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Growthpoint powers innovation with its NWU Solar Car team sponsorship

Pushing the boundaries of what is possible for alternative energy and engineering, Growthpoint Properties has announced that it is sponsoring the North West University’s Solar Car challenge team. 

With its sponsorship, Growthpoint is helping to the give the team its day in the sun at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, which takes place from 8 to 15 October in Australia. The gruelling journey starts in Darwin and follows the Stuart Highway to Port Augusta followed by Highway 1 to Adelaide about 3,000km away. 

NWU Solar has already set the bar high with its solar car challenge achievements. It was co-winner of its very first outing at the 2012 Sasol Solar Challenge, an honour it shared with Tokai University, which is consistently ranked as one of the top three teams in the world. 

The team has gone on to break various records. In 2015, at the previous biennial Bridgestone World Challenge, NWU Solar debuted to become the first team from Africa to cross the finish line. It took 11th place in an overall field of 29, beating some world-renowned universities in the process including MIT and Cambridge. It holds the record for the furthest distance travelled by a South African team in a single day (611.9km), as well as the furthest distance completed by a South African team (3,524.9km).

But why would a property company invest in a university solar car team?

Growthpoint is no ordinary property company. It provides space to thrive. Its pursuit of sustainability across its diverse portfolio of 547 owned and managed properties can be seen in the innovations in its buildings, in South Africa and internationally.

Growthpoint is a Platinum Founding member of the Green Building Council South Africa, a constituent of the FTSE4Good Emerging Index and the FTSE/JSE Responsible Investment Index. It owns and co-owns the biggest portfolio of certified green buildings in South Africa. Growthpoint also embraces solar power in South Africa with several solar plants already in operation.

It has already installed photovoltaic solar panels with the capacity to generate over 8.1MWp (DC, excluding the V&A Waterfront) at sixteen of its office, retail and industrial properties (all below 1MWp AC).

Head of Sustainability at Growthpoint, Werner van Antwerpen, explains: “The objective of the NWU Solar car project is to go beyond simply competing in challenges. Its goals include performing interdisciplinary research and development that drives a sustainable future based on innovative new technologies. This really appealed to us. For real and sustainable innovation, we need to close the gap between universities, government and business. NWU Solar is innovating in a way that produces commercially viable products that create jobs and opportunities. We support this wholeheartedly.”

He adds: “Growthpoint’s sponsorship of the NWU Solar team is an excellent platform to showcase our commitment to sustainability and innovation while also supporting a group of students who are the future leaders of our industry and others. We also want to encourage young people to achieve success in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – and apply their skills to create relevant and commercial solutions.” 

Strong synergies form the foundation for this sponsorship. For instance, with Growthpoint’s increasing use of renewable solar energy at many of its buildings, it stands to benefit from the university’s advances and research in solar power, battery and hydrogen fuel cell technology and the algorithms to manage these storage solutions.

Van Antwerpen highlights that the NWU Faculty of Engineering has also proven courageous in what it takes on, and this is a quality that Growthpoint values, encourages and invests in.

The faculty recently launched Naledi, the 2017 iteration of the solar car that will be competing in Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Naledi, meaning ‘star’, boasts a brand new design with the body based on the world-class JS3 Jonker Sailplane that also has its roots at the NWU Faculty of Engineering. The team from NWU will also be using solar tracking technology to soak up sun rays, keeping its panels at an optimal angle to the sun at all times. The body shape with the use of solar tracking makes Naledi one of the most unique vehicles in the competition.

With its impressive track record, the NWU Solar team has a lot to live up to, but it has already proven that it relishes a challenge. Van Antwerpen says: “We wish the NWU Solar team everything of the best for the upcoming Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. True to the name of their car (and its power source), we believe that they are stars who will continue to shine in this global challenge.”

Its sponsorship of the NWU Solar car challenge team is just one of the ways the Growthpoint invests in sustainability and innovation at university level in South Africa. Growthpoint also founded the Greenovate Awards programme with the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA), which sets university students of the built environment and engineering on a quest to find more sustainable ways of living. 

