When It Comes to Tech, Lucid Motors Seems to Have Tesla Beat

The Age of Electric Vehicles

While Tesla is the most recognized name in electric vehicles (EV), it isn’t the only one. Tesla’s pursuit of a cheaper, cleaner, and more sustainable form of transportation has a proven popularity. With this comes natural competition among electric automakers that leaves consumers and the Earth with a net positive.

Enter Lucid Motors, a California-based electric vehicle company that has developed a new electric car known as the Air. While the most affordable version of the Air is still more expensive than upcoming Model 3 at $52,500, Mashable’s Ray Wong says that the vehicle “has been billed by many as a Tesla “killer” that’s more high tech and luxurious than the Model S,” adding, “it felt more like being in a private jet or in a first-class plane cabin than in a road vehicle.” Even the former Chief Engineer on the Model S, Peter Rawlinson, agrees.

All Electric Cars: What’s My Range? [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Rawlinson, the current Chief Technology Officer at Lucid Motors, says that the sculpted battery on the Air provides passengers with far more space than what any Tesla vehicle is able to provide. Some features of the $100,000 fully-loaded Air include: a 1,000 horsepower all-wheel drive twin-motor, a battery that lasts 400 miles, reclining backseats, and front seats that provide a massage. The basic Air will have a 400-horsepower rear-wheel drive single motor and a battery that lasts 240 miles. All models will allow drivers to activate level 4 or 5 autonomous driving, have touchscreens instead of an instrument panel, voice assistant/AI, and facial recognition.

The Benefits of EVs

While luxury cars have led the EV charge (pun intended), more options are gradually becoming available from many other automakers so that everyone can be a part of the electric vehicle solution.

As more choices become available, consumers have the opportunity to find an EV that falls in their price range while meeting their own personal standards. All EVs today do come with certain benefits, such as home recharging, low-cost operation, reduced emissions, and a very quiet, smooth ride. The vehicles could also save the United States billions of dollars in healthcare costs. As more consumers jump on the EV bandwagon, we will see costs go down while a greener thumbprint across the globe emerges.

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2017 Is Set to Be the Hottest Year in Recorded History

It’s Getting Hot in Here

It was the hottest year on record in 2014…and then again in 2015…and that’s right, you guessed it, again in 2016. For the third consecutive year, it was the hottest year in all of recorded history. Now, don’t dwell on these past years for too long because, as you might be disappointingly anticipating, 2017 is promising to be even warmer.

The record temperatures of last year didn’t just cause some of us to sweat a little bit more, they actually led to the severe wildfires that ran rampant in Alberta, Canada. These wildfires cost insurers $3.58 billion and came as a result of the combination of both record dryness and temperatures.

There have also been major heat waves in the Arctic, contributing to rapidly rising sea levels and the destruction of Arctic wildlife. Climate change, which has led to these environmental and temperature changes, has also caused the continued bleaching of the coral reefs. In fact, as of recently, scientists have listed the reefs as “terminal,” with many portions well beyond repair.

In Haiti, people are experiencing first hand the deadly toll that climate change can take. Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc throughout the country, and its citizens are still picking up the pieces. These consistently warming temperatures are not going to wait fifty, twenty, or even five years to take effect. As the Earth warms and sea levels rise, we will quickly see more and more of the effects of climate change.

The Future

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that last year, temperatures increased to 1.1°C above what was recorded in the pre-industrial era. Global temperatures increased consistently and drastically. Now, many people see 1.1°C and it’s difficult to see why this temperature variation would cause such mass mayhem.

To put things in perspective, during the last Ice Age, global average temperatures were only approximately 5°C different from what they are today. So, when looking strictly at the numbers, it can seem like these increasing temperatures aren’t that big of a deal, or at least they’re a problem for the future. But, when we look at the past and see what can happen when global average temperatures are altered even slightly, we can see just how serious climate change is.

Technological Fixes for Climate Change
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As Canada repairs the damages of the wildfires and Haiti mends the wounds of Hurricane Matthew, we need to take the threat of climate change more seriously. According to WMO spokesperson Claire Nullis in an interview with CBC, “We need to bear in mind that the [UN’s] Paris climate change agreement commits us to keeping temperatures well below two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial era. We are already halfway there and this is indeed very worrying.”

It is essential that renewable energy resources start to be used more instead of fossil fuels. And, through education and research, we can innovate and continue to create new and better ways to power our lives that don’t put the planet in danger. It is our planet to enjoy, and our planet to protect.

