ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

GM Pledges Over 20 Electric, Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars By 2023.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Fleming) reports that General Motors announced Monday “it will begin selling two new all-electric vehicles in the next 18 months, and will have at least 20 new zero-emission electric vehicles in its lineup by 2023.” GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said the announcement is “part of a sweeping plan to move toward an automotive world that includes zero emissions, zero congestion and zero crashes.” GM Spokesperson Kevin Kelly is quoted saying the new models “will be based on technology derived from the company’s Bolt EV, the 238-mile-range electric sedan that Chevrolet introduced late last year,” adding that “GM is committed to a zero-emission future. We said the Bolt EV would be a platform for electric vehicles going forward. Today we are showing the next chapter of that.” The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Vlasic, Boudette, Subscription Publication) reports the new vehicles are part of “a push to produce cars powered by batteries or fuel cells.” In addition, the Times points out that GM’s announcement “came a day before a long-scheduled investor presentation by Ford Motor that was also expected to emphasize electric models,” and Ford introduced its own plan after GM’s announcement, “saying it would add 13 electrified models in the next several years.” The Times quotes GM Chief of Global Product Development Mark Reuss saying, “General Motors believes in an all-electric future. Although that future won’t happen overnight, G.M. is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles.” Reuss called the move to electric vehicles a “transition,” adding that “G.M. has no set timetable to eliminate gasoline engines from its vehicles.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Krisher) reports that “General Motors is betting that electric vehicles will be all the rage in the not-to-distant future,” and quotes Reuss saying the company is “far along in our plan to lead the way into that future world.” Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Welch) reports that automakers worldwide “are rushing to develop electric technology to meet tougher regulations.” It adds, “Almost 50 new pure electric-car models will come to market globally between now and 2022, including vehicles from Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG.” Dow Jones Newswires Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Colias, Subscription Publication) reports that GM “also said it would do more to expand the availability of charging stations to help spur consumer demand for EVs but didn’t peg an investment amount or disclose specific plans,” noting that “a dearth of charging infrastructure is seen as a major hurdle to broader acceptance of the technology.”

The Detroit News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Thibodeau) reports the Bolt “is the test mule driving” GM’s “electric vehicle development,” according to Reuss, who added that it is “key to achieving” the “future that is free from vehicle emissions, crashes and traffic congestion.” Pamela Fletcher, GM executive chief engineer for autonomous and electrified vehicles, said, “We’re engineered our next generation of EVs from the ground up, based on our learnings from the Bolt EV.” GM is also “currently testing its fuel cell powered Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 with the U.S. military.”

The Detroit Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Phelan) reports GM plans to “begin production of hydrogen fuel cells at its Brownstown battery plant in Michigan by 2020.” The “potential future vehicles” it showed included “a midsize luxury SUV that bore a Buick badge, a sleek larger crossover that looked like it would contain three rows of seats for Cadillac, and a tall, roomy vehicle that could be a future version of the Chevrolet Bolt.” GM’s Fletcher said, “Our primary retail focus is the fast-growing market for crossover SUVs.” Fuel cell chief Charles Freese said that GM plans to begin selling fuel cell-powered vehicles in 2023. The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Colias, Subscription Publication) reports Reuss said GM intended to make and sell gasoline, diesel, and hybrid-electric cars for the foreseeable future, but that it believes ultimately, “the future is all-electric.” The Journal adds that at present EVs are less than one percent of US vehicle sales. The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Holley) reports, GM “announced Monday that the end of GM producing internal combustion engines is fast approaching,” though “Reuss avoided naming the year when the auto giant will cease producing gas and diesel vehicles.” The Post says the Bolt has been a “resounding success” because it has been “named Motor Trend’s 2017 Car of the Year and the 2017 North American Car of the Year.”

CNN Money Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Valdes-Dapena) reports, “GM isn’t saying exactly when that purely electric future will be.” Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, White) reports the EVs will be “financed by robust profits from sales of gasoline-fueled trucks and sport utility vehicles in the United States and China,” though Reuss maintained the EVs “will be profitable.” He also said, “We will continue to make sure our internal combustion engines will get more and more efficient.” The Financial Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Waldmeir, Subscription Publication) also reports the news.

Research and Development

DARPA Tests “Cloud-Penetrating Radar Tech” On Modified DC-3 Aircraft.

ExecutiveGov Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Nicholas) reports the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency “has tested an electro-optical and infrared sensor onboard a modified DC-3 aircraft to demonstrate its capacity to collect real-time video through the clouds.” DARPA said Thursday “it aims to produce a cloud-penetrating extremely high frequency sensor that can be integrated with multiple aerial platforms as part of the Video Synthetic Aperture Radar program.”

Study Explores Use Of Driverless Vehicles By USPS.

On Federal News Radio (DC) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2), Jake Soffronoff, a policy analyst in the Risk Analysis Research Center, which is part of the USPS’s Inspector General Office, discusses a study on the use of driverless trucks by USPS. Soffronoff explains that the study looks at both short-haul and long-haul uses of driverless trucks. Soffronoff adds that the report also includes a survey on public perceptions of driverless vehicles.

