Anyone who looks out at the ocean may feel awed by the power apparent in every wave. That power has the potential to provide energy to land-based homes and businesses, as well as floating facilities and vessels at sea. But how can we transform the ocean’s energy into usable forms, such as electricity or desalinated water?
One way to harness the ocean’s energy is through a device called a wave energy converter, or WEC. To date, WEC designs have been generally centered on large, rigid bodies that float in the water and move relative to each other as waves roll past. These bodies typically absorb ocean wave energy and focus that energy into a centralized conversion mechanism, such as a rotary generator or hydraulic piston.
Now, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is exploring ways to significantly advance wave energy converter design and development. With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Water Power Technologies Office, NREL researchers are developing concepts in which many small energy converters can be aggregated to create a single structure. With this new approach to developing wave energy, the domain of distributed embedded energy converter technologies (DEEC-Tec) could help the promise of substantial renewable energy generation from ocean waves become a reality.
Why Distribute and Embed Multiple Energy Converters?
One of the most innovative elements of DEEC-Tec is its ability to create flexible ocean wave energy converters, sometimes known as flexWECs. These devices have inherently broad-banded ocean wave energy absorption and conversion characteristics, meaning they can harvest energy across a wide range of ocean wave heights and frequencies.
DEEC-Tec provides a new scope of possibilities for how ocean wave energy can be harvested and converted and how flexWEC designs could power a variety of end uses both on land (powering homes and businesses) and at sea (powering navigation buoys and marine vehicles). Some of these uses will support DOE’s Powering the Blue Economy™ initiative, which aims to advance marine renewable energy technologies, such as navigation buoys or autonomous underwater vehicles, to promote economic growth in industries such as aquaculture.
“Our goal with DEEC-Tec is to vastly broaden how we currently conceptualize and envision the use of ocean wave energy,” said NREL researcher Blake Boren, who has been studying wave energy converters for over 10 years. “There is a tremendous range of possibilities for how we can develop these DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converters, and we are accelerating that exploration process.”
How DEEC-Tec Moves Wave Energy Forward
DEEC-Tec concepts are assembled from many small energy converters that, together, form a structure that can undulate like a snake, stretch and bend like a sheet of fabric, or expand and contract like a balloon. As the overall structure bends, twists, and/or changes shape as the ocean waves roll past, each embedded energy converter can turn a portion of that ocean wave energy into electricity.
A flexWEC has several advantages:
- A broader spectrum of energy capture. With a wide range of movement and deformations available, DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converters absorb and convert ocean wave energy across a much broader range of wave conditions — both in terms of size and frequency — when compared with rigid-body converters.
- Mechanical redundancy. The ability to use many hundreds or thousands of distributed embedded energy converters can ensure that ocean energy conversion occurs even if one or more of those converters stops functioning.
- Resilience. The DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converter’s flexibility grants an inherent survival mechanism: the ability to ride out and absorb excessive, dangerous surges of energy from large storms and rough seas.
- Favorable materials. DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converters could be manufactured from recycled materials or simple polymers. These replace heavier, sometimes more expensive materials that have historically been used for wave energy converter development, such as steel or rare-earth elements needed for large permanent magnets. Moreover, existing mass-manufacturing techniques could be used for straightforward and cost-effective DEEC-Tec component fabrication.
- Easier installation. DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converters can be folded, deflated, or otherwise made compact for transport from a manufacturer to a deployment site. Likewise, for installation, they can be expanded to cover broad surface areas as needed. This would allow for robust energy capture with lower capital costs.
- Reduced maintenance schedules. Monitoring the relative performance of many small devices determines the need for DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converter maintenance throughout the structure. The inherent redundancy of the structure potentially translates to less frequent inspections and maintenance requirements.
- Near-continuous structural control. A DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converter is composed of numerous small transducers — mechanisms that convert one form of energy into another. Some of these can serve as simple electrical actuators, which can change the converter’s shape and movement in response to ocean wave conditions. This will allow for greater ocean wave energy harvesting and conversion control.