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Elon Musk: 100 Tesla Gigafactories Could Power the Entire World

The Gigafactory

The Tesla Gigafactory produces lithium ion batteries, supporting the Tesla vehicles and providing low-cost batteries using alternative energy sources. And, in a recent video, CEO and founder Elon Musk was actually quoted as saying:

“We actually did the calculations to figure out what it would take to transition the whole world to sustainable energy. You’d need 100 Gigafactories.”

Leonardo DiCaprio met with Musk at the Gigafactory this past year to discuss renewable resources and the future of energy as it relates to climate change. Leo is no stranger to discussions about alternative energy and climate change. In fact, he recently used his first Oscar acceptance speech as an opportunity to discuss the grave realities of our changing climate and warming planet.

One main goal of the Gigafactory is to reach and maintain net zero energy. A leader in advancement and innovation, they claim that “By 2018, the Gigafactory will reach full capacity and produce more lithium ion batteries annually than were produced worldwide in 2013.” The Gigafactory also aims to continue to drive down the price of these batteries, financially incentivizing the use of alternative energy sources.

As Leo enters the factory, he is struck by the sleek efficiency, exclaiming, “Holy crap, that’s a good robot.” He and Musk continue on, with Musk emphasizing that “the sooner we can take action, the less harm will result,” in regards to man-made climate change.

Battery Life

As put simply by Musk in the video, “the sun doesn’t shine all the time, so you’ve got to store it in a battery.” And, if we are able to shift more completely towards alternative and renewable energy sources, Musk claims that, “you could avoid building electricity plants at all.”

When some people think about alternative energy, they think of outdated, bulky solar panels that lack efficiency and are a massive financial drain. However, alternative energy technology is far beyond that. As the realities of climate change set in, it is becoming more and more obvious that we cannot wait. We cannot go another ten years using fossil fuels at the rate that we currently do and not experience the effects.

Renewable Energy Sources Of The Future [Infographic]
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Solar cells are more efficient than ever. In fact, inspired by photosynthesis, researchers recently combined the principles of quantum physics and biology to drastically improve current solar capabilities. Solar cells are no longer even necessary to capture solar energy, as scientists have created a synthetic leaf that does just that, while converting carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide.

There is no question: alternative energy is the future. We will not progress without it, and, as recent advancements have shown, it is becoming a more possible and powerful option with each passing day. If Musk is right, and these low-cost, green batteries could help to support a future where alternative energy is the majority, then his Gigafactory could be one of many steps in the right direction.

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Joining the Fight Against Climate Change Would Help This Industry Thrive


A farmer harvests soybeans near Lenox, Iowa. Drake University Agricultural Law Center, Author provided

President Trump, congressional Republicans, and most American farmers share common positions on climate change: they question the science showing human activity is altering the global climate and are skeptical of using public policy to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

But farmers are in a unique position to tackle climate change. We have the political power, economic incentive, and policy tools to do so. What we don’t yet have is the political will.

As a fifth-generation Iowa farmer and the resilient agriculture coordinator at the Drake University Agricultural Law Center, I deal with both the challenges and opportunities of climate change. I also see a need for the agriculture community to make tough choices about its policy priorities in the face of dramatic political shifts in Washington.

Pundits, agriculture groups, and President Trump have identified farmers as a key demographic in the Republican victory. How we leverage this influence remains to be seen. Trade and immigration policy and the president’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal are already creating disagreements between farmers and the Trump administration. We will need to be strategic in using our political power to shape agriculture policy.

My research and farming experience convince me that even in today’s unpromising political conditions, agriculture can play an important role in addressing climate change. American farmers can become global leaders in producing what the world needs as much as abundant food: a stable climate.


Flooded farms in North Dakota, March 28, 2009. Farmers are vulnerable to floods, drought and other natural disasters that may be worsened by climate change. FEMA/Wikipedia

Farmers wrestle with climate change

Prior to 2009, thousands of farmers across the United States participated in two large-scale projects designed to maintain or increase carbon storage on farmlands: the National Farmers Union Carbon Credit Program and the Iowa Farm Bureau AgraGate program. These programs paid farmers for limiting the number of acres they tilled and for maintaining or establishing grasslands. Payments came through the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), a voluntary market in which businesses could buy and sell carbon credits.

But after Barack Obama became president in 2009, farmers overwhelmingly joined the opposition to climate change action. As agriculture journalist Chris Clayton documents in his 2015 book The Elephant in the Cornfield, farmers viewed Obama’s climate strategy — especially the push for cap-and-trade legislation in 2009-2010 — as regulatory overreach by a Democratic Congress and president.

