Kate Owen, SSA strategy and campaign lead, says, “This year’s festive season campaign is driven by our insights into the South African rider culture. Many of our customers don’t rely on public transport alone and often come from households with one or two cars. While the need for Uber over this time of year is clear, we, as South Africans, sometimes find it hard to break old habits.”
Owen adds, “Since the campaign went live on Monday, 13 November, we have had a really positive response. Everyone can identify with these characters and situations.”
The TV and online videos aim to show the relationship people have with their cars, which has seen high engagement in people sharing stories of their own. The billboards and display ads show images that aim to show what freedom looks like from the back seat.
The radio campaign asks listeners to send in their ideas of all the creative things they could get done #InAnUber, that they wouldn’t want to get done in a car. Suggestions have covered everything from getting last Christmas present wrapping done, to playing 30 Seconds. The interactive campaign is supported by adverts that aim to paint a picture of how nightmarish certain situations are with a car.
“Uber is about more than simply getting a ride home, it’s about solving a problem. In the case of the festive season, it’s about giving our riders the freedom they wouldn’t usually have with their cars. By highlighting these challenges, and posing a solution, we are helping South Africans have a smoother, freer festive season,” concludes Owen.
You can view all three campaign ads here.
Image source: thesouthafrica
BMW, Daimler, Ford and the Volkswagengroup, which includes Audi and Porsche, have announced Ionity as a joint venture (JV) that will develop and implement a high-powercharging (HPC) network for electric vehicles (EVs) across Europe.
Ionity will launch 400 HPC stations by 2020.
The team is set to grow to 50 by the start of 2018.
“The first pan-European HPC network plays an essential role in establishing a market for EVs,” says Hajesch.
“Ionity will deliver on our common goal of providing customers with fast charging and digital payment capability, to facilitate long-distance travel.”
A total of 20 charging stations will be opened to the public this year, located on major roads in Germany, Norway and Austria, at intervals of 120 km, through partnerships with service stations and convenience stores.
Through 2018, the network will expand to more than 100 stations, each one enabling multiple customers, driving different vehicle brands, to charge their vehicles simultaneously.
With a capacity of up to 350 kW per charging point, the network will use the European charging standard to reduce charging times compared with existing systems.
The Combined Charging System should ensure multibrand compatibility with current and future generation EVs.
Ionity’s brand-agnostic approach and Europe-wide distribution is expected to help make EVs more appealing.
By Debbie Mielewski, Senior Technical Leader, Materials Sustainability, Ford Motor Company
A lot of people are familiar with soy – tens of millions of consumers eat and drink it every day. But what might come as a surprise is that many of us actually sit on recycled soy all of the time.
This year marks 10 years since Ford first used soybean-based foam in the 2008 Mustang, and since 2011, it’s been a key material used in the seat cushions, seat backs and headrests of every vehicle we build in North America.
Now, 18.5 million-plus vehicles and half a trillion soybeans later, we’ve saved more than 228 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. This is the same amount that would be consumed by 4 million trees per year, according to North Carolina State University.
The innovative use of soy foam as a plant-based alternative to traditional petroleum-based products is what inspired us to adopt it in 2007 – bringing key sustainability benefits to our vehicles without compromising durability or performance.
We can credit our company founder Henry Ford with the idea of incorporating biomaterials back in the 1940s, so for us, continuing to implement his vision is the right thing to do. The research and testing of renewable, plant-based alternatives to petroleum-derived plastics has been my life’s work since 2000, and I’m proud to be able to continue the vision of Henry Ford.
But just bringing the idea to market in the first place was a real challenge. Those first foams, frankly, were terrible! They met none of the rigorous requirements of automotive seating. Early trials failed to meet durability standards for seat cushions, which need to rebound for the equivalent of 15 years. Not to mention, the soy and petroleum materials separated, and the soy foam didn’t smell very good. So we set out to painstakingly explore how to improve the formulations, rebalance the chemistries and remove odorous compounds.
Just 10 years ago, the world was a different place. A newly invented iPhone was about to launch, George W. Bush was president of the United States, and oil prices were low – $40 a barrel. Not many saw financial gain in being green at the time, so convincing suppliers that soy foam was the material of the future wasn’t easy, either.
