Pluto AI Aims To Transform Wastewater Treatment With Applied AI

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Artificial Intelligence startup Pluto AI has raised $2.1 million in VC funding in order to inject intelligence into the traditionally mundane world of wastewater treatment. Modern plants are flush with sensors and automated controls, but they typically operate independently and often require user intervention. Pluto AI aims to take these treatment plants to the next level by gulping up all the data produced by the array of sensors and controls equipment already in place, then provide intelligent insights to save time, money and water.

From the company’s recent blog post,

“Pluto is an analytics platform for smart water management. We enable water facilities like treatment plants or beverage processing plants to prevent water wastage, predict asset health, and minimize operating costs. We use cutting edge Artificial Intelligence (AI) to achieve this. Our pilot customers include some of the largest water and beverage companies in the world.”

As a startup, Pluto is not yet competing with the big players in smart water management systems like IBM’s Intelligent Water, but has a solid product that many industrial facilities, publicly owned treatment works (POTW), power plants, and other facilities that consume or process a significant amount of water could use.

As the Pluto team likes to say:

“If you have timestamped water data originating from sources such as sensors, meters, or other devices, our platform can ingest it and do a lot of great things with it.”

The solution lives in the cloud, meaning no local hardware or IT support is required. Pluto aims to make the addition of intelligence to water treatment systems a no brainer, just enable timestamped controls data to flow to the secure Pluto system and the the Pluto team takes it from there.

Because the solution resides in the cloud, it is easily scalable to meet the needs of the customers, which are largely based on the volume and frequency of data being processed by Pluto. As such, the service is billed as a Software as a Service (SaaS) wherein the customer pays monthly or annual fees for the services provided, but would not typically own any of the hardware or have any significant up-front capital cost to implement the system.

Pluto plans to use the injection of cash to ramp up its enterprise sales team to scale its offerings to get the solution into the hands of the world’s largest corporations and government agencies.

Just as electric vehicles and AI-powered autonomous driving technology are disrupting the auto industry as we speak, Pluto AI hopes to disrupt the stagnant water treatment industry where over 2.1 trillion gallons of clean water is lost each year in the US alone.

Source: TechCrunch | Pluto AI

EV Charging Startup EVmatch Connects Private Charging Station Owners With EV Drivers

Originally published on CleanTechnica

EV charging startup EVmatch aims to connect private charging station owners with EV drivers looking for a charge. The Los Angeles pilot launches this week, with free charging in the EVmatch system for the pilot users until 4/11/17.

EVmatch

What is EVmatch?

The EVmatch solution fills a gap in electric vehicle charging infrastructure by providing a platform and a compensation model that connects privately owned EV charging station owners with EV drivers. With home charging station installations generally tracking with EV adoption rates, EVmatch seeks to tap into privately owned charging infrastructure to expand charging options for EV drivers, eliminating range anxiety along the way.

Beyond just charging, EVmatch includes a reservation system which gives drivers assurance that the charger will be held for them during a fixed window. This is something no other public charging system does well and is a key differentiator, as it is very common to arrive at a charger only to find that someone else is there charging.

EVmatch

Finally, EVmatch facilitates connections between real people that are interested in and likely advocates of EVs. It’s difficult to put a price on community, but as someone who has been driving EVs, charging EVs at public infrastructure, and advocating for EVs for years, this is exciting for me.

Startup History

EVmatch is the brainchild of co-founders Heather Hochrein and Shannon Walker, who developed the solution together as part of the eco-entrepreneurship tract of the graduate program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since graduating in June of 2016, the duo has kicked the startup into high gear with a proof-of-concept launch in Santa Barbara, California, supported by the development of the software solution.

EVmatch

The solution initially made use of Google Docs and Google Calendar and quickly evolved into the development of a web app–based solution that brings all the learnings from the proof of concept together into a single solution that delivers compatibility on iOS, Android, PC, Mac, and Linux platforms.

