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Westport and Fuel Systems Solutions to merge; alternative fuel vehicle and engine company with expanded reach

1 September 2015

Westport Innovations Inc. and Fuel Systems Solutions, Inc. have entered into a merger agreement to create a premier alternative fuel vehicle and engine company. The transaction will result in a combined equity value of $351 million based on the closing trading prices for the shares of both companies on 31 August 2015 and combined annual revenues ranging from $380 to $405 million projected for 2015.

Traditionally, Westport Innovations has focused the majority of its technological development and commercialization efforts in the heavy-duty and high horsepower natural gas arena, while Fuel Systems has significant experience and focus with gaseous fuel systems and components for light- and medium-duty automotive and industrial applications. The complementary industry expertise provides a rationale for the merger, as the combined company’s product development efforts will span passenger car to heavy-duty trucks to locomotives and marine applications to stationary power.

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UCL, BP team study on combustion and emissions characteristics of a range of fuel molecules from lignocellulosic biomass

1 September 2015

A team from University College London and BP’s Fuels and Lubricants Research group has investigated the combustion and emissions characteristics of a range of fuel molecules which can be produced from lignocellulosic biomass through a variety of processing routes.

The researchers suggested that their results can be used to aid in selecting at what stage lignocellulose should be chemically modified so as to produce a viable biofuel molecule with optimal combustion characteristics and exhaust gas emissions. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

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Land Rover researchers develop an innovative camera system for “Transparent Trailer”; Cargo Sense App

1 September 2015

Land Rover is developing a “see-through” trailer concept that would completely remove the blind spot created when towing a caravan or trailer. This transparent view would allow the driver to clearly see vehicles coming up behind and help driver confidence by improving visibility while maneuvering.

The prototype Transparent Trailer system combines the video feed from the vehicle’s existing surround camera system—which includes the reversing camera and a camera on each wing mirror—with a video from a digital wireless camera that is placed on the rear of the trailer or caravan. The video feeds are then combined to create the live video images that make the trailer behind appear see-through. When the trailer is coupled to the towing car, the live video feed would automatically appear in the rear view mirror inside the vehicle.

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Saft America receives $6.13M USABC award for lithium-ion 12V stop-start battery technology development

31 August 2015

Saft America Inc. has received a competitively bid, $6.13-million award from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC) in collaboration with the US Department of Energy (DOE) for 12-volt stop-start battery technology development. The contract includes a 50% cost-share by Saft.

The 30-month contract will focus on the development and delivery of lithium-ion 12-volt modules for vehicle stop-start battery applications consistent with USABC goals based on Saft’s advanced lithium-ion battery technologies along with battery management electronics.

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Joint IEA-NEA report details plunge in costs of renewable electricity; nuclear competitive with other baseload power sources

31 August 2015

2010 and 2015 LCOE ranges for solar and wind technologies. Source: IEA/NEA. Click to enlarge.

The cost of producing electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar has been falling for several years. A new report, a joint project by the International Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency, provides in detail the contrasting costs for different power generation technologies around the world and shows that renewable sources can produce electricity at close to or even below the cost of new fossil fuel-based power stations, depending upon conditions such as resources and appropriate market and regulatory frameworks.

The report, Projected Costs of Generating Electricity: 2015 Edition, also shows that new nuclear power plants generate electricity more cheaply than other established “baseload” sources—mainly coal- and gas-fired power plants—over the full lifetime of facilities when financing costs are relatively low.

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Lockheed Martin invests in Peloton Technology and truck platooning

31 August 2015

Lockheed Martin has joined a $17-million investment round in Peloton Technology, a developer of truck platooning systems, co-led by DENSO International America and Intel Capital (earlier post).

The Peloton Truck Platooning System electronically couples pairs of trucks through a combination of vehicle-to-vehicle communications, radar-based active braking systems and proprietary vehicle-control algorithms. The system improves safety and allows trucks to travel at closer distances, which improves aerodynamics and reduces fuel use.

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Mitsubishi Motors 2016 Outlander PHEV will make its European debut at IAA

31 August 2015

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC)’s revamped 2016 Outlander PHEV, due to go on sale in Europe in September, will make its European debut at the 66th International Motor Show (IAA) in several weeks. MMC will also show the rally version of the Outlander PHEV that will compete in the Baja Portalegre 500 cross-country rally as well as a display outlining a Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) electricity supply system that will be available for the new Outlander PHEV.

