STUTTGART, August 24 -- Elon Musk has talked about making an electric Tesla Van for a while, Volkswagen has teased the return of its iconic bus as an EV.
But Mercedes-Benz beat everybody to the punch in this critical segment with the 2020 Mercedes-Benz EQV—an electric van that seats up to eight and runs a claimed range of over 200 miles. At least in Europe. Mercedes-Benz showed off a “concept” version of the EQV previously, but it was rather obviously very close to production-ready. That’s backed up now that we have the real deal just in time for this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show next month.
The press release only talks about the public charging network services in Europe, so it may be unlikely we’ll be getting this electron-powered van Stateside, but you never know. That said, the EQV has a 90 kWh battery pack centrally mounted under the floor of the van, offering a claimed preliminary range estimate of 405 km, or roughly 250 miles on a single charge. The van is driven by a single motor on the front axle with an output of 150 kw, or 204 horsepower, and 362 nm of torque, or just about 267 lb-ft. On a 110 kw public DC rapid charger, the Mercedes claims the EQV can charge from 10 to 80 percent of its battery capacity in around 45 minutes. On an AC charger, like a standard public parking charger or using the Mercedes-Benz Wallbox Home 11 kW charger that can be installed in your house, the battery should charge in less than 10 hours. The EQV picks up a little bit of the exterior design language of the EQC crossover, and inside it gets some rose gold accent touches and adaptable seating with optional bench seats, which means you can shove up to eight people in this thing. The EQV is nice and acceptable because it’s just an electric version of the regular Mercedes-Benz van, so it’s very practical. EVs do not all need to be fancy! Just zoom around town without contributing to localized pollution! And now it can. In Europe.
LONDON, August 24 -- The world’s first solar farm to power a railway line directly is due to plug into the track near Aldershot, paving the way for solar-powered trains.
From Friday, about 100 solar panels at the trackside site will supply renewable electricity to power the signalling and lights on Network Rail’s Wessex route. The 30kW pilot scheme could pave the way for a larger project capable of directly powering the trains that use this route from next year. The solar breakthrough comes as Network Rail plans to spend billions of pounds electrifying rail lines to avoid running trains on diesel. This could help reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and costs. Solar panels are already used to power the operations of train stations, including Blackfriars in central London. But the Aldershot project is the first time a solar array will bypass the electricity grid to plug directly into a railway’s “traction” system.
Network Rail hopes to use the scheme, developed by the charity 10:10 Climate Action and Imperial College London, to solar-charge its rail lines across the country. Stuart Kistruck, a director for Network Rail’s Wessex route, said: “We have ambitions to roll this technology out further across the network should this demonstrator project prove successful, so we can deliver a greener, better railway for our passengers and the wider public.” The research team behind the project, called Riding Sunbeams, estimates that solar could power 20% of the Merseyrail network in Liverpool, as well as 15% of commuter routes in Kent, Sussex and Wessex. There is also scope for solar trams in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, London and Manchester, according to the team. The researchers began work on the plans over two years ago to discover whether bypassing the electricity grid could make solar power a more efficient energy source for trains. Innovate UK awarded the project funding from the Department of Transport after it proved that connecting solar power directly to rail, tube and tram networks could help meet a significant share of their electricity needs.
TOKYO, August 23 -- Toyota Motor Corp. said Friday some 90 percent of around 3,700 vehicles and mobility devices it will provide to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be electrified, as it seeks to showcase its advanced low-emission technology at the world event.
Of the total, 1,350 units will be either electric or fuel-cell vehicles that produce no carbon dioxide when running, while the rest will be hybrids and plug-in hybrids powered by electric-gasoline engines, Toyota, a sponsor of the Summer Games, said. With the lineup to be used to transport athletes, officials and spectators to and within venues, Toyota said it can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 50 percent compared with when the entire fleet was made up of conventional gasoline and diesel models. The official fleet will include more than a dozen box-shaped autonomous electric vehicles, 500 Mirai, the world's first mass-produced fuel-cell car, 200 cart-like EVs specially designed for the games that can be used by people with impairments, and 300 standing-type mobility devices for use by security and medical staff, Toyota said. Fuel-cell vehicles are powered by electricity generation through a chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen, a green system that Toyota has long been focusing on as a promising future technology.
NEW YORK, August 23 -- The Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Demecrate) today excludes nuclear energy from the proposed mix.
If it were ever actually attempted nationally, it would increase greenhouse gas emissions — just as a similar effort did in Vermont. The written statement distributed by the office of Ocasio-Cortez says "the plan is to transition off of nuclear." Vermont is home to Ocasio-Cortez allies, and Green New Deal advocates, Senator Bernie Sanders and climate activist Bill McKibben. Both insist the world can be powered on renewables alone. But consider what’s actually happened in their own state. In 2005, Vermont legislators promised to reduce emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2012, and 50% below 1990 levels by 2028, through the use of renewables and energy efficiency only. What’s happened since? Vermont’s emissions rose 16.3%. That’s more than twice as much as national emissions rose during the same period.
