Lots of technology pieces this week and no cars for once. Next week will be the last of 2020, and who doesn’t want to put 2020 behind them. I shall be doing the annual EV of the year announcement. Happy to take any suggestions.

Company news

Starbucks outlines next steps on regenerative agriculture
Starbucks has announced a number of new targets and initiatives around supply chain sustainability and low-carbon products.
Starbucks has this month signed for its intent to support the Dairy Net Zero Initiative, for example. The scheme aims to connect end-user businesses with dairy farmers and other supply chain workers to roll out low-carbon production methods and improve water efficiency and stewardship.
A $50m investment package has also been earmarked for the Global Farmer Fund. This initiative supports coffee farmers across the world to adopt more sustainable farming practices designed to improve soil health and yield while reducing water consumption, fertilizer and pesticide use and emissions. (edie)

UK news

CCC: UK must cut emissions ‘78% by 2035’
The UK needs to cut its emissions by 78% below 1990 levels over the next 15 years, according to the latest advice from the Climate Change Committee (CCC).
For the first time, the government’s climate advisers have proposed a legally binding “carbon budget” that is in line with the national target of “net-zero” emissions by 2050, which was first set last year.
More specifically, the CCC has now set a target for the five-year period 2033-37, which is known as the “sixth carbon budget”.
The report’s scope represents the degree to which the UK’s ambition to tackle climate change has scaled up recently. Just 18 months ago, when the national target was still set at an 80% reduction, the same level of emissions cuts were expected to take twice as long.
In the new report, the committee recommends that the sixth carbon budget, which will run from 2033 to 2037, should be set at 965m tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e), equating to, on average, 193MtCO2e annually. In 2019, annual emissions stood at 522MtCO2e.
As the first carbon budget advice to emerge since the UK set a net-zero goal last year, it marks a critical point for the country’s trajectory towards addressing climate change. (carbonbrief)

ubitricity becomes the UK’s largest Public EV charging network
ubitricity is now the UK’s largest public EV charging network with over 2,554 charge points and a 12,5% market share. Statistics from ZapMap, UK’s leading independent charge point database, show that ubitricity has leapt ahead of the competition growing from a very small network at the start of 2019 to having the largest market share of any public network today.
This is due to ubitricity’s innovative technology and approach to rolling out EV charging infrastructure on a national scale. ubitricity has developed a low-cost smart EV charger which is so small it can fit within a lamppost or bollard and is so cost-effective to purchase and install it has become a feature of many UK streets. (ubitricity)

photo: Ubitricity

Air pollution roars back in parts of UK
Air pollution in many towns and cities across the UK now exceeds pre-pandemic levels, exacerbating the risk of Covid-19 and putting the health of millions of people at risk.
A study published on Thursday says that although air quality improved dramatically in the first half of the year as the country went into lockdown, pollution now exceeds pre-Covid levels in 80% of the 49 cities and large towns that were analysed.
There is growing evidence that exposure to toxic air increases the risks from Covid-19 and the authors of the study say their findings underscore the need for local councils to do more to reduce car use and improve air quality by prioritising walking and cycling. (guardian)

AI-equipped vertical farm launches in London
Deptford in Southeast London has become the home of a new vertical farm, designed to use artificial intelligence (AI) software to multiply production and minimise energy usage.
The new 1,500-cubic metre farm, which has been developed, installed and managed by Vertical Future, will use more than 5,000 sensors to automatically monitor and adjust plants’ conditions.
The technology promises to increase production by 172% while using approximately 60% less energy than other vertical farms.
Ve4rtical Farms are selling a range of microgreens, live herbs, edible flowers and plug plants to restaurants and directly to consumers under their consumer brand Minicrops (futurenetzero)

EV battery of the week

Quantumscape finally break cover
Scientists have long seen lithium-metal batteries as an ideal technology for energy storage, leveraging the lightest metal on the periodic table to deliver cells jam-packed with energy.
But researchers and companies have tried and failed for decades to produce affordable, rechargeable versions that didn’t have a nasty habit of catching on fire.
Then earlier this year Jagdeep Singh, the chief executive of QuantumScape, claimed in an interview with The Mobilist that the heavily funded, stealth Silicon Valley company had cracked the key technical challenges. He added that VW expects to have the batteries in its cars and trucks by 2025, promising to slash the cost and boost the range of its electric vehicles.
In a press announcement on Tuesday QuantumScape finally provided technical results from lab tests. Its technology is a partially solid-state battery, meaning that it uses a solid electrolyte instead of the liquid that most batteries rely on to promote the movement of charged atoms through the device.
In an interview with MIT Technology Review, Singh says the company has shown that its batteries will effectively deliver on five key consumer needs that have thus far prevented electric vehicles from surpassing 2% of new US auto sales: lower costs, greater range, shorter charging times, longer total lifetime on the road, and improved safety.
The batteries can charge to 80% capacity in less than 15 minutes. And they retain more than 80% of their capacity over 800 charging cycles, which is the rough equivalent of driving 240,000 miles. In fact, the battery shows little degradation even when subjected to aggressive charge and discharge cycles.
Finally, the company says that the battery is designed to achieve driving ranges that could exceed those of electric vehicles with standard lithium-ion batteries by more than 80%—though this hasn’t been directly tested yet. (MITtechnologyreview)

photo: Quantumscape


One Answer to Cutting Potent Cow Emissions Is Awaiting EU Nod
One of the most promising solutions for cleaning up cow burps, a major contributor to global emissions, could be ready for sale in Europe within two years.
Dutch nutrition company Royal DSM NV has developed a feed additive that curbs methane produced by cattle, and expects to obtain approval from European Union authorities by the end of next year, paving the way for sales to start in 2022. The supplement, known as Bovaer and part of the company’s “Project Clean Cow,” has been shown to cut methane emissions by about 30%. (Bloomberg)