For example, after the Environmental Protection Agency briefly mentioned livestock in a 2008 report on regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, farmers and agriculture trade groups erupted in outrage at the prospect of a “cow tax” on methane releases from both ends of the animal. When Congress failed to enact the cap-and-trade bill in 2010, the CCX went out of business.

The election of President Trump and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress eliminates the regulatory “bogeyman” that many farmers organized to reject in 2009. In our opposition, farmers rejected an opportunity to be paid for providing environmental services. Forgoing new sources of income might have made economic sense during the historic commodity boom between 2009 and 2013, but it no longer does.


USDA

Recently the farm economy has soured. After several years of historic profitability, 2017 looks to be the fourth straight year of declining income. American farmers face forecasts of stagnant to declining revenues.

Farmers may now be willing to consider new ways of generating income by adopting environmentally friendly practices, such as planting cover crops, extending crop rotations or eliminating tillage. Many farmers are already using these practices on a small scale. To combat climate change, we need to apply them on nearly all of our acres. And we need to develop new environmentally friendly practices.

Farmers are motivated by economic incentives to implement environmental practices. As an example, they recently enrolled nearly 400,000 acres in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program CP-42 which pays farmers to take land out of production and establish habitat for pollinators. Ironically, today we may need to embrace a source of revenue that just eight years ago seemed to many like regulatory overreach.

Opportunities under the Paris Agreement

The world came together in December 2015 to complete the Paris Agreement, which signals a major advance in global commitments to address climate change. All participating countries commit to lowering their greenhouse gas emissions. A number of American businesses have started to support putting a price on carbon.

Agriculture was noticeably absent from global climate discussions, but farmers could profit from policies that monetize carbon and create new markets for carbon emission allowances. At the Paris conference, the French government introduced the 4 per 1000 Initiative, which challenges farmers to increase the carbon in their soils. Other national governments, universities and agricultural organizations have joined this effort to advance agriculture that captures and stores carbon.

Now American farmers face a choice. Do we want to explore ways of providing environmental services to fight climate change? Or will we sit back and allow farmers in other parts of the world to develop these agricultural solutions? California is already showing the way by inviting farmers to participate in public-private efforts to address climate change.

Leveraging the 2018 Farm Bill

The Trump administration rejects policy efforts to protect the climate and indicates the United States may pull out of the Paris Agreement. Therefore, farmers will need to flex our political muscle to support climate solutions. Fortunately, we have powerful policy tools at our disposal.

Agriculture organizations and lawmakers are developing the 2018 farm bill, which will guide U.S. agriculture policy for several years, likely through 2022. Forward-thinking farmers can use this legislation to develop programs to pay for climate-friendly environmental services without radically changing the way we farm. Relatively small innovations can deliver payments for environmental services, which initially would be supported by American taxpayers but later could be funded by carbon markets.


Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to remove environmentally sensitive land from production and plant beneficial species on it, Paul and Becky Rogers converted 14 acres of their land in Kent County, Michigan to pollinator habitat. USDA/Flickr, CC BY

For example, conservation programs currently target soil erosion. Policymakers would need to add rewards for reducing emissions and sequestering carbon. As a starting point, the next farm bill can identify practices that produce these outcomes and incorporate them into existing programs. The bill could also develop new programs to accelerate farmer innovation.

Farmers have a history of working together. Federal programs supporting ethanol and biodiesel production and wind turbines on farmlands all came about because farmers advanced public policies to support these products before clear market demand existed. In the same way, we can use the farm bill to increase farm income by monetizing the public benefits of climate services.

How farmers can lead

When the CCX collapsed in 2010, farm groups had already lost money trying to develop a program before there was enough public support to sustain it. We learned that it requires both government action and business leadership to successfully reward farmers for environmental services.

By advancing payments for climate services in the next farm bill, we can make our farms more resilient and align American agriculture with global business interests. If history is a good predictor of our future, no one is going to do this for farmers. We will have to do it for ourselves.

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A New Device Uses Sunlight to Create Drinking Water From Air

An Urgent Need Met

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 663 million people — one in ten — lack access to safe water. Fully one-third of the world’s population lacks plumbing enough to have access to a toilet—that’s more than 2.4 billion people. A 2016 report found that water shortages affect two-thirds of the world’s population. Water shortages — and the conflicts they cause — will worsen as climate change ramps up. In fact, the 2015 World Economic Forum cited lack of access to clean water as the number one global risk in existence today.