Growthpoint is the largest South African primary listed REIT on the JSE, and is emerging as a leading international property company. It owns and manages a diversified portfolio of 547 property assets. This includes 471 properties in South Africa valued at R76.9bn and Growthpoint’s 50% interest in the properties at V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, valued at R8.7bn. Internationally, Growthpoint owns 57 properties in Australia valued at R32.5bn through its investment in ASX-listed Growthpoint Properties Australia (GOZ) and 18 properties in Romania valued at EUR1.0bn through its investment in LSE AIM-listed Globalworth Real Estate Investments (GWI).

New cars much less fuel efficient than manufacturers claim, research finds

Australian Automobile Association finds fuel use on average 25% higher than claimed on consumption label displayed on new cars

New cars are using vastly more fuel on the road than in laboratory tests, raising further questions about the veracity of car manufacturers’ claims in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

The Australian Automobile Association-commissioned research found fuel use was on average 25% higher than claimed on the government-mandated fuel consumption label displayed on all new cars.

In some cases, they were 60% above the fuel use claimed on the label.

On-road noxious gas emissions from five diesel cars were found to be over the legal limit, in one case by up to eight times.

Two petrol cars were significantly above the limits for carbon monoxide emissions.

The research, conducted by technical consulting firm Abmarc, examined 17 new and commonly available cars in the past 10 months.

The AAA did not name and shame individual manufacturers, but said the cars were selected across brands, vehicle types and fuel types.

The 2015 Volkswagen scandal raised serious concerns about the truth of car manufacturers’ emissions claims. Volkswagen was caught installing software in cars that allowed it to game emissions tests in the United States.

That scandal was uncovered after environmental groups detected discrepancies between real-world emissions and those recorded in tests.

The federal government is currently considering tightening emissions and CO2 standards, effectively moving from the “Euro 5” to “Euro 6” standard.

That would bring Australia in line with international standards following years of lagging behind the European Union and the US.

The AAA is opposed to the government’s standards proposal, saying it will cost motorists without delivering any benefit to the environment.

It last week described the plan as an “uncoordinated process” that had no robust cost-benefit analysis.

The AAA chief executive, Michael Bradley, said the results of its latest testing showed the assumptions underpinning the government’s proposal were flawed.

“These results are bad news for Australian consumers looking for good information on which to base their car-buying decisions,” Bradley said.

“They also place a huge question mark over the fuel and cost-savings the government is offering Australians under its proposals to introduce tougher vehicle emissions restrictions.

“Our test results are a warning to Australians to take the government’s promises of fuel and cost-savings with a grain of salt, and expect those savings to be significantly less than what’s promised.”

A spokesman for the urban infrastructure minister, Paul Fletcher, said it was well known that pollutants emitted in laboratory conditions would generally be lower than on-road driving tests.

He said the way vehicles were tested for emissions was “quite separate” from the current question of whether car emissions should be changed or tightened.

“No decisions have yet been taken – the matter will be considered by cabinet later this year,” the spokesman said.

The cars tested had all driven at least 2,000km but no more than 85,000km, and were 2014 models or newer.

The cars were tested twice, from a cold start and a warm start, and were driven along the same route in Melbourne, which contained urban, extra-urban and freeway driving.

Bradley said the AAA supported reducing emissions and strengthening standards, but said policy must “deliver for the environment at the least cost to motorists and the economy”.

“The AAA and Australia’s motoring clubs again call on the government to update its modelling, undertake further public consultation and introduce real-world driving testing for new vehicles in Australia,” he said.

The federal government allows the use of test results from international laboratories for assessment against Australian standards. The government also audits test results.

The ministerial forum on vehicle emissions is considering how to reduce emissions from Australia’s vehicle fleet. It has released three papers for consultation, including a draft regulation impact statement on new fuel efficiency and noxious emissions standards.

Those impact statements included a cost-benefit analysis of the changes, which considered recent studies on the discrepancies between laboratory-tested and on-road emissions.

To address the discrepancy, the statements recommended adopting the latest standards, which introduce a more representative laboratory test and an on-road driving emissions test.

Source: theguardian

China’s Didi Kuaidi and Lyft Join Forces in U.S. to Take on Uber

Users of China’s largest ride-hailing service visiting the U.S. can now call up cars courtesy of Lyft Inc., as the two startups strengthen an alliance intended to curtail Uber Technologies Inc.’s rapid global expansion.

Starting this week, any of Didi Kuaidi’s almost 300 million customers will be able to use the Chinese company’s app in the U.S. to access Lyft’s pool of private cars, they said in an e-mailed statement. In-app translation will help smooth language wrinkles, and they can pay via Chinese services Alipay and WeChat.

The reverse may soon become a reality. As early as this quarter, Lyft users may be able to use their apps to hail a taxi when in China, according to the statement. Didi and its San Francisco-based partner have been integrating services which span hundreds of cities across both countries and have now rolled out a trial version for the U.S.

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“Just like any Internet product, the launch is on a phased schedule. Going forward, the opportunities are wide open,” Li Zijian, Didi’s senior director of international strategy, said by phone. “Didi will be offering its private cars and Lyft will be offering its equivalent to private cars.”

America is a popular destination for Chinese tourists, the most numerous on the planet. About 5 million people travel between the two countries every year, according to tourism bureau data that Didi cited.

First Fruit of Alliance

Lyft and Didi are testing what amounts to the first major initiative from a global push to fight Uber. The two have teamed with Southeast Asia’s Grab and India’s Ola. Didi itself is stockpiling cash for the battle ahead. China’s largest ride-hailing service raised the target on its latest round of funding to more than $1.5 billion, which could value the company at more than $20 billion, a person familiar with the matter has said.

Both Didi and Lyft will review their partnership on a regular basis to work out financial sharing arrangements and gauge its success.

“We’ve agreed to review it every few months and it’d be fair to say that by year’s end, we’ll have a review of the product, of the experience and of the business,” Li said.

Didi expects to be able to serve about 30 million riders daily by the year’s end. It has a wider range of services than its partners – customers can hail taxis, car-pool with drivers and even hop on buses. Its partner, Lyft, debuted car-pooling for the Bay Area in March.

“Going forward we have the Lyft Line and the Didi Hitch and other types like taxis” to offer, Li said.

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Source: reuters


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The innovators: Skeleton car that is driving open-source design

OSVehicle hopes Tabby Evo electric car, which can be built in an hour, will be embraced by aid agencies and universities, among others.

In the chaos that ensues after a natural disaster, getting vehicles to aid workers for transporting refugees and supplies can be impossible as roads are frequently blocked. An alternative, says Yuki Liu, chief operating officer of the car design firm OSVehicle, is to airlift them in sections and construct them on the ground.

The idea is unworkable in the case of a standard car or 4×4 but possibly not for the Tabby Evo, an electric vehicle that can be shipped in parts and put together in an hour.

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The Tabby Evo is the latest version of a “platform” car, which provides the bare bones of an electric vehicle – including the frame, suspension, steering systems, brakes, seats and wheels – on which companies, relief agencies and universities among others, can build and tweak their own vehicle by adding doors, interiors and a shell.

The skeleton cars were created by Yuki’s brother, Tin Hang Liu, and OSVehicle wants them to be an easier route into the automotive industry. This would end the need for years of research and development and hundreds of millions of pounds in investment. Along with vehicles for aid agencies, the company is working on projects where fleets are used for car-sharing or as delivery vehicles for packages.

Yuki said: “We started to think about how to change automotives because it is the most complex industrial product that has not changed for [some] time. Our background in automotives made us understand that there was a lot of need for innovation there because everything was still made in the same way.”

Tin and Yuki, who were both born and raised in Italy, followed their father into the motor industry. They soon became interested in the idea of circular economies, in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible. In 2008, Tin was working in Silicon Valley when he came in contact with open-source hardware – designs for machines and devices that have been publicly released. He applied the principles to cars, where one vehicle would be able to achieve a number of functions.

The Tabby Evo is the second version of the skeleton car. Available with two or four seats, the bare vehicle is charged from a plug socket and has a range of 75 miles (120km) , depending on the type of body attached to it, said Yuki. The maximum speed is 80mph (130kmh), but this can be capped at a lower number depending again on what it is being used for.

When a company buys fleets of the vehicles – the minimum is 200 – they design the final vehicle and then buy and fit the seats, doors and other components separately. Batches of more than 500 four-seater vehicles cost just under $5,000 (£3,500) each, although this price increases if fewer are ordered, according to the company’s chief finance officer, Alberto Loddo.

He said: “To make a new car model from scratch, you would need five to seven years and $100m to $200m. With our platform, we want to shorten that to one and a half to three years, depending on the complexity of the vehicle, and to $3m to $20m.”

An alternative is to download the designs for free from the OSVehicle website, in line with the open-source principle on which the company was founded. The motoring industry, which was previously the domain of a small number of established firms, has welcomed several new entrants in recent years. Apple has discussed plans for an autonomous vehicle with California’s department of motor vehicles, while Google’s self-driving car has also been developed.

The OSVehicle units consist of parts that can be easily swapped without throwing away other working parts, which expands the vehicle’s lifespan, said Yuki. Its core unit contains the most complex parts of a vehicle, which means it is stable and ready to use, she added. Loddo compares it to the Android operating system for mobile phones, where developers can freely access the software as a base on which to build apps.

He said: “The automotive world and the tech world are merging but the only thing is that the automotive world is very slow and big, and not so fast to adapt to change.”

The aim is to remove barriers for entry to the market for smaller companies, which can build different designs on one core vehicle. The two-seat version is comparable to a Smart car, and the four-seater to a Mini Cooper, Loddo added.

The company makes money by selling the vehicles and also by designing and engineering final products for firms that want to make new vehicles using the platform. So far, 10 projectsare in development, ranging from fleets of hundreds to those with thousands of cars, although the exact details are under wraps. A two-seater car by an Italian IT company using its own information and entertainment system will be launched in June. Yuki says she expects to see the first vehicles on the roads next year.

Several projects are being developed in the Aquitaine region of France, including a car-sharing scheme, a delivery scheme and an agricultural programme, which is supported by the regional council.

Among the more bizarre ideas are vehicles that could navigate the surface of Mars or ones that could fly. More realistic suggestions have come from small islands that would benefit from the easy transportation of the parts, said Yuki.

Hotel chains are looking into whether fleets of electric vehicles could be used to transport tourists around Mediterranean islands. Future plans include developing the vehicles to saloon, 4×4 and mini-van sizes. “We are giving the possibility of new vehicles for a niche market,” Yuki said.

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Source: theguardian


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Aston Martin sets up electric car joint venture with Chinese group

Aston Martin is setting up a venture with the Chinese consumer electronics group LeEco to jointly develop the British luxury car brand’s first electric vehicle.

Aston Martin and LeEco said they plan to develop the RapidE electric car based on the British carmaker’s Rapide S model, before developing other potential electric vehicles, including for LeEco. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Companies such as Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and LeEco are developing automotive expertise because they want to broaden their reach beyond search engines, computers and cellphones into cars, while automakers want internet connectivity to give drivers live traffic updates and infotainment.

“It brings Aston Martin’s electric car project forward,” said Andy Palmer, the Aston Martin chief executive, said at a news conference in Frankfurt on Wednesday, adding it would come to market in 2018, and be built in Gaydon, England.

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LeEco, a consumer electronics company that offers branded content via the internet, television set-top boxes and smartphones, hopes to use its captive audience and celebrity endorsements to promote cars.

“In China we have around 300 million people who visit our website. We could advertise the Aston Martin for free. And we can use celebrities to promote our vehicle. This is the way we do business,” said Lei Ding, co-founder of LeEco’s auto division, who previously held senior positions at joint ventures of Volkswagen and General Motors in China.

The electric car development platform by Aston and LeEco could also be used by Faraday Future, a startup electric car firm backed by the Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, the companies said.

“Aston can offer expertise in ride, handling refinement and those sorts of things,” Palmer said.

China’s government is promoting electric vehicles to cut the smog that frequently envelops the country’s cities, which officials say helped sales quadruple last year and has turned it into the world’s biggest market for the technology.

An electric car joint venture of Taiwan’s Hon Hai, China’s Tencent and China Harmony Auto Holding said this month it was hiring the former BMW executive Carsten Breitfeld to lead it.

Harmony Futeng, launched last March, is one of several Chinese tech companies trying to develop “smart” and electric vehicles. These include Alibaba, Baidu and Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp Beijing, recently rebranded as LeEco.

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Source: theguardian


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SAA resumes US flight operations as storm settles

JOHANNESBURG — South African Airways has resumed flights to Washington DC and New York in the United States.

Flights were cancelled on Friday due to Winter Storm Jonas lashing the US east coast.

Clean-up operations are currently under way after the devastating blizzard.

At least 11 states have declared emergencies, affecting millions of people.

Authorities say the snowstorm is one of the worst to hit New York in the city’s history.

Up to 68 centimetres of snow has been recorded in parts of the Big Apple, stalling public transport systems, closing restaurants and forcing the cancellation of Broadway shows.

By Sunday morning, millions of residents and business owners were digging themselves out of the snow, trying to clear pavements, doorways and cars.

Source: enca


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City bans cars for a month, doesn’t collapse into chaos

Lots of places close streets to cars for a day, but what happens when you do it for a month?

Could this happen in North America? Take a neighborhood and ban cars from it for a month?

It happened in 2013 in Suwon, South Korea, and it’s happening in Johannesburg, South Africa, later this year. It’s the Eco-Mobility World Festival, intended to “mobilize and raise local and international support for ecomobile alternatives to fossil-fuel transport,” and looks like a whole lot of fun. According to the Urban Idea, the Suwon fest was a huge success.
Around 4,300 residents in the neighborhood adopted an ecomobile lifestyle to experience how traveling through integrated, socially inclusive, and healthy transport options can positively change their routines. The residents used a variety of vehicles such as bicycles, trailers for carrying children and goods, tandem bicycles, recumbent bikes, pedelecs (electric assisted bicycles) and velo-taxis.
Anything but a car. And although the festival lasted only a month, the after-effects are still being felt. Adele Peters writes in Fast Company:
After the festival ended, the city also gathered residents for a huge meeting to ask for ideas for more permanent

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changes. The biggest result: The speed limit was cut nearly in half, to about 18 miles per hour. That meant that commuters no longer wanted to use the neighborhood as a shortcut, and traffic started to disappear. Neighbors also decided to eliminate side parking on some major streets — and parking on sidewalks — which helped encourage people to start walking and biking to run errands.

Why a month? According to festival creative director Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, it takes that long for people to really adapt; any less and people can just rearrange their appointments and work around it. “It has to be a month in order to hit people’s daily agenda, so they really experience ecomobility in their daily life.”
Could this happen in North America? It’s unlikely. One of the partners behind the festival is ICLEI, an organization that helps cities and local governments reach sustainability goals — and one that is being banned in city after city in the U.S. for being part of a United Nations’ plot to impose sustainable development. It is often accused of trying to take away peoples cars and force them into tiny apartments.
When Toronto tried closing its streets for a day, the mayor went nuts and said “We have parks for people to walk, for exercise, to do yoga. You don’t have to close down a major street to walk, do yoga — that’s for parks.”
But as Gil Peñalosa of 8-80 cities (a nonprofit organization based in Toronto dedicated to helping cities become more pedestrian- and bike-friendly) notes, we have to break out of this mindset and take back the streets.
Building more roads to solve transport problems is like putting off a fire with gasoline. We should put pedestrians as our priority and question the role of streets. People need to walk, and walking must be best friends with cycling and public transport.
Perhaps that’s the message of Suwon: Cars have their place, but they shouldn’t dominate the city; they should play nice with cyclists and pedestrians. When changes are made that affect daily habits, people adapt. So slow down the cars, promote alternative means of transport — because streets are for people.
Source: mnn

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