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The container ship Maersk Murcia sits moored to a terminal in the port of Gothenburg, a busy shipping centre on the west coast of Sweden, as cargo is loaded onto it by crane before it sets sail on August 24, 2020.

LONDON — The European Union is due to propose an unprecedented overhaul to its carbon market this week, seeking to put a price on shipping emissions for the first time.

And the region’s shipowners are deeply concerned.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, is set to present its green fuel law for EU shipping on Wednesday. It is part of a broader package of reforms designed to meet the bloc’s updated climate targets.

To be sure, the EU has committed to reducing net carbon emissions by 55% (when compared to 1990 levels) through to 2030, becoming climate neutral by 2050. The EU says this will require a 90% reduction in transport emissions over the next three decades.

To meet these targets, the EU plans to undergo the biggest revamp of its Emissions Trading System since the policy launched in 2005. Already the world’s largest carbon trading program, the ETS is now widely expected to expand to include shipping for the first time.

Lars Robert Pedersen, deputy secretary general of BIMCO, the world’s largest international shipping association, says it is no secret the industry has concerns about the EU’s plans.

You’re not going to change the fleet on a dime. In the near to medium term any imposition of a carbon price would essentially be a tax.
Roman Kramarchuk
Head of future energy analytics at S&P Global Platts

“There is a strange misbelief in Europe that these kinds of actions put pressure” on other regions to do the same, Pedersen told CNBC via telephone. “I think, frankly, it has the opposite effect.”

He argued the proposal was “not conducive” to international policy, would fail to reduce regional carbon emissions and ultimately take money out of the shipping industry when it could otherwise be spent on reducing emissions in the fleet.

“It is taxation. Does that help anything when it comes to decarbonization? I don’t think so. It looks more like it is an effort to collect money — and so be it,” Pedersen continued. “Europe decides what Europe decides and there’s not so much you can do about that, I guess, other than highlight that it might not be the most appropriate way to reduce emissions.”

His comments come shortly after Transport & Environment, a European non-profit, purportedly obtained a leaked proposal for a draft of the first-ever law requiring ships to progressively pivot to sustainable marine fuels.

A liquid natural gas (LNG) storage silo at the LNG terminal, operated by LNG Croatia LLC, in Krk, Croatia, on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021.
Petar Santini | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A spokesperson for the commission declined to comment on the draft proposal. The EU has said action to address EU international emissions from navigation and aviation is “urgently needed” and initiatives to address these areas will be designed to boost the production and uptake of sustainable aviation and maritime fuels.

Pedersen said it was important not to panic over the leaked draft, noting that it could still be revised in the coming days and there are many more hurdles to overcome before the measures become EU policy.

EU member states and the European Parliament would first need to negotiate the final reforms, a process that analysts estimate could take roughly two years.

“To be frank with you, I haven’t even bothered to read it because I think it is a waste of time at this point. We have a date when the final proposal will be presented, and we will read that very carefully,” Pedersen said.

‘An environmental disaster’

Shipping, which is responsible for around 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, is seen as a relatively difficult industry to decarbonize because low-carbon fuels are not widely available at the required scale.

Soren Toft, chief executive of the Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s second-largest container carrier, has also criticized the EU’s proposal. Speaking to The Financial Times last month, Toft warned the proposals would have the opposite effect of their intentions in the absence of readily available low-carbon fuels.

What’s more, it is not just the shipping industry that has voiced opposition to the EU’s plans.

Transport & Environment described the leaked draft of the commission’s proposal as “an environmental disaster,” arguing the policy does not incentivize investment in low-carbon fuels such as renewable hydrogen and ammonia. Instead, it argues the proposal promotes liquefied natural gas and “dubious” biofuels as an alternative to marine fuel oil.

“It’s not too late to save the world’s first green shipping fuel mandate,” said Delphine Gozillon, shipping policy officer at Transport & Environment. “The current draft pits e-fuels against much cheaper polluting fuels, giving them no chance at all to compete on price. The EU should revise the draft to include an e-fuels mandate and make them more cost-attractive through super credits.”

Europe’s ETS is the bloc’s main tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. It forces heavy emitting businesses, from aviation to mining, to buy carbon permits in order to create a financial incentive for firms to pollute less.

One issue currently afflicting the scheme, however, is so-called “carbon leakage,” where businesses transfer production (and emissions) elsewhere due to the relative cost of polluting in Europe.

The EU is expected to address this problem, potentially implementing what’s known as the carbon border adjustment mechanism from 2023. The policy is an attempt to level the playing field on carbon emissions by applying domestic carbon pricing to imports.

How will the EU’s proposal impact carbon prices?

“How shipping is brought into a pricing regime is critical,” Roman Kramarchuk, head of future energy analytics at S&P Global Platts, told CNBC via email.

“But the July proposal will be far from a done deal,” he continued. “It’s worth remembering that the EU had to temper its ambitions around aviation previously in response to push-back from trade partners — though the upshot of that was a more globally inclusive approach from the UN through the CORSIA program.”

The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation initiative refers to a United Nations deal designed to help the aviation industry reach its “aspirational goal” of making all growth in international flights “carbon neutral” from 2020 onwards.

Kramarchuk said it was important to note that the proposed policies were not expected to constitute an outright ban on specific fuels, adding S&P Global Platts sees increasing shares of the shipping fleet being powered by LNG, methanol or ammonia through to 2030.

Electricity pylons are seen in front of the cooling towers of the coal-fired power station of German energy giant RWE in Weisweiler, western Germany, on January 26, 2021.

The impact that the EU’s proposal has on carbon prices will also be “crucial,” Kramarchuk said, predicting an end-of-year target for the EU’s benchmark carbon price at 60 euros per metric ton.

The December 2021 carbon contract surpassed 50 euros for the first time ever in May, having stood at around 20 euros before the coronavirus pandemic. It was last seen trading at around 54 euros.

Higher carbon prices would likely raise questions about the competitive decisions shipping firms take around fuel choice and in turn depend on how carbon emissions in fuels are accounted for, Kramarchuk said.

“But you’re not going to change the fleet on a dime. In the near to medium term any imposition of a carbon price would essentially be a tax.”

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Weird Alibaba: An inflatable Chinese electric jet ski for $2,000 – What’s the catch?




Weird Alibaba: An inflatable Chinese electric jet ski for ,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.

chinese electric jet ski

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.

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Here are the best April Fool’s jokes from the e-bike industry this year




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

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Scientists have found major storage capacity in water-based batteries




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.

Lutkenhaus continued:

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

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