In those early days, we relied on a combination of things, including support from the United Soybean Board in funding some initial trials, as well as the personal vision and crucial endorsement of Bill Ford, then CEO. We needed him firmly in the driver’s seat and he absolutely was, ensuring the project stayed on track.
In 2008, when oil prices skyrocketed, the value of soy foam became suddenly obvious. Not only was replacing petroleum-based polyol good for the environment, it was good for business. We’d been doing our homework, so Ford was ready.
We were eager to share the potential for soy foam and boost sustainable applications of it wherever possible, so we worked tirelessly with other industries – agriculture, furniture and home goods – to help them formulate foams specific to their needs as well.
Building on our success with soy foam, we began to develop other renewable materials to incorporate into our vehicles, which in turn further helped us reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In some cases, the material allowed for weight reductions as well, leading to improved fuel economy for many of our vehicles.
Of course, our work implementing biomaterials into our vehicles has not been accomplished overnight. We are proud to now feature eight sustainable materials in our production vehicles – soy, wheat, rice, castor, kenaf (hibiscus), tree cellulose, jute and coconut. As we continue to experiment, the list of renewable resources we are researching reads like an entire farm – wheat straw, tomato peel, bamboo, agave fiber, dandelions, even algae!
We’re also exploring innovative uses of carbon itself, and are first in the industry to develop foams and plastics using captured carbon dioxide. This is the type of innovative work I’m proud to say my team does every single day at Ford.
A decade on, we continue to collaborate with the United Soybean Board to develop soy-based materials for rubber components like gaskets, seals and wiper blades. Today, our use of soy foam looks like a landmark first step. Bill Ford maintains we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Many opportunities remain available for us to explore in pursuit of our sustainability goals. We continue to make progress across our business, as highlighted in our 18th annual Sustainability Report – whether that’s trailblazing with our industry-leading commitments on water security, building on our achievements for true zero-waste-to-landfill facilities, or investing in scrappage programs to improve air quality.
Soy was our introduction to sustainable materials. Now, the next 10 years promise even more radical research and revolutionary innovation, underpinned by responsible investment and pioneering vision. We need to embrace the vast host of materials Mother Nature gives us, and employ them to their best advantage. This includes using locally sourced plants and crop waste where we assemble our vehicles, something with the potential to further reduce shipping emissions and provide area farmers with new revenue streams. I think all of this would make Henry Ford very proud.
Ford intends to remain the industry leader in the use of sustainable materials as we move into a future that’s guaranteed to be exciting. We’ve learned a lot over the past decade-plus. Most importantly, we’ve learned we can provide the world with a host of alternative material choices that have less impact on the environment. I always say I have the best job in the world in that I’m fortunate to work for a company that supports out-of-the-box thinking.
Experts predict autonomous vehicles will save money and lives but drivers say human knowledge and experience are irreplaceable
Frank Black has a simple message for those who predict truckies like him are done for thanks to the arrival of self-driving vehicles: good luck getting tech support in the outback.
For more than 30 years the Brisbane truck driver has hauled goods across the vast expanses of Australia, keeping watch for fast-bouncing kangaroos, felled eucalyptus trees, and other natural obstacles littering remote highways that can run for thousands of kilometres without a single bend.
Morgan Stanley might have forecast that freight operators could save $168bn a year by replacing humans with vehicles that drive themselves with no need for toilet breaks or sleep, and Uber last year may have bought an automated truck firm with the intention to roll out a global service, but Black remains at ease with his job security.
He predicts any freight companies that go down that road in Australia will find their expensive automated vehicles stuck out in the middle of nowhere, awkwardly parked in front of an obstacle that requires human ingenuity to work around.
“The conditions of the road out there, you’ve got to have your wits about you,” he says. “An automated truck would probably have a hissy fit, where a human would realise, ‘OK, I might have to detour off-road into the gully to get around it.’
“Truckies can use their sense of smell, too. If the engine starts to get hot, you can smell the coolant and go, ‘Hang on, something’s going on here,’ [and] pull over before something catastrophic happens.”