Working to find a solution to these problems, researchers have developed a sunlight-powered device that can extract water from even the driest desert skies, in the hope that the technology may one day supply even the poorest, driest areas of the world with clean drinking water. The basis for the device is a type of novel, porous material called metal-organic frameworks that pulls large amounts of water into its pores. The research, published in Science, shows that a kilogram of the material can trap several liters of water per day, even in the standard 20 percent humidity levels of arid regions.

Top 10 Countries Using Solar Power
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The chemical character and size of the material’s pores can be altered to either allow the flow or capture of different kinds of molecules. The material is able to bond with huge quantities of particles thanks to its massive surface area, which is equivalent to about a football field per gram. The process is entirely passive and does not require additional energy or materials. Unlike other water-harvesting technologies, it can operate in arid conditions. It’s similar to a humidifier, but does not need an initial supply of water in order to operate.

The material needs more refinement, but Evelyn Wang, head of MIT’s device research laboratory, told MIT Technology Review that a viable product is “not that far away.” Similar materials are already being affordably mass-produced by the German chemical company BASF. Hopefully, this device will be able to provide a stable source of clean water to millions.

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Crew replace pane on ISS Cupola window

The crew on the International Space Station (ISS) have successfully replaced a window pane on the Cupola module. The operation was conducted without any risk to the crew, thanks to the innovative design on the module’s windows, which involves four panes allowing for internal replacement while risking no pressure loss for the Station.


Window Replacement:

After arriving at the ISS with Node 3, during Endeavour’s STS-130 mission, the European Space Agency (ESA) built Cupola has provided Station crews with a stunning view of the planet, often shared with the public via downlinked photography and thanks to the increasing use of social media by the astronauts.

The module also hosts a Robotic Work Station (RWS), allowing crewmembers to actually see Visiting Vehicles (VVs) – such as SpaceX’s Dragon and Japan’s HTV – arrive for berthing, complimenting the camera views of their displays, allowing for increased situational awareness when operating the Station’s robotic assets.

The Cupola’s seven windows were exposed to space for the first time during STS-130’s EVA-3, following the removal of the module’s MLI blanket insulation by spacewalkers Bob Behnken and Nick Patrick.

After the spacewalkers removed the launch locks on the windows, the ISS crew cycled the window shields/shutters one at a time, providing them with the first view of the Earth from their new observation deck.

All of the windows weren’t open at the same time, with the task simply used to check the shutters opened without a problem. A few hours later, all of the windows were opened together, an event that is now commonplace on the ISS.

Although the windows on the Cupola have suffered from their fair share of impacts from MicroMeteoroid and Orbital Debris (MMOD) strikes, none of the small impacts have caused any serious damage to the module.

2014-09-05 12_56_15-L2 Level ISS On-Orbit Status Report Notes (August 2014)The windows are made up of four panes – an inner scratch pane to protect the pressure pane from accidental damage, two pressure panes 25mm thick to maintain cabin pressure, and finally an outer debris pane.

In the event of the damage being more serious, on-orbit replacement of an entire window is a design feature.

Such a replacement would require an EVA to fit an external pressure cover to allow for the changeout, with a pressure cover requiring a flight up to the ISS on one of the cargo resupply vehicles.

Several scratch panes are stored on the ISS in the event one requires replacement, which was request by the crew that resulted in the pane being replaced.

“Cupola Window 7 Scratch Pane Replacement: The crew replaced the scratch pane on Cupola window 7, the nadir facing window,” noted L2 ISS Status Information.

“The crew has been requesting scratch pane replacements as many window scratch panes have shown accumulated damage of the years.”

Window 7 is the large round window that astronauts tend to use when taking photography of the planet below.

The brand new scratch pane will likely improve – if that’s even possible – the quality of the photographs from the orbital outpost.

Onboard, the crew is preparing for a busy period of Visiting Vehicle activity, with the OA-7 Cygnus set for launch on April 18 on an Atlas V from Cape Canaveral. The crew will be using the RWS in the Cupola for berthing operations with the cargo craft.

Two days later, the next Soyuz mission will launch on a fast track rendezvous to the Station. Soyuz MS-04 is set to launch NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and Fyodor Yurchikhin from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which is one less passenger than usual.

The pick up the imbalance in the crew rotation quota, Peggy Whitson recently agreed to extend her tour on the Station by three months.

(Images: NASA, ESA and L2).

(To join L2, click here: https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/l2/)