Focus on: e-cargo bikes

Cargo bikes are the future of last mile delivery (and more)
Cargo bikes are often faced with misconceptions about their potential and use for large scale logistics. In order to clarify Pedal Me have done some analysis of their fleet last September to demonstrate their efficiency in dense urban areas and emphasise their competitive advantage over cars and smaller vans. Here are some of their findings (more detail in the link below):
1. Logistical advantages of e-bikes
a. They can be faster: In central London traffic moved at an average speed of 11.4km/h whereas e-bikes average was 15km/h
b. Their trips are shorter. The research showed that equivalent journeys by van were between 6% and 10% longer
2. Using e-bikes to their full potential
They can carry up to 150kg plus the same again on a trailer. They can be used to transport people as well as goods and can replace vans on up to 90% of their inner city journeys
3. Beneficial impacts in the city
Less congestion / Reduced CO2  / Noise reduction / Safety / Encourage better cycling infrastructure. (pedalme)

photo: Pedal Me

Eco Tall Affordable Housing

Tallhouse: an adaptable, timber model for low-carbon urban housing
In an effort to bring down carbon emissions and streamline the building of cost-effective urban housing, Boston-based AEC technology company Generate is focused on revolutionizing the city’s construction industry. Generate has created The Tallhouse, a template for adaptable, low-carbon housing that prioritizes the structural use of mass timber.
Boston is experiencing pressure from housing shortages and carbon-output, which has inspired goals of building 300,000 housing units and 40,0000,000 square feet of commercial buildings while reducing the city’s carbon footprint by 80% in 2050. If the status quo of carbon-emitting structures is maintained at its current level, according to the company, these goals will remain unattainable.
For these reasons, Generate has assembled a group of industry leaders to develop The Tallhouse, which will comprise a catalog of four mass timber structure templates that illustrate a range of design options that are quick, sustainable, cost-effective and high-quality. The team identified carbon emission savings from building materials and construction, displaying information on each building component to help increase transparency on the environmental implications of construction. (inhabitat)

Global stuff

Desert Heat Will Help Keep the Lights on in Dubai After Sundown
The main power contractor at one of the world’s biggest solar parks tapped Sweden’s Azelio AB to supply technologies that can be used to turn stored desert heat into electricity after sundown.
Azelio sold storage and a Stirling engine to the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Complex in Dubai, according to a statement on Wednesday. Solar power generated from the 950-megawatt field will will be used to heat a block of recycled aluminum to 600 degrees Celsius (1,112 Fahrenheit) during the daytime. A Stirling engine can then be used to exchange the heat into power over the night. (Bloomberg)

GE and Veolia team up to recycle wind turbine blades into cement
The partnership aims to use ground-up blades from GE Renewable Energy’s US onshore wind turbines to replace raw materials such as coal, sand and clay in cement manufacturing facilities across the US.
It is expected that on average, nearly 90% of the blade material will be reused as repurposed materials for cement production.
The project is predicted to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cement production by 27%. (futurenetzero)

Porsche-Backed Factory To Begin Producing Synthetic Fuel At Scale
Porsche has been working with companies like Siemens and ENAP to develop synthetic, carbon-neutral fuels for its internal combustion engines for a while now. Those plans have recently taken a big step forward, however, as Porsche and Siemens have announced plans to build a pilot plant in Chile that will be the world’s first fully integrated plant capable of producing synthetic fuel at an industrial scale — and the new factory should be up and running as early as next year.
According to the joint press release issued by Siemens Energy and Porsche, the initial pilot phase of the factory is set to produce around 130,000 liters of synthetic fuel (“eFuels”) by 2022. Production will increase in two further phases, bumping capacity to 55 million liters of eFuels a year in 2024, and 550 million liters per year in 2026. (cleantechnica)

Polar bears get a big win as court dismisses Arctic oil drilling project
Animal rights defenders and other advocacy groups found a reason to celebrate on Monday after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected the Trump administration’s Liberty Project approval. The Liberty Project is a proposal to drill for offshore oil in Arctic waters.
In opposition to the proposed project, several climate advocacy groups joined hands in a court battle to have the project rejected. Speaking on Monday, Kristen Monsell, the legal director at The Center for Biological Diversity, said that the court’s ruling has averted a disaster. (inhabitat)

Techie corner

This new material can store solar energy for months
Researchers at the UK’s Lancaster University studied a crystalline material — a solid material with parts such as atoms, molecules, or ions that are arranged in a highly ordered microscopic structure — and discovered it has properties that allow it to capture solar energy. The energy can be stored for several months at room temperature, and it can be released on demand in the form of heat.
The crystalline material is based on a type of “metal-organic framework” (MOF), which consists of a network of metal ions — atoms or molecules with a net electric charge — linked by carbon-based molecules to form 3-D structures. MOFs are porous, so they can form composite materials by hosting other small molecules within their structures. The MOF composite is a solid, so it is chemically stable and easily contained.
The Lancaster research team wanted to find out if a MOF composite known as DMOF1, previously prepared by a research team at Japan’s Kyoto University, could be used to store energy. That had never been researched before.
The MOF pores were loaded with molecules of azobenzene, a compound that strongly absorbs light. These molecules act as photoswitches that can change shape when an external stimulus, such as light or heat, is applied. The researchers exposed the material to UV light, which caused the azobenzene molecules to change shape to a strained configuration inside the MOF pores, like a bent spring. The narrow MOF pores trap the azobenzene molecules in their strained shape, so the potential energy can be stored for long periods of time at room temperature.
When external heat is applied as a trigger to “switch” its state, the energy is released again, like a spring snapping straight. This provides heat that can be used to warm other materials. (elektrek)