When you account for the U.S.’s far faster growth in population, Vermont’s per capita emissions rose 5% while U.S. per capita emissions declined by 17%. Did Vermont fail to do energy efficiency, which the Green New Deal and green groups like Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) claim is the most important way to reduce emissions? Nope. In 2018, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Vermont among the top five states for aggressive action on energy efficiency — for the fifth year in a row.
GUAYAQUIL, August 22 -- Looking after the environment is paying off in Ecuador, at least for public transport users in the business hub of Guayaquil.
A new scheme aimed at combatting garbage and pollution allows people to exchange recyclable plastic bottles for money to buy bus tickets. The port city, in Ecuador's south-west, is the second-most populous city in the country with 2.7 million inhabitants, but it generates the most waste. Passengers who use the city's bus transit system, Metrovia, are now queueing at a newly installed machine, waiting to unload their plastic bottles for two cents each, which they can spend on public transport. "Imagine: Two cents (a bottle), for 15 bottles you get 30 cents, that's already a Metrovia ticket," said bus passenger Cristian Cardenas. It is proving more profitable than selling the bottles to a recycling centre, Washington Bravo told AFP. The 76-year-old pensioner lives outside Guayaquil, a US$9 (S$12.45) taxi ride into town. He makes the walk once a week, collecting plastic bottles from garbage cans and the streets along his way. Guayaquil produces 4,200 tonnes of waste a day, only 14 per cent of which is recyclable. "The city is full of corruption and dirty. Before it wasn't like this, it was cleaner," he said.
NEW YORK, August 18 -- Greta Thunberg’s sailing ship for the climate, Malizia II, must return to Europe after it has reached New York.
For this, four new professional sailors fly to the US. Their mission is to release the crew of two skippers on board and sail the boat back. Altogether, six sailors must take at least one trip each by plane. Amid invited to the UN Climate Summit in New York in September, Greta Thunberg refused to go by plane and wanted a carbon dioxide neutral way of travel. Fortunately for her, the Malizia II team came to her assistance, offering to sail Greta and her father across the Atlantic. As a return, the boat became the nine o’clock news all over the world when Greta set off from Plymouth a couple of days ago.
Multiple times more emissions
But going by sailing boat, might not be such a clever idea after all if the objective is to spare the climate. It turns out that Greta Thunberg’s trip adds many times more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than if she and her father just bought two airline tickets. Her sail results in multiple flights across the Atlantic since all the sailors must take one flight each. When Malizza II reaches New York, skipper Boris Hermann and Pierre Casiraghi must rest and after the boat has been on service, a new team of professional sailors will take over. A team of four will fly to New York to receive the boat there and then sail back to Europe. The operating crew will fly back to Europe.
Media hype expected
In addition to this, there will be hundreds or maybe thousands European news channels, newspapers, reporters and photographers awaiting Greta to visit the summit in New York. It is still unclear if media representatives will choose to do the risky sail over the stormy Atlantic themselves or travel by plane, which takes approximately 8 hours. But the climate trip is still successful from a PR perspective and Malizia II is now famous worldwide. Millions follow her windy tour on the stormy Atlantic via live updates.
WASHINGTON, August 17 -- The US Federal Court in the District of Columbia has issued an arrest warrant for Iranian oil tanker, the Grace 1, the US Department of Justice announced in a statement.
"A seizure warrant and forfeiture complaint were unsealed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that Oil Tanker "Grace 1," all petroleum aboard it and $995,000.00 are subject to forfeiture based on violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), bank fraud statute, and money laundering statute, as well as separately the terrorism forfeiture statute," the statement reads. "The documents allege a scheme to unlawfully access the U.S. financial system to support illicit shipments to Syria from Iran by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization," according to the statement from the US Department of Justice. "The scheme involves multiple parties affiliated with the IRGC and furthered by the deceptive voyages of the Grace 1. A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments."
On July 4, Gibraltar’s authorities detained the Grace 1 oil tanker flying the Panamanian flag on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. The operation involved British marines. According to Gibraltar’s authorities, there were 28 crew members onboard the vessel, including nationals of India, Pakistan and Ukraine. In response, the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador to Tehran. Spain’s Acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said that the oil tanker had been detained at the United States’ request.
LONDON, August 8 -- If there was any doubt remaining that Britain has ceased to be a colonial power capable of imposing its will in foreign seas on command, it was evident as Iranian naval vessels ran literal rings around a detained British oil tanker.