The Outlander PHEV was first launched in Japan in January 2013 as the world’s first plug-in hybrid 4WD SUV. (Earlier post.) Now exported to 48 countries including those in Europe, the Outlander has racked up cumulative sales of some 70,000 units. The Outlander PHEV is powered by Mitsubishi Motors’ Plug-in Hybrid EV system, comprising a Twin Motor 4WD drivetrain, with separate motors driving the front and rear wheels, and a high-capacity battery located under the floor that provides electric-only driving.

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Lionano in license agreement with Cornell for development and production of new hollow structured metal oxide anode material for LIBs

31 August 2015

Lionano Inc. announced an agreement with Cornell University’s Center for Technology Licensing (CTL) for the development and production of an innovative drop-in anode material for use in lithium-ion batteries.

The drop-in consists of a hollow structured metal oxide material that can substantially reduce the volumetric expansion of a conventional anode, according to the company. This material can exhibit a capacity of 900 mAh/g at 0.2C with more than 90% active material content. Lionano tested the material in a scaled-up batch of more than 50 kg of material, and found that it demonstrates superior stability over 2,000 cycles. The hollow structure, with nano- and microscale properties, facilitates electron transfer and enhances structural robustness.

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Lux: Despite softness in utilization, global biofuels capacity to grow to 61.4 BGY in 2018; driven by novel fuels and feedstocks

31 August 2015

The global biofuels industry averaged 68% in utilization rate from 2005 to 2014, reached a high of 80.9% in 2007, dropped to a low of 56.9% in 2012, and climbed slightly back to 60.4% in 2014. Despite the still apparent softness in capacity utilization, and the on-going softness in fossil fuel prices, global biofuels capacity will continue to grow from 55.1 billion gallons per year (BGY) to 61.4 BGY in 2018, according to a forecast by Lux Research. However, Lux predicts, growth between now and 2018 will not be a continuation of current course.

While ethanol and biodiesel will continue to dominate in absolute terms, these will grow at only a 1.5% CAGR through 2018. Novel fuels and feedstocks will drive the biofuels industry forward at a much more rapid 17% and 22% CAGRs through 2018, respectively.

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Air pollution associated with increased heart attack risk despite “safe” levels

31 August 2015

Particulate matter and NO2 air pollution are associated with increased risk of severe heart attacks despite being within European recommended levels, according to research presented at ESC Congress by Dr. Jean-Francois Argacha, a cardiologist at University Hospital Brussels (UZ Brussel-Vrije Universiteit Brussel), in Belgium.

The study investigated the effect of short term exposure to air pollution on the risk of ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI)—a deadly type of heart attack that is caused by a prolonged blockage of blood supply in the heart. This type of myocardial infarction has the worst prognosis and is caused by thrombotic occlusion of a coronary artery that damages the heart.

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60% of $18B in US clean energy tax credits 2006-2012 went to top 20% by income; 90% in the plug-in program

30 August 2015

A working paper by a team at the Energy Institute at Haas, University of California, Berkeley, has found that 60% of the $18 billion in US federal income clean energy tax credits issued between 2006 and 2012—e.g., for weatherizing homes, installing solar panels, and buying hybrid and electric vehicles—went to the top income quintile in the US (above $200,000 per year). The bottom three quintiles (up to $75,000 per year) received about 10%.

The most extreme case, Severin Borenstein and Lucas Davis found through their examination of tax return data from the IRS, is the program aimed at electric vehicles—the top income quintile received about 90% of all these credits. As a result of the work, Borenstein and Davis conclude that tax credits are likely to be much less attractive on distributional grounds than market mechanisms to reduce GHGs.

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EERC working with Fuel Cell Energy on $3.5M ARPA-E project for electrochemical cell to convert natural gas to methanol

29 August 2015

The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) is working with FuelCell Energy, Inc., an integrated stationary fuel cell manufacturer, to develop a durable, low-cost, and high-performance electrochemical cell to convert natural gas and other methane-rich gas into methanol, a major chemical commodity with worldwide applications in the production of liquid fuels, solvents, resins, and polymers.

The US Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) awarded $3,500,000 to the project, led by Fuel Cell Energy, as part of its REBELS (Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems) program. (Earlier post.) The project is directed at developing an intermediate-temperature fuel cell that would directly convert methane to methanol and other liquid fuels using advanced metal catalysts.

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