Payments from users to hosts are determined by an intelligent algorithm that takes into account electricity rates that are entered by the host to determine which tier or time of use mode they operate in. The Smart Pricing algorithm takes into account charging speed, the cost of electricity, and a “profit per hour” that is set by the host. These are multiplied by the total charging time, which uses an honor system–based reservation duration for the pilot. The team has plans to implement a hardware/software integration that will provide customer recognition and real-time electricity metering to track total kWh used instead of an estimation. Finally, a service fee is applied as the primary revenue stream for the folks at EVmatch. In over-simplified terms, it looks like this:

[(Price per kWh)*(Charging Speed) + Host Markup per hour] * Length of Reservation + EVmatch Service Fee = Charging Session Price

This model was well received by hosts and users in the proof of concept. These initial test users were generally more excited to support EV adoption than they were about making a profit. Whether this excitement scales or not is one of the big questions the team is looking to answer with the pilot. Payments to hosts are currently made through weekly payments to keep the money flowing to hosts, but the frequency and method of payments may change after the pilot.

EVmatch

The Big Launch

EVmatch built a proof of concept in the Santa Barbara area but then kicked things into high gear last week when it launched the pilot of the solution, which expands the footprint to the greater Los Angeles area. In the limited-release pilot, the team will scale the solution to a broader user base to validate the new end-to-end solution before developing platform-specific apps and expanding the network to the rest of California and beyond.

Customers who have already pre-registered for the pilot launch on the EVmatch site have now received a formal invites to the pilot, which officially kicked off on March 28. The pilot features free in-network charging through April 11, 2017, and will be celebrated by a launch party in Los Angeles in the next couple of weeks.

More information about the pilot, including instructions for signing up as a charging site host or charging system user can be found over on the EVmatch Pilot site or on the main site at www.evmatch.com. I know I’ll be watching over the next few weeks and months to see how the EVmatch solution performs with a larger set of users, and I hope that it will be able to deliver on its goal of giving people enough confidence in the public charging network to buy an EV.

Images courtesy of EVmatch

Global Concerns Over China’s “Manufacturing 2025” Initiative Highlighted In New EU Report

Originally published on CleanTechnica

A new Financial Times article reveals that the core technologies that China wants to lead the world in as part of its overarching Manufacturing 2025 initiative are coming under fire from other nations.

manufacturing 2025

China first laid out its Manufacturing 2025 initiative in May of 2015, which included objectives to internally develop nationwide competencies in 10 critical sectors, including New Energy Vehicles, Rail Transport Equipment, Automated Machine Tools and Robotics, and Power Equipment (which includes Solar and Wind Technologies).

This push is the next iteration in the country’s journey towards a better future as it takes a look at the past and maps out a better life for its 1.4 billion citizens. China has long been known to be a technology copycat, with Chinese tech giants Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent walking a tenuously similar path to those first mapped out by US tech titans Google, eBay, and Facebook. However, the new plan crafted in Beijing seeks to change not just this perception of the country, but also the reality underneath it.

The initiative maps out strategies for not only fostering “indigenous innovation” but also for forcing foreign companies to divulge details of critical technologies in exchange for access to Chinese markets. A newly published European study on China’s Manufacturing 2025 initiative highlights several examples of the way the initiative seeks to accomplish its objectives and how they are already causing global concerns:

“Under recently passed legislation in the new energy vehicle (NEV) industry, for example, European business is facing intense pressure to turn over advanced technology in exchange for near-term market access; in the field of industrial robotics, government subsidies are contributing to overcapacity in the low- and mid-tiers of China’s market; and in the information technology industry, European business is seeing market access constrict further. “

The report details how, in addition to these domestic-friendly policies having the potential to strip technologies from foreign companies coming into China, the Manufacturing 2025 initiative is creating a market that heavily favors domestic companies.

Whether these early concerns are just manifestations of the growing pains in the next chapter of Chinese manufacturing or are truly representative of the new position China is taking to protect itself and its citizens from global competition will have to play out over the next few years or decades. But one thing is certain — nations around the world are taking notice and are not receiving the news favorably.

The balance of increased innovation coming from China and market access as a result of Manufacturing 2025 is not perceived as healthy or sustainable, with the short-term impacts summed up in the European Chamber report in a single statement: “the world would benefit from additional innovative Chinese products and services, but not at the expense of inhibiting market forces through state-driven schemes. “

manufacturing 2025

Highly automated Tesla production line. Image Credit: Tesla

This push from China comes as the global manufacturing hub seeks to evolve away from the low-value, labor-driven economy it has become known as towards a tech-centric, automated future. The push aims to automate low-value manufacturing jobs though the implementation of autonomous robots. Compared to other nations, China has been very slow to adopt such technology.

