China has so far not acted in an aggressive manner toward shipping in the South China Sea, but the very potential of action creates a clear threat to the economies of Japan and South Korea.
Kazuhiro Nogi | AFP | Getty Images
The following commentary is from Kevin Klowden, chief global strategist of Milken Institute.
News coverage of the weekend’s Group of Seven meetings focused on Ukraine, but China’s rising global presence was the other big topic on the G7 agenda. For two of East Asia’s biggest economies, in particular, the implications of that rise are critically important.
China wants to be the great military and political power of East Asia. Nowhere is that more evident than in President Xi Jinping’s “nine-dash” declaration, through which Beijing claims sovereignty over almost all the South China Sea. And of all the countries with cause to be concerned about that claim, perhaps none have more on the line than Japan and South Korea.
Most of the world is focused on the resource and military implications of Chinese claims to the islands in the region, and Beijing’s development of what is becoming the world’s largest navy. For Japan and South Korea, the threat to their supply chains and energy imports is a far more real and present issue.
In particular, Japan and South Korea are concerned about Chinese declarations which invoke not only the right to inspect cargo, but also the ability to restrict traffic. Neither Japan nor South Korea has any political interest in the ownership of the Spratly Islands, or in China replacing the United States as a dominant naval power. However, they have a strong economic stake in moving their energy imports and manufacturing components without fear of restriction. Even in a non-wartime situation, China has taken the position that the South China Sea is a controlled territory rather than open international waters under Chinese guardianship.
China has so far not acted in an aggressive manner toward shipping in the sea, but the very potential of action creates a clear threat to the economies of Japan and South Korea. China wouldn’t even have to directly stop vessels — it could merely electronically track specific cargo, or carry out inspections or diversions. Such actions would raise the specter of unpredictability and significantly rising costs.
For Japan and South Korea, the role taken by the United States in the post-World War II period was far less disruptive, not only because of their alliance but, more importantly, because the United States acted as a guarantor of free trade and protected movement through the corridor.
Linking the two countries to trading partners in Southeast Asia, India, and beyond is going to increase rather than decrease in importance.
Few people outside Japan or South Korea focus on or understand just how significant the South China Sea is when it comes to regional and even global energy supplies. Significantly, the sea is estimated to carry 30% of the world’s crude oil, supplying China and providing a vital lifeline for the energy-dependent economies of South Korea and Japan.
For Japan, the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent nuclear accident at Fukushima only exacerbated that dependence. The resulting curtailment of Japan’s nuclear program has left the country dependent on energy imports, with as much as 98% of Japanese oil coming from the Middle East.
In many ways, South Korea is even more dependent on energy imports than Japan, making oil and natural gas imports especially significant.
The South China Sea is important in more than just energy. It also serves as a key passageway for Japan and South Korea’s global supply chains. Estimates suggest that the sea carries between 20% and 33% of global trade; for Japan, that figure reaches as much as 40%.
As global supply chains regionalize, the role of the South China Sea in the Japanese and South Korean economies will only grow. Linking the two countries to trading partners in Southeast Asia, India, and beyond is going to increase rather than decrease in importance.
Japan and South Korea have been able to rely on the stability of the South China Sea as a conduit for driving their economic growth, even as the global political situation has changed over the decades. Significant shifts, including the Vietnam War and the end of the Cold War, haven’t stopped trade in the sea from growing more and more important.
As the United States balances commitments in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, the three strongest economies of East Asia — China included — all have a vested interest in ensuring the stability of trade, supply chains and energy flows.
For South Korea and Japan, trade remains stable in the South China Sea for now. But with China increasingly looking to assert itself and change the status quo in its favor, it’s essential that both countries ask themselves: How much are they willing and able to concede to China in the region before it becomes untenable? And are they prepared with alternatives that will allow them to compete economically?
Knowing the answers to those questions and being prepared for a more Chinese-dominant future in the South China Sea is important for all three countries — even if the status quo holds for now.
