Hyperloop, hydrogen-powered trains, and air-taxis. As the 21st century progresses, the way people get from A to B is on the cusp of a significant shift driven by design and innovation.
While the above technologies may be a few years off from widespread adoption, that’s not to say change isn’t already afoot.
Around the world, national and municipal governments are attempting to slash emissions and boost urban air quality, with many putting their faith in a growing sector: battery electric vehicles.
There’s undoubtedly momentum behind the industry. A recent report from the International Energy Agency stated roughly 3 million new electric cars were registered last year, a record amount and a 41% rise compared to 2019.
Looking ahead, the IEA says the number of electric cars, buses, vans and heavy trucks on roads — its projection does not include two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles — is expected to hit 145 million by 2030.
If governments ramp up efforts to meet international energy and climate goals, the global fleet could increase further still, expanding to 230 million by the end of the decade.
A changing world
As the number of electric vehicles on the planet’s roads increases, society will need to adapt.
Extensive charging networks, for example, will need to be rolled out to meet increased demand and dispel lingering concerns around “range anxiety” — the idea that electric vehicles aren’t able to undertake long journeys without losing power and getting stranded.
Another area where we will notice change relates to noise: As well as boasting zero tailpipe emissions, electric vehicles are far quieter than their diesel and gasoline cousins.
This means less noise pollution in urban areas — clearly a good thing — but also throws up a potential challenge for other road users, especially those with sight problems.
“For people who are blind or partially sighted, judging traffic can be really difficult,” Zoe Courtney-Bodgener, policy and campaigns officer at the U.K.-based Royal National Institute of Blind People, told CNBC in a phone interview.
Courtney-Bodgener explained that an increasing number of “quiet” modes of transport were now being used, giving the example of bicycles and larger electric and hybrid vehicles.
“If you can’t always or reliably use vision to detect those vehicles, then sound is even more important,” she went on to state.
“And when the sound is not there, or is not loud enough to be able to reliably detect those vehicles, obviously that presents danger because … you’re not reliably able to know when a vehicle is approaching you.”
The law of the land
It should be noted that, around the world, legislation and technology have already been introduced in a bid tackle this issue.
In the European Union and U.K., for example, all new electric and hybrid vehicles will have to use an acoustic vehicle alerting system, or AVAS, from July 1. This will build upon and broaden previous regulations which came into force in 2019.
Under the rules, the AVAS is supposed to kick in and make noise when a vehicle’s speed is under 20 kilometers per hour (around 12 miles per hour) and when it’s in reverse.
According to a statement from the U.K. government in 2019, the sound “can be temporarily deactivated by the driver if judged necessary.”
The EU’s regulation says the noise made by the AVAS “shall be a continuous sound that provides information to the pedestrians and other road users of a vehicle in operation.”
“The sound should be easily indicative of vehicle behaviour,” it adds, “and should sound similar to the sound of a vehicle of the same category equipped with an internal combustion engine.”
The RNIB’s Courtney-Bodgener told CNBC that while her organization was “happy” the AVAS directive had been translated into U.K. law, it did not “do all of the things that we want it to do.”
She went on to explain how the speed at which the AVAS cuts in perhaps needed to be increased to 20 or 30 miles per hour.
“We’re not convinced that if … a vehicle is travelling at, say 13 miles per hour, it would generate, on its own, enough noise for it to be reliably detectable by sound.”
Another area of concern relates to older vehicles. “There are already lots and lots of electric and hybrid vehicles that were produced before this legislation came into force and do not have the sound technology on them,” she said.
There was currently no provision to retrofit these, she added. “That is a concern because there are already thousands of vehicles on roads around the U.K. that do not have the AVAS technology.”
From the industry’s point of view, it seems to be content with the regulations already in place. In a statement sent to CNBC via email, AVERE, The European Association for Electromobility, told CNBC it supported the “current legislative status quo.”