Automation of these positions will continue to keep manufacturing costs low in the country in the face of rising wages. Though, the larger impact to employment numbers in a country of this size is a major concern.

Source: European Chamber ReportFinancial Times via Monica Araya

The Rise Of The Stealth Plug-In (aka, The Day Plug-In Vehicles Went Mainstream)

Originally published on CleanTechnica

It hit me for the first time on the highway driving into the middle of a tornado of traffic in the heart of Los Angeles. Cars cluttered the highway in no intelligible pattern, aimed in every direction except with the flow of traffic, the glare of brake lights turning the masses of metal into a blurred mess that felt more like hell than a highway.

To make the mess more manageable — I’ve convinced my kids that counting plug-in cars on the highway is a game. In Southern California, it’s actually quite entertaining since there’s a sufficient quantity of them to keep us on our toes while still not so common as to overwhelm us … but that’s starting to change.

plugin

“Count the Plugins”

Early trips down to my in-laws house (some 78 miles away and 1.5 to 4 hours away, depending on traffic) used to net game-winning scores in the teens … just a handful of years ago. Then we hit a milestone at 50 last year, which we were extremely proud of … then, on our recent trip, we hit 68, but we knew there were more out there that we just couldn’t identify.

We would catch the occasional Mercedes B-Class Electric, a Ford C-Max Energi or Ford Fusion Energi, and even the occasional Fiat 500e, but we knew tons were slipping by unnoticed. We could feel them near us, almost teasing us as they zoomed by unnoticed. Even the new Chevy Volt looks a bit mainstream, and the new Bolt has been wrapped in an urban camouflage so well done that it looks like a gasmobile.

I know, I know … it’s just a game Kyle, calm down. But it’s not. This is a critical point in the journey towards electrifying transportation … the point where plug-in vehicles go mainstream. This is the point where my former co-worker, who’s now driving 2 hours each way to work, started with a Prius but then upgraded to a Volt … because it just makes sense. This is the point where people are switching to the technology en masse because it’s simply better on just about every level.

This is huge, folks.

plugin

The Will of the Masses

When my wife and I bought our first electric car (for her), my only request was that she would pick an electric car … or at least a plug-in hybrid. There were ~12 EVs to choose from, but only a handful that really met our criteria. We still had our half-gasmobile Prius hybrid for longer trips, so it just needed to get her to work and back for a daily average of no more than 30 miles — well within the range of most ~84 mile range EVs.

After spending several hours looking over pictures of cars and specs online, we narrowed it down to the BMW i3 and the Mercedes B-Class ED (now called the B250e). She eventually went with the B-Class because it didn’t look like an electric vehicle. The i3 stands out like a natural gas–fired power plant operating in the middle of a field of solar panels, and the Nissan LEAF isn’t much better (though, that may be changing soon).

The experience of purchasing the B-Class opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone will drive an EV just because it’s better, safer, and cheaper to operate — some people most people just want a “normal” looking car.

plugin

You Guys Rock!

More than anything, I just wanted to take a minute to celebrate this moment because it wouldn’t have happened without you. You care about electric cars, are passionate about them, and are probably going to be a resource for friends and neighbors as they first discover electric cars (have you heard of this Tesla thing? …yeah, Chris, I’m talking about you). You will help them consider their first plug-in vehicle purchase and help with running the numbers (Brian ended up in a white Volt if you were wondering) or try to figure out if solar really is a good deal or if it’s a scam (Melissa was put off by the flood of door-to-door solar salesmen but eventually signed with Vivint).

It is the passion and the wisdom of individual people being passed along and shared like a glass of cold orange juice on a warm summer afternoon that brought this transformation to life. So, I just wanted to say thanks … and congratulations.

Thanks for being ambassadors for clean technology in your world, to your friends, and to your family.

I have a confession to make, though. It didn’t happen on any particular day. But it did happen. It is happening. And I’m going to kick some serious butt on our next round of “count the plug-ins” because I can see the plug-ins no matter how much camouflage they put on to trick those mainstream buyers that have no idea how long those of us who have been in the know have been waiting for this moment.

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Lighting Science L-Bar is the Perfect Drop-in Replacement for Fluorescents

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Lighting Science, the manufacturer of the durable lightbulb, aka the Durabulb that also just happens to be powered by LEDs, has released another innovative LED lighting product that aims to replace standard 4′ x 2′ fluorescent light enclosures, called the L-Bar.