Switzerland put vertical solar panels on a roadside retaining wall
A canton in Switzerland commissioned a project in which solar panels were attached vertically to a roadside retaining wall.
The canton of Appenzell Ausserhoden in northeastern Switzerland is aiming to generate at least 40% of its electricity from renewables by 2035. So, it exercised a little creativity and covered a roadside retaining wall with 756 glass-glass solar panels.
The panels have an output of 325 kW and an energy yield of around 230,000 kWh annually. This is equivalent to the consumption of about 52 Swiss households. The energy will be fed into the grid of energy supplier St. Gallisch-Appenzellische Kraftwerke, and the canton will get a feed-in tariff in return.
German mounting system provider K2 Systems and Swiss contractor Solarmotion installed the vertical system on the 75-degree retaining wall. The panels were anchored on a mounting rail with HUS screw anchors, and Lichtenstein-based Hilti provided mechanical dowels.
The PV system was anchored on and in the masonry using an adhesive technique. An anchoring depth of a maximum of 90 mm could not be exceeded so that the retaining wall would not be adversely affected.
Due to the close proximity to the asphalt, the solar panels’ components are subject to exceptional corrosion requirements and are anodized for protection. Indirect components are made of aluminum – only the screw anchors are made of stainless steel.
K2 Systems says that “especially in the winter months (when consumption and dependence on foreign electricity imports are at their highest), the vertically aligned modules will achieve a very good electricity yield.”
This isn’t a big project, but it’s a delightfully creative one, which is why it caught my eye. A retaining wall is dead space, and snow will slide off the panels in Swiss winters.
We at Electrek love it when solar is installed in intelligent and inventive ways. Warehouse rooftops? Cover them. Highway medians? Canal covers? Box stores? Put solar on them. It just makes sense.
Photo: K2 Systems
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Doroni’s all-electric flying car gets flight certified in the US
Flying electric cars are not just for sci-fi movies. Miami-based Doroni Aerospace announced Friday its all-electric flying car, the Doroni H1, received official FAA Airworthiness Certification. And the best part – it’s designed to fit in your garage.
Doroni’s all-electric flying car gets FAA-certified
Doroni claims to be the first company to test manned flights with a 2-seater flying electric car in the US. The Doroni H1 took flight earlier this year.
CEO Doron Merdinger successfully piloted the personal electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) this summer. Merdinger said receiving the flight certification “is not just a milestone for our company, but a leap forward for the entire field of personal air mobility.”
He says the electric flying car “is poised to redefine urban transportation.” Doroni’s aircraft has already received over 370 pre-orders as the startup wraps up funding efforts.
Powered by ten independent propulsion systems, the all-electric flying car has a claimed top speed of 140 mph (100 mph cruising speed) and 60 miles range. Its unique design ensures stability during flight.
It includes four ducts containing two e-motors with patented ducted propellers. Eight are for vertical flight with an additional “two pushes.”
The two-seater aircraft is designed to fit inside a two-car garage at 23 ft in length and 14 ft in width. It also features fast charging (20% -80%) in under 20 minutes.
Electric flying cars coming to a dealership near you
Doroni’s all-electric flying car is semi-autonomous, meaning you can guide it to different levels. A controller stick is used to push you forward, backward, or to the side.
Who would buy one of these? Doroni says one of its customers is a doctor who wants to use the aircraft to skip traffic on their way to work. However, you will need a certification. It requires at least 20 hours of experience, 15 inside the aircraft and another five solo.
Merdinger says the biggest use case for eVTOLs will be for air taxis or ride-sharing. Doroni aims for a different market though.
The company says there is enough space to fly everywhere, especially in suburban areas. Doroni’s all-electric flying car is designed for more than just getting you from point A to point B. It allows you to “enjoy nature,” according to Merdinger.