The harsh conditions faced by truckers on the job might seem to Black an argument for retaining human imagination but to proponents of automated vehicles they are a case for the opposite: machine intelligence immune to the fallibilities of drivers who routinely make deadly fatigue-related mistakes or resort to amphetamines to stay alert.
It is a theory that has been put into practice in Australia: Rio Tinto has been relying on a fleet of driverless trucks at its iron ore mines in the Pilbara for years, yielding performance improvements of 12%.
A PWC study in 2015 predicted an 80% chance that Australia’s 94,946 professional drivers of road and rail vehicles would be replaced by automation in the next two decades. The prospect has union officials extremely concerned.
The Transport Workers Union national secretary, Tony Sheldon, warns that freight operators need to be “careful not to get carried away with the Jetsons”, arguing that trucks driving themselves in a controlled environment like a mine is one thing, but that significant improvements would need to be made to the technology and to smart road infrastructure before such vehicles could zoom unattended through cities and towns.
He references Fiat Chrysler’s recall this month of 1.2m trucks owing to software vulnerability to being hacked as an example of the kind of dangers that would be exacerbated by self-driving freight.
“There is a serious question about the capacity for this technology to be hijacked by terrorism or some random lunatic,” he says.
“These aren’t washing machines we are talking about. These are machines carting thousands of litres of fuel, tens of tonnes worth of product that could plough through a house.”
The chair of the Australian Trucking Association, Geoff Crouch, concedes the transition to self-driving vehicles “won’t occur in one leap”. Instead he describes a gradual process starting with the autonomous braking technology being rolled out across the industry, and a trial this year in Western Australia of “platooning”, which would see the lead truck in a convoy control the others through vehicle-to-vehicle communication to synchronise speed and braking.
“There will be drivers in the cabs of our trucks for many years to come,” he says.
“The immediately foreseeable future of truck automation won’t involve replacing drivers anyway, and our road network requires considerable work before even current technologies become usable everywhere. In addition, truck drivers carry out a host of other essential tasks, including loading and unloading, checking vehicles and working with customers.”
Crouch says the transition will be one of the talking points at the Trucking Australia 2017 conference in Darwin in June.
Brendan Richards, a partner at the corporate restructuring firm Ferrier Hodgson, will speak there on disruptive technologies.
Richards’ talk will cover a broad range of changes he believes will impact on the freight sector by 2050.
In terms of autonomous vehicles, he predicts self-navigating drones of all shapes and forms will open up routes previously inaccessible to human drivers.
He can foresee an operating system that would run the network, optimising routes and the flow of goods through the system.
Richards also forecasts that drones will be better equipped to provide a nimbler freight service that no longer needs to move bulk goods around, as most things will be produced on-site by 3D printers that only require the delivery of raw materials.
If self-driving vehicles – whether that is lumbering autonomous trucks driving for days without rest or airborne drones zipping across the skies – do push human drivers into unemployment queues, unions want compensation.
Sheldon says the vast numbers of jobs predicted for the scrapheap because of automation require a serious rethinking of how society approaches work.
“When I was a garbo, I was replaced by vehicles that had arms,” he says. “It was hard seeing mates displaced by technology in their 30s and 40s. It was a dramatic, traumatic experience – and there were still plenty of other jobs back then.”
In the case of truckers, he suggests a licensing fee be paid by those replacing humans with self-driving vehicles, to go towards those displaced by the new technology.
It will be hard work persuading truckies like Black to relinquish the wheel, however. He is not even open to a transition period of self-driving technology working in tandem with human operators.
“There’d be no way you’d put me in a vehicle without putting me in control of it,” he says.
“Even in the case of trusting another person, I’d want to get to know them first before going great distances with them. Believe it or not, there are bad human drivers out there too. They should look at better driver training, not these driverless bloody things.”
On Thursday the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee requested that council implement more severe water restrictions at its sitting next week.
The mayoral committee proposed a plan to upgrade the current Level 3 water restrictions to Level 3B because of diminishing dam levels and unnecessary residential water usage.