What is the L-Bar?

The L-Bar looks much like a single 4′ fluorescent tube would look if mounted directly to the ceiling but amazingly, the L-Bar puts out 4,500 lumens, which Lighting Science believes is sufficient to replace a traditional 4′ x 2′ fluorescent troffer.

l-bar

The L-Bar is revolutionary on just about every level — it comes in at half the price of both legacy fluorescent lighting installations and traditional LED replacement solutions while also putting out an impressive 150 lumens per watt. This makes the L-Bar an attractive option for new construction as well as for energy efficiency retrofit projects.

Small & Light = Easy Installation

The L-Bar doesn’t just bring sexy data sheet specs with it, but it also packs all this performance into a slender package, weighing in at just 19 ounces, which is a testament to the fact that it also uses ~95% less material to make than a standard 4′ x 2′ fluorescent lighting troffer.

This svelte form factor also makes installation a breeze compared to traditional fluorescents which typically weigh around 25 pounds. That isn’t a showstopper when carrying something at ground level but installing a 25 pound awkward metal tank overhead can be cumbersome and takes longer to install than these diminutive L-Bars that barely tip the scales in comparison at a mere 19 ounces.

l-bar

I put this to the test with the L-Bar and found that the removal of a traditional 4-ft x 2-ft fluorescent light troffer was cumbersome and nearly required two people.

Conversely, installing the L-Bar was a very simple matter and simply required mounting 3 small brackets to which the L-Bar clips into. Installation was no issue as the L-Bar is featherlight in comparison to the troffer I had just removed.

Not content to let the L-Bar be lost amongst the vast sea of LED offerings for legacy fluorescent retrofits, the Lighting Science team built the L-Bar to be wet-rated, which opens up new installation locations for it including parking garages, stairwells, and public areas in addition to the more traditional medical facilities, schools, and retail shops where legacy fluorescent installations reign supreme.

See the Light

To size this up, I put the L-Bar to the test in a real-life scenario in my garage, replacing an existing fluorescent troffer. As I noted above, installing the L-Bar really was much easier than removing the existing fluorescent troffer due to its lower size and weight. After wiring it up, I flicked on the power and after a brief delay, the little tube blasted to life.

The extremely bright, cool LED light poured out of the unassuming fixture in what looked like a flood from heaven. The fixture is so bright, it’s hard to look at considering how concentrated the light source is, and makes it easy to see that it puts out as much or more light than many fluorescent enclosures.

l-bar

In my small garage, the L-Bar is a clear winner in terms of light delivered in the space, and it’s not hard imagining that improvement translating to a larger space like an open office. The fact that the same light, or even a bit more, which was previously coming from 2 or 4 fluorescent bulbs was now coming from something the size of a single bulb was somehow irrelevant.

Given the affordable price, easy installation and long life expectation of the LED-powered L-Bar, it’s no wonder installers are flocking to it in droves for installations both new and old. It is an impressive piece of technology that serves as the new benchmark for LED fixture light output in a beautifully efficient package.

The L-Bar is not only a great fit for home garages and offices, but given the wet rating it carries, it can be installed in parking garages, exterior corridors, small businesses and even in more creative lighting installations.

The seemingly familiar form factor of the L-Bar stands out in stark contrast to traditional lightingl-bar solutions as all the light, and the entire shape of it, is contained in the form factor of a single fluorescent bulb.

That gives interior designers, installers and businesses new freedom in how they think about and implement lighting in their spaces. I don’t get excited about many products but LED lighting solutions — especially ones that improve on traditional lights in just about every way and make great candidates for fluorescent enclosure retrofits — represent easy cost savings on materials, lower installation costs, and energy efficiency improvements we should all be getting behind, as Scott documented so well.

In Summary

Lighting Science’s entire LS Earth Series of products (including the L-Bar) aim to develop and deliver high quality lighting solutions that make more efficient use of the materials that go into them, require less packaging, are easier to recycle AND save energy.

By all these measures (and maybe a few more that aren’t in the Lighting Science mission statement), the L-Bar is a beaming success and truly raises the bar for fluorescent-equivalent LED lighting.

Pete Rumsey, Executive Vice President of Business Development for Lighting Science puts a pretty nice bow on it:

“This is the type of LED solution that people have been waiting for to finally make the switch from traditional fluorescents. The L-Bar costs 50 percent less than both traditional LED and legacy fluorescent solutions while providing 150 lumens per watt. That’s pretty incredible performance for a lamp weighing in at a mere 19 ounces.”