DARPA, AFRL Ramp Up Anti-UAV Research.

FlightGlobal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/3, Giangreco) reports that the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and DARPA are ramping up anti-UAV research, and have issued two requests looking for sensor and laser systems to detect and neutralize potential UAV threats. DARPA’s request said the agency is seeking to develop an integrated system that can sense and neutralized UAVs, and has asked industry to provide “innovative technology components that can be integrated with current [Mobile Force Protections] prime integrators’ fielded concepts.” DARPA hopes to conduct a field demonstration within 15 months. AFRL seeks “both high powered microwaves and laser weapon systems that could find, fix and target single or multiple UAVs, according to the 15 September request for information.” ARFL hopes to demonstrate the system in fiscal year 2018.

Research Team Makes Majorana Particle Discovery, Stands To Influence Computer Building.

Nanowerk Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2) reports that a research team of scientists from Niels Bohr institute at the University of Copenhagen and Purdue University have discovered “how to produce a material in which electrons behave in accordance with the theoretical predictions for Majorana particles.” Majorana particles are the suggestion of Italian physicist Ettore Majorana of a particle that is also its own anti-particle. Now, with their discovery that “has shown that it is possible to produce ‘Majorana particles’ in a new ‘building material,’” the team stands to contribute to the advancement of computer building. Project lead Fabrizio Nichele explains, “The condensed version is that it is possible to produce a material in which electrons behave like Majorana particles, as our experiments suggest – and that it is possible to produce this material by means of techniques rather similar to those used today when manufacturing computer circuits. On top of that…this material enables us to measure properties of Majorana particles never measured before…with great precision.”

University Of Wisconsin-Madison Researchers Launch Project To Enhance Container Technology Security.

The Wisconsin State Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2) reports University of Wisconsin-Madison computer sciences professor Somesh Jha announced Monday that a team of researchers at the school received a five-year, $6.1 million grant from the Office of Naval Research to fund a project aimed at enhancing security for container technology, or “programs that help software run when transferring from one computing environment to another, so the elements a user uses stay together.” The UW-Madison team of computer science researchers will collaborate with researchers from the University of Illinois, Oregon State University, the University of Toronto, and the computer security firm GrammaTech.

Researcher’s Study Of DNA As Data Storage Model Profiled.

The Scientist Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/1) reported biologist George Church, while a graduate student at Harvard University, and two colleagues at Harvard University “translated an HTML draft of a 50,000-word book on synthetic biology, coauthored by Church, into binary code, converted it to a DNA sequence – coding 0s as A or C and 1s as G or T – and ‘wrote’ this sequence with an ink-jet DNA printer onto a microchip as a series of DNA fragments.” Those “blobs of DNA” could hold “around 650 kB of data in such a compact form that the team predicted a storage potential for their method of more than 700 terabytes per cubic millimeter.” Church’s development not only represented “far and away the largest volume of data ever artificially encoded in DNA,” but also “showcased a data density for DNA that was several orders of magnitude greater than that of state-of-the-art storage media, never mind the average computer hard drive.” The publication of the study “in late 2012 was met with excitement, and not only among biologists,” and in recent years the concept “idea of a nucleic acid–based archive of humanity’s burgeoning volume of information has drawn serious support.”

ASEE Board Reorganization – Feedback Needed
ASEE ED Norman Fortenberry presents rationale on a proposed reorganization of the ASEE Board of Directors. Please leave your feedback (ASEE member login required).

NEW Podcast
One energy solution may be found in looking toward the ocean…not necessarily what you’d expect from researchers at land-locked Penn State.

Deans’ Diversity Pledge Website Launches
The site will catalog various ways engineering programs are working to meet diversity goals.

VIDEO: Pre-College Engineering Education
ASEE member Pam Lottero-Perdue in a short interview on ASEE’s efforts in PreK-12 engineering education.

Global Developments

Scientists Call For Solar Shield To Guard Earth Against Communication Disruptions.

The Daily Mail Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Macdonald) reports that researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics called for a “magnetic deflector” to be positioned between the Earth and the sun, according to research recently published to ArXiv. The scientists cited the “Carrington event,” an 1859 geomagnetic storm caused by a powerful coronal mass ejection event which disrupted communications across the planet. They wrote that “if the Carrington event were to occur now, it would wreak significant damage to electrical power grids, global supply chains and satellite communications,” with losses up to $10 trillion. The scientists projected a ten percent chance of such an event occurring within the next decade. To ward off these effects, the scientists called for a copper foil superstructure to be erected roughly 205,000 miles from Earth to deflect harmful particles away from the planet. The researchers estimated the cost of the shield at $100 billion.

Engineering and Public Policy

House Hearings To Focus On US Electric Grid.