Mayoral committee member councillor Xanthea Limberg said that although many residents have been prime examples of water ambassadors, the city has not met its water usage target because of less conscientious residents.
“We will continue to take action against these culprits and will target the city’s top 20 000 high water users – the majority of whom reside in formal areas of the metro.”
In the meantime, water restrictions may become stricter.
If Level 3B water restrictions are implemented, residents will only be allowed to water their gardens on Tuesdays and Saturdays before 09:00 or after 18:00 with a bucket or watering can.
This is grim compared to the current Level 3 water restrictions which do not limit residents to watering their gardens during certain times.
Residents will also have to wait for 48 hours before they water their gardens after rainfall, as opposed to the current 24 hours, and they won’t be allowed to wash their boats or vehicles at all, even with a bucket or watering can.
If council approves this suggestion, it will be implemented from February 1, 2017.
Local assembly plants in Ethiopia’s fledgling auto industry plan to begin exporting cars in a couple of years in a market dominated by Chinese brands — part of an effort to industrialize the agrarian economy, Reuters reports.
It’s a grand ambition for the tiny auto industry, transforming a handful of assemblers that bolt together imported kits into a network of factories that can make the country Africa’s biggest car manufacturer over the next two decades.
If it succeeds, it won’t be the first time Ethiopia delivers on an ambitious goal. With one of Africa’s fastest growing economies for more than a decade, Ethiopia has pulled off the Grand Ethiopian dam and others that helped make it an electricity exporter.
Ethiopia’s expanding transport network includes the successful Ethiopian Airlines, the largest and fastest growing African airline, according to GhanaWeb. Ethiopian Airlines won the African Airline of the Year Award 2016 at the 25th Anniversary African Aviation Air Finance Africa Conference & Exhibit in Johannesburg.
This year, a railway will link the landlocked country, population 97 million, to Djibouti port where the Red Sea meets the Indian Ocean, providing a cheap and fast way to import raw materials and export finished goods.
“The aim is to become a leading manufacturing hub in Africa,” said State Minister for Industry Tadesse Haile in a Reuters interview. “We want to become the top producer of cars on the continent in 15 or 20 years.”
In industrial zones around Addis Ababa and the northern city of Mekelle, Ethiopian firms and Chinese partners assemble vehicle kits. Theey imported 38,000 assembled cars in 2015, a 50 percent-plus increase over 2014.
Ethiopia produces about 8,000 commercial and other vehicles a year for the local market, including about 2,000 cars but they could make more if they could get more foreign exchange to import more kits, Reuters reported.
“There is a lot of potential for growth,” said Ma Qun, deputy manager of China’s Lifan auto group in Ethiopia, which has the capacity to assemble 5,000 cars a year but whose output is less than 1000. “We want to start exporting from Ethiopia by 2018, or a year later,” he said.
For now, Ethiopia has to compete with South Africa, which makes 600,000-plus fully manufactured vehicles, and Morocco, which makes 200,000. Egypt, Kenya and Sudan also assemble vehicles.
South Africa has a large domestic market with annual per capita income of $6,800 compared to Ethiopia’s $550, according to World Bank 2014 data. Morocco — annual per capita income, $3,070 — is geographically close to the huge European market.
Assemblers in Ethiopia put together Chinese brands Geely, FAW, BYD and Lifan.
With Ethiopia’s scant currency reserves, assemblers face challenges getting enough dollars to import kits. Another problem is consumers unsure about quality.
Chinese car firms are central to Ethiopia’s vehicle manufacturing plans. Chinese car kits are cheaper than rivals such as Japan, said an executive at an Ethiopian manufacturer.
South Korea wants a piece of the action. South Korean automobile manufacturer Kia Motors Corp. has broken ground on a community-run auto mechanic training center in Ethiopia due to be completed in 2017, EconomicTimes reported. The centers will enable trainee mechanics to work towards national qualifications.
Ethiopia’s car assemblers face another challenge. Their cars don’t hold their prices as well as finished imports. “The big obstacle they face is resale value,” said Araya Lakew, whose mekina.net website links buyers and sellers.