For more information about the L-Bar, check out the official product page for all the juicy details or head straight to Amazon to pick a few up. I know I’m going to be looking for more opportunities to install these over the next few months.

Disclaimer: Lighting Science provided the L-Bar at no cost for review purposes, however, we were under no obligation to write anything, positive or negative about it.

Sources: Lighting Science and the Business Wire Press Release 

Images Credit: Lighting Science

 


Residential Energy Pilot Explores Use Of Storage To Balance Neighborhood Solar Generation

Originally posted on CleanTechnica

A new residential energy storage pilot seeks to better understand how batteries installed in homes can be used at the neighborhood level by grid operators to absorb solar power generation excesses during the day and discharge them when needed later in the day.

A partnership between battery manufacturer Moixa, electricity distributor Northern Powergrid, and the community energy company Energise Barnsley aims to put the idea to the test with a new pilot. Specifically, 40 homes will have Moixa lithium-ion batteries installed, including 20 x 2 kWh batteries and another 20 x 3 kWh batteries.

Simon Daniel, CEO of Moixa, said:

“Solar homes with batteries can halve their electricity bills, and this solution will become increasingly popular as costs of storage and PV fall.

“We are working closely with Northern Powergrid and this project will deliver insights to develop incentives which we hope will allow us to roll out solar plus storage to tens of thousands of homes in their region, by creating a business case for homeowners to invest and also by increasing the number of solar connections allowed on each substation.”

These 40 batteries and homes will be linked into a Virtual Power Plant (much like what Next Kraftwerk is doing today but on a smaller scale) which the utility can then utilize to absorb power when solar production is peaking. Conversely, at night when the sun isn’t shining on all those glorious solar panels, or anytime demand exceeds production, the utility can tap into this Virtual Power Plant to supply power to the grid.

neighborhood

Most of the homes in the pilot already have photovoltaic (PV) solar installed (30 of the 40 homes) which will allow the pilot operators to better understand how residentially installed solar PV can play well with residentially installed lithium-ion batteries.

In this pilot, the batteries will be installed at no cost to the residents, with all funding provided by Northern Powergrid in an effort to support the masses of solar being deployed by Energise Barnsley.

Andrew Spencer, System Planning Manager for Northern Powergrid, said:

“This partnership is one of a number of ways we’re working to explore innovations that can benefit our customers and the communities we serve.

This pilot probes some of the potential solutions for problems grid operators around the world are quickly encountering as more residential PV solar is brought online and as battery prices continue to drop.

neighborhood

Does it make more sense to install and subsidize solar at the utility level or residential? Is storage better for the grid at the utility scale or residential, or when residential installations are pooled together into a virtual power plant?

The future for residential storage and PV solar is packed with opportunity and it’s great to see progressive utilities and energy companies working together so closely with manufacturers like Moixa on neighborhood-scale pilots like this to work out the kinks.

Source: Moixa Press Release and Solar Power Portal UK

Images Credit: Moixa

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The Durabulb LED Lightbulb Delivers Improvements In Unexpected Places

Durable and lightbulb aren’t two words that usually come up in word association challenges, but in the case of the new Durabulb LED lightbulb, those two have been married together and it turns out, they play very well together.

durabulb

The central reason for the Durabulb to exist is the fact that lightbulbs are typically very fragile. Lighting Science, the company behind the Durabulb, wanted to build a product that would excel in all environments including those where a fragile glass bulb would not fare well or could pose a safety risk. Specifically, industrial applications, garages and areas with workers underneath that could be hit by glass if an overhead bulb were to shatter are perfect for the Durabulb.

Beyond just a parlor trick for niche lighting scenarios, the Durabulb’s durability brings some serious potential when it comes to shipping. Traditional glass bulbs are packaged in bulky cardboard packaging designed to prevent them from breaking during transit. This results in a rather inefficient shipping density.

durabulb

With the Durabulb being so rugged, none of that extra packaging is required, allowing it to be shipped in a much tighter formation and eliminating any possibility of breakage. The two sample bulbs that were shipped to me were just tossed into an envelope and dropped into the USPS.

Higher density shipments, less worry about breakage during transit, no need to “handle with care,” and no need for shipping materials that don’t actually add value to the customer in the first place makes for huge wins all around when it comes to moving these things around the world.