Doroni expects to build about 120 to 125 units by 2025 or 2026. Eventually, the Miami-based startup plans on scaling to produce 2,500 eVTOLs annually. You can learn more about the electric flying car on Doroni’s website.
The company is the latest to receive the flight certification. Alef’s Model A was the first electric flying car to get certfied in June.
Alef said it had 2,500 pre-orders in July. The orders include 2,100 from individuals and 400 from businesses, including a California car dealership.
Are electric flying cars going to take over road transportation? Not necessarily. At least not anytime soon.
Doroni and Alef are both working on niche markets, which makes the most sense for the time being. At the same time, the companies are pushing forward another sustainble means of transport.
As Merdinger explained “this is just the beginning,” as the technology advances.
Rivian already has a patent on Tesla’s Cybertruck ‘range extender’
Tesla delivered the first Cybertrucks yesterday, and with that delivery event came the revelation that in order to get the range it promised, the Cybertruck needs a separate battery pack in the bed. But a similar battery pack system was already patented years ago, by one of Tesla’s competitors in the electric pick-up space.
Tesla’s Cybertruck website included a revelation about a feature that wasn’t mentioned in its presentation: a “range extender,” in the form of an additional battery pack in the truck bed which expands the truck’s range.
It’s an interesting solution, and we don’t know all the details of it yet. We don’t know the cost, the weight, how it will be installed and uninstalled, or whether it even can be uninstalled.
The battery pack is intended to be used “for very long trips or towing heavy things up mountains,” according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. It takes up about a third of the truck bed, as can be seen in a photo posted on Tesla’s Cybertruck site.
So, there’s still room for cargo, just not the full 6 feet of bed length that Tesla says the Cybertruck has.
But the fact that it was described as being used only “for very long trips or towing heavy things up mountains” suggests that it will be removable, since most people don’t do that sort of thing every single day.
Making it removable is actually a good solution, because it can lower prices, make packaging easier, and improve efficiency for vehicles that simply don’t need a ridiculously enormous 470-mile battery – and most drivers don’t need that.
And if it is removable, well, there’s already a patent on that.
In 2019, electric truck maker Rivian filed a patent for a “removable auxiliary battery” that would fit into the front third-or-so of the truck bed. This patent was granted in 2020, so Rivian currently has a patent on this technology.
The patent is described as:
An electric vehicle system for transporting human passengers or cargo includes an electric vehicle that includes a body, a plurality of wheels, a cargo area, an electric motor for propelling the electric vehicle, and a primary battery for providing electrical power to the electric motor for propelling the electric vehicle. An auxiliary battery module is attachable to the electric vehicle for providing electrical power to the electric motor via a first electrical connector at the auxiliary battery module and a second electrical connector at the electric vehicle that mates with the first electrical connector. The auxiliary battery module can be positioned in the cargo area while supplying power to the electric motor, and can be removable and reattachable from the electric vehicle. The auxiliary battery module includes an integrated cooling system for cooling itself during operation of the electric vehicle including a conduit therein for circulating coolant.
We aren’t patent lawyers here, but this sounds awfully similar to Tesla’s “range extender.” The obvious potential differences we can find are if the range extender doesn’t have integrated cooling, which is unlikely, or if the range extender isn’t removable, which doesn’t seem to jive with the statement that it is only for long trips or with the marketing showing it as an optional add-on (if that were the case, why not just offer different battery sizes?).
Tesla itself has many patents (and is still pursuing more of them), but has pledged not to “initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use its technology.” It announced this in a 2014 blog post, and followed up by saying that it thinks several companies are using its patents.
So next, the question is: is Tesla’s solution different enough to avoid Rivian’s patent protection? Has Tesla licensed the idea from Rivian, and we just haven’t heard about it yet? Or will Rivian return Tesla’s “good faith” and not initiate a patent lawsuit against Tesla, if it does feel like it has a good enough case to say that Tesla’s range extender infringes on its patent?
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