Some used imports, such as Toyotas, even gain value with the weaker currency, unlike locally assembled models.
Lifan’s marketing director Tomi Su said his firm would keep making models that are more attractive to consumers. “There will be new gadgets in every upgrade,” he said.
My family and I were recently stuck in moderate traffic in Sandton, Johannesburg, which led to a discussion between me and my kids about how traffic, and the way we deal with it as drivers, will look very different in future.
At a minimum, my kids will fully embrace the use of connected Uber-like car-share services to get around – or even more exciting, will use driverless vehicles. The potential impact of this on cities will be tremendous, not only in terms of time and efficiency, but also from the point of view of safety and our carbon footprint.
A report by US consulting firm McKinsey & Company analysed the impact of driverless cars on the incidence of fatal traffic accidents. They claim that deaths on the road in the US will reduce by up to 90% by mid-century. This is just one of the ways that our cities could feel the benefit of smart solutions. Intelligent transport combined with safety, security and utilities management – to mention but a few – will change the face of cities fundamentally for the next generation.
According to reports by the United Nations, in the next 40 years we will see 70% of the world’s population living in cities, and water scarcity for around 1.8 billion people (predominantly in developing countries) as a result of climate change.
This chart from the UN shows how fast African cities, in particular, are expected to grow between now and 2050.
To address these challenges, an efficient and competitive city will rely on purpose-driven industrial transformations to remain sustainable. ICT will be at the centre of this transformation process. For sustainable operations, cities must use ICT in ways that not only meet stakeholders’ initial sustainability requirements, but also enable an ongoing rebalancing of needs, resources and other priorities – such as the right to privacy.
It’s clear that the way in which cities balance economic competitiveness, environmental pressures and social needs will affect the lives of billions of people. But smart, sustainable city transformations are complex and difficult. So how do we ensure that African cities become not only smarter, but more sustainable?
1. A shared vision
There are many opportunities for smart solutions within cities. The challenge is to prioritise these options to three or four key focus areas and to then successfully deliver on them. Stakeholders need shared goals and a clear idea of how to achieve them.
2. Holistic governance
Leadership structures must be capable of retaining the holistic, macro view of the city’s needs, and enable all projects to follow the common vision, integrating both ICT and environmental priorities. In this way, common platforms, data formats and monitoring systems are ensured, which will enable the sharing of information for mutual benefit between departments – something that was impossible previously.
3. The mayor and the ecosystem
Cities are made up of a complex ecosystem of stakeholders. The key is to ensure governance structures, stakeholder groups, city departments, local government, public and private enterprises work together to drive the common smart-city agenda. In this, the mayor should take a leading role.
4. ICT development
The technology landscape is evolving rapidly, so it is important to develop a continuous ICT learning culture among the city’s transformation drivers, sharing new developments and exploring emerging possibilities and approaches. Bodies such as the Smart Africa Alliance create platforms to share best practices.
5. Long-term partnerships
Broad engagement is vital when identifying and ranking the city’s pain points and stakeholders’ concerns. The smart, sustainable city value chain comprises several interconnected ICT layers: infrastructure, enablers, devices and applications. Within each of these layers, various stakeholders are involved. For example, consultation with appropriate stakeholders at the infrastructure and enabling layers can build awareness of the long-term business-case advantages for shared, standards-based infrastructure (as opposed to closed, vertical deployments). Therefore, the various stakeholders are a source of ideas and solutions that can help shape the overall vision.
Most African countries have commendable objectives of promoting technology development and creating ICT infrastructure, capability and skills to connect the unconnected and usher in the era of the internet of things. Their focus is on creating sustainable and smart cities, countries – and ultimately, continent.
This is aligned to Goal 11 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which specifically relates to sustainable cities and communities. As drivers of change, cities now have more and better technological tools at their disposal than ever before. Becoming smart and sustainable is not a one-off achievement, but rather a continuous journey requiring ongoing engagement, innovation and progress.
To ensure the best chance of success, those shaping the future of sustainable smart cities must lay a solid foundation for transformation, based on purpose-driven planning, networked governance structures, organizational capacity building, broad stakeholder engagement and effective long-term partnerships.