At first, a durable lightbulb may seem like a minor innovation beyond the traditional glass bulb…until you unpack all of the benefits that the consumer doesn’t typically have to think about and you realize that the Durabulb represents a step change improvement in lighting while providing the same look and feel from a bulb that consumers have grown accustomed to.

durabulbFor me, I’m excited to get a few of these to put in the rooms where my kids play so I don’t have to worry anymore about them throwing something into a light ever again.

Check out the Durabulb over at Lighting Science or head on over to Amazon to read some reviews and maybe pick up a few.

Images credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

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ChargePoint Delivers Fast Charger Of The Future At CES

At CES today, ChargePoint raised the bar for DC fast charging with not just one new charger but a paradigm shift in DC fast charging that redefines the entire product category.

The ChargePoint Express Plus family revolutionizes DC fast charging by looking to the future and embracing the inevitable increases in charging speed demand with a modular design that allows hosts to upgrade as demand for faster charging speeds increases.

ChargePoint has 400 DC fast chargers (DCFCs) installed out in the field today, which are a mix of units from other manufacturers and ChargePoint units. The ChargePoint team has taken all of the learnings from those and rolled them into this new product family, which the EV company is confident can support the next several generations of EVs.

The Design

The modular design is built around the idea of individual power modules which invert AC from the grid and puts out 31 kW of DC to the charging cable. At the most basic DC Fast Charger installations for this family, each charging station can hold 1 or 2 power modules to support speeds of 31 kW and 62 kW, respectively.

Installing and linking two stations next to each other allows them to share these power modules — or power blades — much like pairs of Tesla Superchargers do today. If both chargers had two power modules, that would allow one of the chargers to charge a car at 124 kW. If another car connected to the other charger, the speed for each would drop down to the single station rate of 62 kW.

Charging … Cubed

Exciting, right? But that’s just the beginning. Adding more chargers allows them to play together in a larger group. 8 chargers can hold a maximum of 16 blades (2 in each), which can and will dynamically allocate the maximum available power to as many EVs as are charging at any given time.

If those chargers are in an apartment complex that is limited on power that it can supply to the chargers, they will dynamically allocate the available power to whichever car is connected and using power. One caveat is that the chargers can only allocate power in single-blade units — so, in 31 kW increments.

ChargePoint liked this modular design but had even bigger plans and took a chunk of 16 blades and dropped them into a cube which was then connected to a bank of chargers. Now those 8 chargers (or however many are connected) can share that pool of 16 power blades in addition to the blades that are built into the chargers.

Each blade is still the same 31 kW … but now the system has a LOT more blades in the pool to play with. Need more speed? Add another cube. Each charging station can go up to 400 kW using blades from other chargers or from a cube. Each cube can contain up to 500 kW of DC and can feed from 1–8 charging stations per cube.

Basically, this flexible, future-proof design allows system owners to start small with 1 or 2 chargers with a blade in each and provides flexibility for owners to add more blades or cubes with blades as customer demand grows for faster charging speeds.

The Power of the Network

For those familiar with virtual computing stacks, these power blades operate much like blade servers. The power modules can be hot swapped. They can communicate back to ChargePoint at the individual blade level for predictive maintenance and will automagically fail over to other power modules in the pool in the event of an unplanned failure.

One of ChargePoint’s strengths is the network which comes with a full set of tools and support for owners to configure and tune to deliver the customer experience they are looking for.

Summary

If I sound excited about this innovative new product line, I am. This truly feels like the charging system of the future. Yes, there are still a ton of variables that impact the viability of a charging location — installation costs, utility capability to supply such a massive amount of power in a given location, demand charges, customer demand, site host willingness to commit real estate for cubes, etc., etc., but just the fact that the product exists on the charging side to support faster charging speeds is huge.

I will break this family down in more detail in a future post but wanted to start with the basics of the new family to share this exciting news in a bite-size chunk. If you’re hungry for more information about it NOW, check out the official ChargePoint Express Plus page.

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Faraday Future Shoots For The Stars With The FF91 Concept

Tonight, Faraday Future unveiled what it believes is not just the next step in the evolution of the automobile. No, the team at Faraday Future have stated that the FF91 is a complete step change. It is a new species. Huh? Yeah, me too. Faraday Future has always acted a bit differently, talked a bit differently, and done things a bit differently, so maybe this is just another Faraday Future thing, but don’t take my word for it — they unpacked a ton of details about the FF91 in the big reveal tonight.