Drone footage released by Iran’s Fars news agency showed a bird’s-eye view of the UK’s Stena Impero, moored in the port of Bandar Abbas after its seizure by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In the video, a pair of Iranian boats speed in circles around the tanker to the soundtrack of heavy metal, in a show of force likely designed for domestic as much as regional and global consumption. In the past 24 hours, a leaked audio recording laid bare the failed attempt by the British Royal Navy to avert the impounding. “Alter your course, do 360 degrees immediately, over,” an Iranian officer is heard telling the crew of the UK oil tanker Stena Impero. “Obey, and you will be safe.” A British warship, despite being too far away to pose an immediate threat, then issues a competing directive, telling the commercial ship it should continue on its path. “Stena Impero, this is British warship, Foxtrot 236. I reiterate that you are conducting transit passage in a recognized international strait. Under international law, your passage must not be impaired, obstructed or hampered,” the British officer says, before the vessel is forced to Iranian shores. The veracity of the recording, released by maritime security risk consultancy Dryad Global, has not been challenged by the UK or Iran. The raid itself – videotaped and published by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – shows Balaclava-wearing commandos descending on the British tanker by helicopter. The seizure appeared designed to replicate Britain’s impounding of an Iranian tanker earlier this month. Asked on Monday what the United States would do to help retrieve the vessel of its ally, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to wash his hands of the incident. “The responsibility in the first instance falls to the United Kingdom to care of their ships,” he told Fox and Friends. The UK – in the midst of messy talks to leave the European Union – said on Monday it was looking to its European allies to help secure Persian Gulf shipping. Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional arch-foe, appeared to quickly absorb the severity of the situation, releasing an Iranian oil tanker on Saturday which Tehran for weeks had accused Riyadh of illegally detaining.
Iran plays offense
Iran’s senior commanders say the country has officially moved from a position of deterrence to one of calculated confrontation. “We have put aside the defensive approach to also develop an offensive approach,” the lieutenant commander of Iran’s ground forces told a gathering in the city of Shiraz. “Some while ago, we were only after deterrence but today other countries should develop deterrence against us,” added General Nozar Nemati. Another senior commander, Major General Gholam Ali Rashid, told an audience in Tehran on Monday that Iran’s military would henceforth be practicing a “firm and smart confrontation against threatening attitudes and hostile measures.” The statements appeared to enshrine in policy a months-long pattern of tit-for-tat responses against US attempts to choke off Iranian oil exports. “The British committed piracy and we responded to it,” Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani said on Sunday, directly linking the seizure of Britain’s Stena Impero to Iran’s Grace I tanker. Tehran had previously cited alleged technical violations as grounds for the detention. The Grace I was impounded by the Royal Navy off the coast of Gibraltar, a UK territory, on July 4. London accused Iran of attempting to export its crude to the Syrian refinery of Baniyas, in violation of European Union sanctions, and said that the ship’s entrance into the waters of Gibraltar provided jurisdiction. Iran said its oil was destined for a legal destination, and quickly vowed retaliation. The United Kingdom, according to its former navy chief, should have seen the seizure of one of its own vessels coming.
Risk of war
Over the weekend, Britain’s former chief of naval staff Alan West penned an op-ed warning that the ongoing Persian Gulf crisis risked escalating into a full-blown war. West chastised his government for failing to protect British shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, through which 30% of the world’s seaborne oil passes: “We should have enacted control of shipping procedures, directing ships to assemble in safe areas and then taken them through in convoy,” he wrote. “Even with only one major warship in the Gulf this could have been done until reinforcements arrived – although the Royal Navy is disgracefully short of ships.” A military response, he said, would not only be inappropriate, but beyond the capabilities of Britain acting alone. The UK now risks becoming embroiled in an open conflict with Iran – a risk that should be the first priority of the incoming leader to address, he concluded.
TOKYO, August 5 -- The Tokyo government switched last week from fossil fuel to biomass energy to supply around 80 percent of electricity in its Shinjuku Ward headquarters, as part of efforts to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions in the metropolis by 2050.
Thirty million kilowatt hours of renewable energy will be supplied to the Tokyo government's two main buildings and the metropolitan assembly hall, or approximately 80 percent of the complex's maximum annual energy needs, officials said, adding that the switchover took place Thursday. "With the Tokyo government taking the lead, we hope to speed up initiatives (to achieve the zero emission goal) in the private sector," an official in charge of the project said.
In June, the Tokyo government called for tenders for energy suppliers, with bid evaluations focused on both cost and environmental aspects. The contract, which was awarded to Hitachi Zosen Corp. for 632 million yen ($5.9 million), will run to September next year. Hitachi Zosen purchases energy produced by waste power generation at incineration plants within and outside Tokyo, supplying the biomass portion to the city government. CO2 is emitted when the plant material used as fuel is burned to produce energy, but this is offset by the absorption of the heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere via photosynthesis during the plants' growth. As such, the process is considered to result in a net zero carbon footprint. By switching its source of electricity from gas and coal to renewable energy, the Tokyo government has seen a 15 percent increase in costs, the officials said. The remaining 20 percent of electricity is powered by gas supplied by a separate company under a long-term contract, due to the necessity of having multiple power sources in the event of a disaster, they said. In fiscal 2017, power generated by renewable energy sources accounted for around 14 percent of the total used in Tokyo, including private businesses. Tokyo will continue to promote the use of renewables to achieve the goal of raising the ratio to 30 percent by 2030, according to the officials.