This will make the journey, with or without an actual driver, an interesting one.
More companies are shifting priorities by using business intelligence to not only save on costs but to also become environmentally aware. Business intelligence’s ability to keep track of performance, as well as alert decision makers on behavioural changes, make it a complementary approach as demonstrated by the desire by many companies to become more eco-friendly. Even then, there is need for a clear roadmap that will tie in business intelligence with green initiatives.
Why Going Green is Important
The continued depletion of natural resources has led corporations that have large energy requirements to become more environmentally aware than ever. This is because not only do green initiatives save on costs, reuse resources and meet compliance requirements, but they also help to create brand recognition among customers.
Companies that are seen as being environmentally sensitive tend to create a vision of care. This provides the benefit of perceptions and practicality with the broader effects going beyond the organisation. However, the ability to save money by lowering the use of energy and power is more important. Besides lowering the consumption of energy, the technology adoption organisations also invest in R&D efforts and support social action initiatives that are geared towards environmentally friendly products as well as internal processes. This has broader effects on the environment at large.
List of Companies that Have Great Environmental Initiatives
1. Ford Motor Company
Automotive companies are known to be among the heaviest polluters. However, Ford Motor Company is changing this narrative through their ten-part environmental policy that they have implemented for years. The company uses sustainable fabrics in its vehicles while 80% of both its Focus and Escape vehicles are recyclable. The company also focuses on fuel efficiency, particularly on the six-speed transmission, offering a clean diesel heavy duty pickup truck. Furthermore, the paint fumes in the company’s plant in Michigan are recycled as fuel.
Ford’s factories also use Geothermal cooling systems while the Crown Victoria Interceptor that is distributed to the police has a fuel capacity that is flexible, making it able to run on either ethanol or gas. Additionally, Ford owns the world’s largest green roof and is the only company to have won the EPA Energy Star Award twice in a row.
Disney is determined to please companies that have made it a giant by using zero net direct greenhouse gas emission policies within all its facilities. In addition, it is working at reducing the indirect greenhouse gas emissions through the reduction of electrical consumption. Disney also has a zero waste policy meaning that there is nothing that would end up in landfills. The entertainment giant also uses technology that saves water and is working on lowering the footprint of its product manufacturing and distribution. This is tied up to the company’s policy of having a net positive environmental impact that has made Disney a leader in environmental responsibility.
3. Fisher Investments
The company has initiated the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative that is aimed at contributing towards the preservation of California’s native Redwoods through cutting down on emissions and gasses that threaten their existence. More specifically, the company employs a plethora of ways in helping the environment through materials, as well as adjustable thermostats. Ultimately, the company’s commitment to reducing their footprint is unwavering.
Hewlett-Packard is one of the first companies to have reported its greenhouse gas emissions, after which they have initiated plans that are aimed at reducing emissions and cutting back on toxic substances used in manufacturing its products like cartridges. The company also has an aggressive recycling program that ensures most of the manufacturing waste does not end up in landfills. Furthermore, it has taken the lead in spreading word on the importance of environmental responsibility in its ads that promote green initiatives.
5. Johnson and Johnson
For more than 20 years now, this company has taken the lead in manufacturing personal care products that are environmentally responsible. It also has initiatives that reduce waste in the course of manufacturing and distribution through use of sustainable products and packaging methods where possible. The company also owns a fleet of hybrid vehicles that it also operates.
Nike is keen to highlight the value of green initiatives through its advertising in addition to putting the great ideas into practice. Its line of sustainable products is made using environmentally preferred materials like recycled polyester. The company also uses renewable energy sources in manufacturing. Moreover, Nike has pressed 650 of its suppliers in 52 countries to develop and implement written environmental policies.
7. eBay Eco-Initiatives
This company has its focus on environmental sustainability. This company has made it possible for people to exchange or reuse goods instead of throwing them away; thus not only increasing the lifespan of these products but also keeping them off landfills. The company also has a classified section where users are able to sell or buy used furniture, household appliances as well as other items that are hard to ship within the local community. The company has also partnered with United Stated Postal Service (USPS) to ensure green supply when it comes to shipping. Together, these two entities are co branded in environmentally friendly Priority Mail packaging that has earned them Cradle-to-Cradle certification.