Bending to the Future
While there are many advantages to using DEEC-Tec in the research and development of ocean wave energy converters, there are still unknowns that need to be understood and addressed. To this end, NREL researchers are identifying the materials, structural designs, electronic systems, and manufacturing methods that could advance DEEC-Tec concepts for marine renewable energy. NREL’s work also includes DEEC-Tec subcomponent validation and codesign, computational models to simulate performance, and device proofs of concept for building and validation.
As part of this research, NREL is collaborating with outside institutions, such as the University of Colorado–Boulder, Netherlands-based energy company SBM Offshore, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories.
Learn more about NREL’s work on distributed embedded energy converter technologies.
Article and Images courtesy of the NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy.
Tesla releases stealth update with new features
Tesla has released a new software update to its fleet and while the release notes remain unchanged, there are a few exciting features that were stealth updated.
The automaker has started to push its 2023.11.4.2 software update.
The update’s release notes are the same as the previous update, but Tesla often updates or adds features without discussing them.
That’s the case with this new update, according to Green, a well-known Tesla hacker who often discovers new features inside Tesla’s code.
He reported that the latest update includes several stealth changes:
Like most premium vehicles today, Tesla has an automatic wiper system that automatically matches the speed of the wipers to the intensity of the rain or snow.
However, unlike most other automakers, Tesla doesn’t use a rain sensor for its system.
Instead, the automaker is using its Autopilot cameras to feed its computer vision neural net to determine the speed for the wipers.
It has been deployed in Tesla vehicles since 2018, but many owners have been complaining that it is not as accurate as other systems using rain sensors.
Tesla’s solution was an update called ‘Deep Rain’ that used a new neural net to power the feature. It came out in 2019, but it was a marginal improvement.
Now Green reports that owners can shut it down if they don’t like it.
Another important stealth update for safety in this new software update is the ability for automatic emergency braking (AEB) to brake for vehicles cutting into your lane. Previously, it would try to avoid things with steering, but AEB was reserved to prevent or reduce the impact for something blocking your way.
For FSD Beta users, the update also now reduces suspensions, which occur after misuse, like not paying attention to the road when using, to one week instead to two weeks.
America’s first US-built electric mini-truck begins street-legal homologation
The AYRO Vanish has grabbed headlines over the past year as it rolls ever closer to production at AYRO’s Texas factory. Now the electric mini-truck’s final step ahead of manufacturing has begun as the Vanish starts street-legal homologation.
The AYRO Vanish is an electric utility vehicle that is designed to fit into the low-speed vehicle (LSV) federal designation. The mini-truck uses a lightweight architecture to limit the entire vehicle weight and maximize the allowable payload.
The Vanish boasts a payload of up to 1,200 lb (544 kg), which is fairly close to many standard-sized pickup trucks. For comparison, a 2023 Ford F-150’s payload capacity starts at 1,310 lb (594 kg). The company also indicated that it plans to produce a non-street legal variant that will have a higher payload capacity of 1,800 pounds (816 kg). That model would be applicable to work sites, campuses and other areas where use on public roads is not required.
Unlike standard pickup trucks, the Vanish offers highly adaptable configurations. Optional rear cargo configurations including food boxes, flat beds, utility beds with three-sided tailgates, and van boxes for secure storage all point to potential commercial applications for the vehicle.
And those future commercial customers could be getting their hands on the Vanish’s steering wheel sooner rather than later. Heading for homologation testing means that the company is now closer than ever to putting those various designs on the road.
As AYRO CEO Tom Wittenschlaeger explained:
“Now that we’ve completed our internal testing, it’s time to ensure that the award-winning Vanish meets requirements of our national governing bodies. Once we’ve completed this process and receive final approval, we can begin delivering vehicles to our customers and dealers.”
In order for any road-worthy vehicle to be considered for sale, the vehicle must go through homologation to ensure it is safe and complies with government regulations.