The Outside

The FF91 exterior had been teased for so long by the Faraday Future team that it was almost anticlimactic seeing it revealed tonight, but at the same time, it’s a completely new beast. I can’t shake the feeling that it looks just like a Range Rover Evoque with a full suite of sensors on it, but maybe that’s just me. Even with two different prototypes driving past, it was hard to get a good feel for the car, as the masses were packed in so tight around it for the vast majority of the night.

The UFO line! FF mentioned this mysterious “UFO line” at the reveal of the FFzero1 in January last year and continued that talk tonight. The UFO line manifested itself in the FF91 in the form of a horizontal line about 1/3 of the way up the car that quite honestly doesn’t feel unique or creative, nor does it add anything unique to the exterior of the vehicle.

What it does do is to sound strange. I’m not sure how a company starting out from scratch (albeit, with a fully stacked team) thought it would be a good idea to add such an odd label to a rather unassuming design cue, but hey, there it is. The UFO line is here to stay folks.

Richard Kim, Head Designer at Faraday Future, took the stage to talk about the various styling cues that were integrated into the design of the car and broke the FF91 down into 3 sections — the black section, which includes the tires and rolling chassis (like the Tesla skateboard); the silver section, which is the lateral panel of silver that wraps the car (presumably metal?); and the glass section, which creates unique spaces for each of the passengers in the vehicle (why talk about a driver in an autonomous vehicle?).

Looking towards the rear of the car, there’s a fin on either side of the exterior of the car that reaches up from the silver section into the glass section of the FF91. It creates a very fun effect from the rear, as it creates a gap between the glass and the metal, much like the rear quarter panel section on the BMW i8 (which I love!). It’s not clear that this helps or hurts the drag coefficient of the car, but with it already down at .25, it’s clear that aerodynamics was a priority in the design of the FF91.

Fins

Comparisons

Tonight, Faraday Future talked about the FF91 as a production vehicle. That’s tough to swallow, as this car is still so far from being in production that the title just doesn’t stick. There’s literally not even a factory that can build it let alone a final vehicle for the factory to build. The blatant comparisons between the still-in-development FF91 and a car I can buy today — the Tesla Model S P100DL — frankly seemed disingenuous:

→ 0–60 MPH in 2.39 seconds … just a hair faster than the Tesla Model S P100D (2.5 seconds).

→ 1050 horsepower as compared to Tesla’s  760 horsepower.

→ 200 kW charging as compared to the ~130 kW charging speeds of Tesla Superchargers (though, Tesla recently indicated plans to increase that dramatically)

→ 130 kWh battery (optional) as compared to Tesla’s max pack size of 100 kWh

→ 378 miles of range … versus 315 miles of max Model S range

→ with the ultimate comparison being the in-person drag race between the FF91 and the P100D where the FF car beat out the Tesla Model S P100D by .01 seconds at the event (2.59 vs 2.60).

Looking back on the presentation and the stats shared by the FF team, it’s even more clear that the entire presentation was one big statement that “FF is better than Tesla in every way.” I wish all the best for the FF team but there’s still a long ways to go before the FF91 gets into the hands of consumers.

It’s also odd that the Variable Platform Architecture that FF touted as groundbreaking at CES last year is effectively the same skateboard design that Tesla has for the Model S, just with a better graphical representation when the pack gets larger or smaller.

The FF91

We knew the FF 91 would be autonomous and Faraday Future is still using that language. It’s a tough commitment to make because mandating that it be autonomous at launch can easily delay the car months if not years, as each state and every nation has unique laws governing autonomous driving that need to be worked through before the car could hit the streets.

Shifting to autonomous driving allows all of the passengers to engage with the car via the in-built WiFi hotspots that bridge the “multiple CAT6 LTE modems” into a WiFi network for passengers. Having a high-quality internet connection is critical in the next (unannounced) part of the story — the interior — which is sure to be packed with LeTV-style content consumption options.

Rolling all of this together, the FF91 is a powerhouse of technology mixed with a slew of new EV bones underpinned by the largest battery ever put into a “production” electric vehicle.