“The limit of 20 km/h is sufficient, since at this level other noises — notably rolling tyre resistance — take over and are sufficient for pedestrians and cyclists to hear EVs and hybrids approaching,” the Brussels-based organization added.
“In fact, mandating additional noise beyond 20 km/h would rob European citizens of one of the primary benefits of electrification: reduced noise levels at city speeds.”
Noise pollution can indeed be a serious issue. According to the European Environment Agency, over 100 million people in Europe “are exposed to harmful levels of environmental noise pollution.” The agency singles out road traffic noise as being “a particular public health problem across many urban areas.”
On the subject of older cars needing to be updated, AVERE said: “Only a very small share of EVs on European roads would be subject to retrofitting requirements, given the fact that many existing vehicles have already been fitted with AVAS in anticipation of the new requirements, and that the rules have been put in place in time to support the expected mass uptake of EVs in coming years.”
If “additional requirements” were found to be necessary, AVERE said it stood ready to engage with policymakers.
Discussions and debate surrounding this topic look set to continue for a good while yet and it’s clear that a balance will need to be struck going forward.
Regardless of whether one thinks the current legislation goes far enough or not, the fact remains these types of systems are set to become an increasingly important feature of urban transport in the years ahead.
Robert Fisher is head of EV technologies at research and consultancy firm SBD Automotive.
He told CNBC via email that testing conducted by the company had “found AVAS to be quite effective” but went on to add that if a pedestrian wasn’t familiar with the noise, “they may not automatically associate it with the presence of an approaching vehicle.”
“Currently, AVAS is mostly hindered by inconsistent legislation and a lack of innovation,” he said, before going on to strike a positive tone regarding the future.
“As we move away from the internal combustion engine, this technology has the potential to become a key part of a car’s character, a point of brand differentiation, and has the ability to save lives.”
Weird Alibaba: An inflatable Chinese electric jet ski for $2,000 – What’s the catch?
As usual for entries in this Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week column, the fun EVs we dredge up tend to bridge the gap between fun-looking and palm sweat-inducing. Would you take a cheap inflatable electric jet ski out into the bay or off the coast? What if I told you that you had to build it yourself?
That appears to be the case here with this week’s find. It’s an inflatable vessel that is jet ski shaped, though I’m not sure it fulfills all of the requirements to become a jet ski – namely the water jet turbine.
In fact, there’s actually no motor at all. It seems to be just the 3.5 meter (11 ft) boat itself, but at least it comes with a convenient transom in back to mount your own motor.
And in our case, we can slap on an electric outboard to turn this thing into not just a bad idea on water, but a green bad idea on water.
If you really wanted to stay true to the advertising, you could actually get an electrically powered jet ski-style water turbine to add to this boat. Amazon can hook you up with an impressive offering that looks like it would require cutting an inlet hole in the bottom of the boat and an exit somewhere through the rear transom.
Short of building a true jet ski though, I think an overpowered trolling motor will probably suffice. The vendor for the motor linked above seems to propose that is equivalent to 10 hp, which sounds reasonable for a small watercraft like this.
Technically the motor is only rated at 2.2 kW, which is around 3 hp. But we generally find that small electric outboards offer performance of around 3x the rated power of combustion engine outboards due to their much higher torque. It may not rip as fast as the larger gas engine below, but then again maybe it will. Who knows until we find out ourselves?!
You’ll need a whopping 60V of battery for that awesome little electric outboard, which I’m hoping will fit either under the seat or under the “hood” of the jet ski.
I’d actually be pretty interested to get a look under that hood to see what’s going on with that steering wheel. Since the jet ski/inflatable boat seems to be set up for a transom-mounted trolling motor, I don’t know how they expect to tie in steering linkage to something like that.
But my past experience of buying electric boats on Alibaba has taught me to never discount the ingenuity of East Asian engineers building low-cost vehicles that will presumably hold the life of one or more people in their hands.
One thing is for sure: At around $2k, this will definitely be the cheapest new jet ski you could buy, electric or otherwise. Personal watercraft aren’t cheap, and the electric ones carry a significant premium.