LSVs have reduced regulatory hurdles, but there are still many safety requirements and design considerations to be addressed. The vehicles must meet regulations for the construction, design, durability, and performance requirements as outlined by federal governing bodies. In the US, this process is governed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
This complex process of homologation allows for vehicles to be officially classified by date and category as well as have official and certifiable technical information and specifications. The Vanish is completing homologation for both the United States and Canada, for which testing includes the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) 500, Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) 500 and California Air Resources Board (C.A.R.B.).
In parallel with its homologation phase, AYRO is now planning to begin Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) by early June to begin building the first 50 Vanish units that will be used as demo models for signed dealers.
The company plans to enter full-scale production upon the successful completion of its first 50 units.
As AYRO’s senior vice president of programs added:
“Our team has worked diligently to prepare for this day. This is one of the final steps in our product development process. Concurrently with homologation, we plan to begin LRIP and immediately following begin delivering vehicles to our customers and dealers.”
The AYRO Vanish opened for orders earlier this month, launching at a starting price of $33,990. While that price is more expensive than several other imported electric mini-trucks, the Vanish’s modular design (and soon-to-be street legal status) is a key differentiator.
AYRO’s vice president of Dealer Sales, Terry Kahl, previously explained the advantages of a modular platform:
With swappable bed configurations, we believe dealers can find a use case for the Vanish with almost any of their existing clientele. We have indications of interest from a rapidly growing number of dealers and now incoming dealers can find added value in that AYRO is accepting their pre-orders even before they join our dealer network. It should be an absolute win-win for our existing and onboarding dealers as well as future dealers.
WAU Project Cyber teased as ‘revolutionary’ high performance electric bike
We see new e-bike launches practically every week here at Electrek, but we rarely seem something quite so… futuristic looking as the upcoming WAU model currently being teased. The UK-based electric bike company is dripping out imagines of its upcoming Project Cyber, which looks like something between a high performance electric bicycle and a light electric motorcycle.
It’s not uncommon for e-bike companies to expand into the moped or light motorbike space. We watched it happen with SONDORS when the company unveiled the Metacycle, SUPER73 with the C1X, and several other smaller e-bike companies.
And while we don’t yet know how the Project Cyber e-bike will be classified, it’s certainly looking like it could be headed in a similarly aggressive direction.
WAU is best known for its long range, urban-oriented electric bikes with enclosed frames and iconic seat stay tail lights that also serve as highly visible turn signals.
It’s a welcome, distinguished design that sets itself apart from many of the other cookie cutter e-bikes we’ve seen over the last few years.
And it appears that WAU may be sticking with some of the same design language for its upcoming Project Cyber, based on the first few teaser images.
The company has been dripping out images and information in a Facebook group set up for sharing details about the upcoming e-bike.
One of the more revealing pieces of information includes a set of design drawings from early in the project. Multiple concepts can be seen, including some with and without bicycle pedals.
The inclusion of bicycle pedals would lend credence to this being a high performance e-bike, while a lack of pedals would put the two-wheeler into light motorbike territority.
WAU seems to be investing heavily in the bike’s technology, though it isn’t quite clear yet what that could mean in terms of features. Many new e-bikes have started to feature advanced connectivity features closer to that of electric cars, including telemetrics and remote operations. A teaser on the company’s site seems to imply that built-in GPS tracking may be included on the WAU Cyber e-bike.
The company is still playing it close to the vest with most details, but suggests that the new model could “revolutionize the industry.”
As WAU explained in the Facebook group description, “Get ready to be blown away by the most stylish pedelec the world has ever seen. Our state-of-the-art technology and design are set to revolutionize the industry, and we are thrilled to have you join us on this journey.”
The company also released several images showing a prototype frame being welded together, seen below.
We don’t yet know what else the WAU Cyber will hold in store for us, but with the reveal expected to come soon, we shouldn’t have to wait for long.
What do you think WAU will unveil as part of Project Cyber? Share your thoughts and guesses in the comment section below.
We’ll be sure to update as soon as we have more information on the upcoming e-bike.
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