The Name

While this is yet to be confirmed by Faraday Future, we have it on good authority that the name 91 (“nine one” … not ninety one) is an amalgam of what Faraday Future calls the best number — 9 — and then 1 for the first version. So, it amounts to the first version of the best car, which is actually pretty neat. It was strange that Faraday Future presented the name of the car without explaining it, but perhaps there was too much to fit into the already bloated agenda and the explanation didn’t make the cut. Or perhaps Faraday Future wanted it to remain a bit mysterious.

What’s Next?

Faraday Future will open up reservations for the FF91 shortly, whereby potential customers can thunk down $5,000 to reserve their very own FF91. That’s a large chunk of cash for a vehicle that has no sales price announced (though, it will likely be up around $100,000), no factory to build it, and no timeline to back up the actual production of the car.

I really do hope the best for the FF team and the FF91 looks great to me … but there are a lot of gaps in the data — large, obvious gaps — that call into question what’s actually happening behind the scenes. Was the presentation this year just a ploy to get potential customers to drop a few thousand, so that FF could use that as capital seed money to build the factory? Is FF a shell company for LeEco? Will the FF91 ever have an actual production run? How much will it cost?

There are a lot of serious questions that beg for more than vague, futuristic answers, but FF seems content to leave potential customers in the dark. There is one thing we know after tonight — time will tell if FF will succeed … and based on the rate at which it was burning through capital in 2016, we’ll know sooner rather than later.

For more information on the Faraday Future FF91, check out the official website and the official press release.

Images credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica 

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Leveraging Technology To Settle The Climate Change Debate

Originally posted on CleanTechnica

The Backstory

Climate change is a challenge unlike any other ever faced by humanity. It is the slow creep of change starting as a result of actions taken by humanity, building industries that helped hoist us out of thousands of years of toil into decades of technology-enabled prosperity.

But that prosperity exacted a toll that amassed into a series of inconvenient realities that have begun to confront humanity in ways we never could have imagined. Further complicating an already unenviable scenario, the fortunes extracted from the earth were redirected on humanity to intentionally obfuscate the truth, to intentionally introduce doubt to the equation.

These “Merchants of Doubt” had vast funds at their disposal and leveraged past experience to skillfully muddy the waters of truth, converting millions over to the opposition. These factually challenged fellows fight for the old way. They fight for antiquated methods and gladly embrace the blindfolds that keep them in the dark.

The Problem

The great iron of the climate change challenge is that the solutions humanity needs to leverage to reduce emissions at a rate necessary to avert catastrophic climate change already exist. We can generate power in renewable, sustainable ways that are more than sufficient to provide for our current needs and even well into the future.

Electric personal transport, mass transit, and bulk commerce solutions exist and are already being deployed around the globe. Adding insult to injury, many of these technologies are cost competitive with legacy power generation and transportation solutions today, without government subsidies. Change, it turns out, is not easy.

Distilling the problem down to the core issues and pairing them up with respective potential solutions has already been done for many cities, states, and even whole nations.

The missing technological development is not, in fact, another clean technology. We don’t need another 10% efficiency improvement in photovoltaic solar panels or another 200 miles of range in electric cars or even lower-cost lithium-ion batteries for cheaper grid-scale battery installations.

The Solution

What we need is to get clear on the facts. As President Obama recently stated in an interview with Bill Maher, because of this obfuscation, “people have difficulty now just sorting out what’s true and what’s not.” With the explosion of social media over the last 5–10 years, the way people get their news … and the facts that it should contain … has radically changed.

Now, one zinger headline on a clickbait article or picture with a catchy caption can provide a critical mental linkage that reinforces a social or political bias subconsciously. What’s scary is that, as the 2016 US election proved, the facts don’t even matter too much. You read that right — it doesn’t matter if the article, headline, or picture is true.

We latch onto them and share them out to our friends and the echo chamber effect continues. Obama triaged the struggle to communicate the facts, asking “How do we create a space where truth gets eyeballs?” He closed the segment with the summary problem statement: “Let’s agree on facts then argue about means after that.”

Ultimately, this single item — developing and leveraging technology to communicate the facts to the public in a way that is universally accepted — is the largest challenge facing climate change. The day we can communicate truths and facts to the public in a way that’s meaningful and believable is the day the masses will start working in earnest to make the required changes to avert catastrophic climate change.

We already have the technical solutions we need to solve the problem. But it’s all for naught if the people don’t take action.

All images by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

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