E&E Daily Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Subscription Publication) reports that this week three House hearings “will examine the electric grid” just “days after a bold move by Energy Secretary Rick Perry aimed at boosting coal and nuclear plants with the goal of increasing grid reliability and resilience.” On Friday, Perry called on the FERC “to require the electricity markets it oversees to make new rules that would compensate ‘fuel-secure’ generation sources — primarily coal and nuclear plants — the theory being that doing so will increase the grid’s reliability.” The main “event is a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing that was rescheduled due to the fallout from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma” that “will feature testimony from top leaders in the coal, oil and gas, wind, nuclear, solar, energy storage and hydropower industries, who are sure to have a wide range of opinions.” A separate article by E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Subscription Publication) provides extended coverage of Perry’s request of FERC.

House Committee Hearing To Focus On Energy Storage Technology. E&E Daily Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Subscription Publication) reports that this week a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing will examine how energy storage technologies can be used to make the US electric grid more resilient. Advocates of the energy storage industry “say batteries and other storage technologies are disadvantaged in the tax code and in regulations.” According to Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), “widespread use of energy storage could help integrate renewable energy resources into our grid, support robust microgrids.” He recently introduced a storage-related bill that aims to “set up an investment tax credit for the technology similar to what exists for the solar industry.”

Ninety-Five Percent Of Puerto Rico Still Without Power, But Fuel Supplies Increasing.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Respaut, Stargardter) reports President Trump is scheduled “to make his first visit to Puerto Rico” today, “two weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory, and is likely to face more criticism of his handling of the disaster as the vast majority of the island’s inhabitants lack power and phone service and are scrambling for food, clean water and fuel.” According to the US Department of Energy, “at least 5.4 percent of customers in Puerto Rico had their power restored by mid-morning on Monday…with San Juan’s airport and marine terminal and several hospitals back on the power grid.” The agency “said the head of Puerto Rico’s power utility expects 15 percent of electricity customers to have power restored within the next two weeks.” Platts Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Ryser) reports that it has been “estimated that 80% of the island’s electrical grid was ‘wiped out.’” The New York Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Golding) reports that “while acknowledging the ongoing electrical and communications problems, Trump said it’s ‘amazing what’s been done in a very short period of time.’” Trump added, “There’s never been a piece of land that we’ve known that was so devastated.”

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2) reports in a separate article that Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello “reported progress in getting fuel supplies to the island’s 3.4 million inhabitants on Monday.” At a news briefing Rossello said, “We’ve been increasing the number of gas stations that are open.” Over “the next couple of days, Rossello expects 500,000 barrels of diesel and close to 1 million barrels of gasoline to arrive on the island.” He stated, “The flow is coming, gasoline is getting here. … We have been able to reduce the time that it takes to get gasoline and diesel at different stations.”

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Martin) reports German company Sonnen GmbH “is planning to install microgrids to provide electricity for at least 15 emergency relief centers in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.” Last week, the company started “delivering its storage systems” to the island and it “expects to deliver at least one shipment each week as the island’s ports reopen, the Wildpoldsried, Germany-based company said in an emailed statement Monday.” Sonnen is “working with local partner Pura Energia, which installs solar panels with Sonnen batteries.” Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Ockerman) reports that following the storm, “more resilient, small-scale electric systems powered by the sun are looking increasingly attractive,” but “transforming a grid…doesn’t come cheap.”

Community Solar Gardens Leading To Solar Boom In Minnesota.

Roll Call Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2) reports “solar power is taking off in a big way in Minnesota, a state known more for deep snow and icy winds than sunny skies,” and it is “being fueled by local co-op projects, a method known more for producing community gardens than electricity.” The “community solar gardens” have “sparked astounding growth in solar power generation in the North Star State.” Last year, “co-ops provided 38 megawatts of power, or about 15 percent of the 246 MW of solar energy produced in the state; this year solar co-ops are expected to generate a little over 400 MW, or more than half of Minnesota’s total solar energy supply of 800 MW.” Roll Call adds that the “concept” is “spreading across the country as well: 15 other states, including California, Colorado and New York, now have laws like Minnesota’s that allow households to share the cost of solar panels by buying subscriptions to electricity generated from a community project.”

Wind Energy Giant Says Trump’s Anti-Wind Rhetoric Empty So Far.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Levring) reports that President Trump’s campaign rhetoric against wind energy has so far proven empty, according to Thomas Thune Andersen, the chairman of Dong Energy A/S, the world’s largest offshore wind developer. While Trump continues to comment negatively on wind energy, for example by blaming wind turbines for killing bald eagles, Anderson says “he hasn’t acted on it.” Moreover, he notes that “many of the decisions are made at a state level. They’re still pushing this agenda and they may even have accelerated it as part of the political game.”

Flying Cars May Bring Harsh Reality.

Car and Driver Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Bigelow) reports that Gartner Analysts Kimberly Harris-Ferrante, and Michael Ramsey published a paper called “Flying Autonomous Vehicles: The Next Big Thing That Isn’t,” which rejects the notion that flying vehicles are around the corner. Regulatory and engineering considerations “will likely prevent flying cars from ever making an appreciable contribution to next-generation transportation networks. And that might be a good thing.” When it comes to automation, former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator Mark Rosekind said the technology should halve the traffic deaths and be twice as quality. However, some in the industry believe autonomous cars should be 100 times as good.

Monday’s Lead Stories

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