But if you’re handy, don’t mind wiring up a motor and battery yourself, and also don’t mind a steering wheel for show while you twist around to control a tiller motor, then you just might wind up with one of the most unique vessels on your local lake or river.
And consider the ease of transport! You probably don’t even need a trailer like you would for a traditional jet ski. The entire thing weighs just 176 kg (388 lb), though the spec sheet also says it is made from fiberglass, so perhaps the data isn’t quite accurate. Either way, this inflatable vessel can’t weigh too much. And the fact that you can deflate it to fit in the back of a van or SUV is a big benefit too. Or you can just leave it inflated and probably fit it in a truck with the tail gate down. Not my mini-truck, but maybe your truck.
At $2,025 for this thing, it’s pretty darn cheap – though that’s before the cost of batteries and a motor. Don’t forget though that there’d be several thousand dollars in shipping costs, customs import charges, taxes, broker fees, etc. Also, don’t forget that you should absolutely not buy this thing. While I’ve picked up some cool and weird little EVs from Alibaba over the years, it’s never a good idea. The process is long and complicated, not to mention fraught with extra charges at every step of the way. And you never know if the company who just received your wire transfer is even going to deliver your product in the end, which is just another fun little stressor that comes with shopping on Alibaba. So please, don’t join the ranks of my foolish readers and risk your hard earned money on something weird like this.
But if you ignore my warnings and decide to go for it, be sure to let me know what happened! And maybe update your will before the maiden voyage.
Here are the best April Fool’s jokes from the e-bike industry this year
April Fool’s Day, celebrated annually on the first of April, is usually a light-hearted and mischievous occasion marked by good-natured pranks, hoaxes, and jokes. Large organizations often take part in hoodwinking others, creating an atmosphere of amusement and (hopefully) harmless trickery. Sure, it’s annoying when you fall for it. But it’s also humorous to see what companies can come up with next. E-bike companies and the larger micromobility industry often have fun getting in touch with their inner prankster (remember the pedal-powered popemobile?!), and this year was no exception. These are some of the fun and light-hearted new announcements from around the electric biking and micromobility world.
We’ll keep updating as we find more, and feel free to send me any you find today (contact info in my author blurb below the article).
Magnum’s human-powered bike
Here in the e-bike industry we are often so deeply focused on the latest batteries or the most innovative new motors that we can sometimes forget our roots. Magnum Bikes, a popular electric bike company, wants to make sure we all remember where we came from with the “launch” of its new human-powered electric bike.
Called the Navigator Infinite, Magnum says the bike can get over 100 miles (160 km) of range. I guess “infinite” truly is at least 100!
Muc-Off releases intimate lube
Muc-Off is a brand of bike cleaning products that is known for, among other things, its various bike lubricants.
I’ve tested the company’s bike cleaners as well as their dry and wet chain lube for different riding conditions.
But now the company is apparently branching out into another industry that is slightly more, err…. intimate.
With the release of personal lubricant for adult activities, Muc-Off wants to be there for you no matter what you’re riding.
Though perhaps the company put it best, explaining that they “worked long and hard to develop a deep penetrating lubricant that fills that sweet spot between smoothness and abrasion. With our bicycle lubes the target is to hit zero friction, but following round, after round, after round of internal tests, we found friction to be vital in achieving a satisfactory outcome.“
Well there you go.
Charge your electric car with pedal power
If you thought traditional fast chargers were just too darn slow, then FastNed says they have the solution. And it just so happens to be connected to your feet.
The company is touting its new 750 kW fast charger known as Bike Boost that is powered by pedaling. They claim it can fill your electric car’s battery in just 5 minutes.
That’s more than just a Wheaties breakfast… that must require eating an entire truck of Wheaties!
Radio Flyer’s new air travel
We’ve been more attracted to Radio Flyer’s electric bikes lately, but perhaps it’s time to rethink travel by wheel. Instead, Radio Flyer has announced a new air service known as Radio FlyAir.
