure we can scale at the fastest rate possible.”

According to Musk, the company has been “battery constrained” with a lack of batteries limiting Tesla’s production and sales of electric vehicles and energy storage systems (Powerwalls and Powerpacks).

Straubel said: “It’s more obvious now [that] I think it ever was, we need a large-scale solution to cell production.”

Vice President of Technology Drew Baglino added, “We’re not sitting idly by. We’re taking all the moves required to be masters of our own destiny here, technologically and otherwise. I think through all the experience we’ve developed with partners and otherwise, we will have solutions for this.”

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