8. Starbucks Stores Go Green
This company embraces principles of environmental sustainability across the board. The company not only purchases Fair Trade Certified and Certified organic coffee but also focuses on achieving LED certifications for its new outlets. By creating ‘green’ stores, the company is able to reduce operating costs as well as minimize the impact of business practices on the environment. In addition, the company has a green building strategy that includes adjusting temperatures for its air-conditioned stores from the standard that is 72o to 75o F and purchasing cabinetry that is made using 90% post industrial materials while incorporating low-flow water valves.
9. Google Environmental Innovations
This business innovator is another leader in embracing a greener future with its green supply chain management practices and environmental sustainability. The company demonstrates its commitment to going green through initiatives like powering its facilities with renewable energy sources, hosting farmers’ markets as well as sustainable cooking seminars and bringing goats to trim grass. Google also has in place an environmentally aware corporate culture, solidifying its reputation of being one of the world’s most forward thinking companies.
Overall, regardless of the initiatives that a company may embrace, businesses will do well to monitor these initiatives and identify ways of becoming more efficient over time.
Volkswagen aims to agree a deal with US authorities that resolves as many issues related to its emissions cheating scandal as possible at once, a senior manager at the German carmaker told Reuters. “It must be our goal to negotiate a comprehensive solution, which could also include the lion’s share of expected penalties,” the person, who asked not to be named because talks with US authorities were confidential, said on Thursday.
Almost six months after it admitted to installing test-rigging software, Europe’s largest carmaker has still to reach an agreement with US regulators on how to fix almost 600 000 affected cars. VW also faces mounting legal action – the US Justice Department sued the company in January for up to $46-billion for violating environmental laws and this week sent VW a civil subpoena under a bank fraud law. A federal judge has set a March 24 deadline for VW to say whether it has found a fix acceptable to the authorities.
The VW manager said it was unlikely that a compromise would be reached by then. He said negotiations were focused on fixes for affected cars as well as compensation for excessive nitrogen oxide emissions. German magazine Wirtschaftswoche had reported earlier that VW could buy emissions rights for nitrogen oxide. VW declined to comment on details of a possible deal, saying only that it was in constructive talks with US regulators. The VW manager also said that talks included a contribution to electric mobility in the US, for instance by investing in a network of charging stations for electric cars. The idea that VW could set up a factory for electric cars in the US is meanwhile off the table, he said. VW aims to fix as many of the affected cars as possible and buy back vehicles where a fix is not possible.
Chief Executive Matthias Mueller has said in January that he believed a new catalytic converter system could be fitted to most affected US vehicles in a solution he believed might satisfy regulators. “I think we can now offer a package that will come very close to what the EPA is expecting from us,” he said at the time.
Hydrogen fuel cells may have just taken a giant leap forward. Indiana University scientists just announced they’ve managed to create a highly efficient biomaterial that takes in protons and “spits out” hydrogen gas. Called “P22-Hyd,” this modified enzyme can be grown using a simple room temperature fermentation process — making it much more eco-friendly and considerably cheaper than the materials currently used in fuel cells, like platinum.
In a press release, lead author of the study Trevor Douglas noted, “This material is comparable to platinum, except it’s truly renewable. You don’t need to mine it; you can create it at room temperature on a massive scale using fermentation technology; it’s biodegradable. It’s a very green process to make a very high-end sustainable material.”
The way the enzyme is created is interesting in its own right. Researchers use two genes from E. coli bacteria inserted into the capsid, or viral protein shell, of a second virus. These genes then produce hydrogenase, the enzyme used to set off the hydrogen reaction.
This may sound a little complicated — and it is. Douglas admits that in the past, it’s been hard to harness hydrogenase for biofuel production due to its sensitivity to environmental conditions like warm temperatures. This new method creates enzymes that are much more stable, allowing it to be used more efficiently. Hopefully this discover will help drive down the cost of hydrogen cars — currently the vehicles retail for between $50,000 and $100,000.