It’s not just a Radio Flyer jet though. The entire airline seems to have gotten the red wagon treatment, complete with wagon luggage carriers and kids riding through the terminal.
The best e-bike April Fools prank of all time?
Try as they might, I’m not sure any company will top what I believe to be the best April Fools product launch of all time: The RadFit from Rad Power Bikes.
Just as electric bikes have revolutionized the bike industry, so too can they upend the stationary exercise bike industry. At least that’s what Rad suggested with its electric stationary bike.
I don’t want to butcher this one, so just watch the short video below for the full effect. I promise that it’s worth it.
Lead image credit: ETA
Scientists have found major storage capacity in water-based batteries
Texas A&M University scientists have been working with metal-free, water-based battery electrodes, and they’re finding that the difference in energy storage capacity is as much as 1,000%.
How the water-based batteries work
In the scientists’ paper, published in Nature Materials this week, the water-based, or aqueous, batteries consist of a cathode – the negatively charged electrode; an anode – the positively charged electrode; and an electrolyte, like traditional batteries. But in this water-based battery, the cathodes and anodes are polymers that can store energy, and the electrolyte is water mixed with organic salts.
The electrolyte transfers the ions – the charge-carrying particles – back and forth between the cathode and the anode, and the electrolyte is also key to energy storage through its interactions with the electrode.
Chemical engineering professor and co-author Dr. Jodie Lutkenhaus asserts:
If an electrode swells too much during cycling, then it can’t conduct electrons very well, and you lose all the performance.
I believe there is a 1,000% difference in energy storage capacity, depending on the electrolyte choice because of swelling effects.
According to their paper, the electrodes – the “redox-active non-conjugated radical polymers” – are promising candidates for water-based batteries because of the polymers’ high discharge voltage and fast redox kinetics.
However, the researchers note in their paper’s abstract:
[L]ittle is known regarding the energy storage mechanism of these polymers in an aqueous environment. The reaction itself is complex and difficult to resolve because of the simultaneous transfer of electrons, ions, and water molecules.
The future of aqueous batteries
The researchers suggest that water-based batteries might be able to mitigate potential shortages of metals such as cobalt and lithium, as well as eliminate the potential for battery fires.
There would be no battery fires anymore because it’s water-based.
In the future, if materials shortages are projected, the price of lithium-ion batteries will go way up. If we have this alternative battery, we can turn to this chemistry, where the supply is much more stable because we can manufacture them here in the United States and materials to make them are here.
The researchers also conducted computational simulation and analysis, and they’ll carry out further simulations to better understand the theory.
Chemistry assistant professor and co-author Dr. Daniel Tabor said:
With this new energy storage technology, this is a push forward to lithium-free batteries. We have a better molecular level picture of what makes some battery electrodes work better than others, and this gives us strong evidence of where to go forward in materials design.
Read more: A Mars rover scientist is about to scale carbon-oxygen batteries
Photo: Texas A&M Engineering
UnderstandSolar is a free service that links you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates. Tesla now offers price matching, so it’s important to shop for the best quotes. Click here to learn more and get your quotes. — *ad.
Technology2 years ago
Game consoles were once banned in China. Now Chinese developers want a slice of the $49 billion pie
Sports5 months ago
‘Storybook stuff’: Inside the night Bryce Harper sent the Phillies to the World Series
Politics1 year ago
Have the last few wobbly weeks seen a turning point for Johnson as PM?
Sports2 years ago
Team Europe easily wins 4th straight Laver Cup
Politics1 year ago
Yvette Cooper promoted and Lisa Nandy to shadow Gove on levelling up brief in Labour reshuffle
Business6 months ago
Liz Truss’s ‘favourite’ economist says chancellor ‘took his eye off ball’ and ‘overstepped the mark’ with mini-budget
Politics1 year ago
Govt minister says she ‘doesn’t believe’ Stanley Johnson inappropriately touched MP
Videos6 months ago
World leaders come together for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral