Toyota’s early-stage venture capital firm, Toyota AI Ventures, has been rebranded as Toyota Ventures and increased the total assets under its management to over $500 million. The increase comes from the creation of two new early-stage funds, both with $150 million each, named the Toyota Ventures Frontier Fund and the Toyota Ventures Climate Fund.
Toyota AI Ventures fund was founded in 2017 as a subsidiary of Toyota Research Institute. To date, the fund has invested in a total of 38 companies in areas such as autonomy, artificial intelligence, data, robotics, cloud computing, and mobility. We reported on the funds investment into self-driving tech back in 2018. Toyota Ventures has indicated that it will continue to invest in the same areas as before, but will now add in digital health, financial technologies, smart cities, materials and energy as investment areas.
The new Climate Fund ties in with Toyota’s mission to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Of course, anything that helps to reduce carbon dioxide and its impact will have benefits for everyone and the planet.
Jim Adle, founding managing director of Toyota Ventures, explained the thinking behind the new funds in a statement. “Startups are tackling the world’s challenges, and at Toyota Ventures we want to open even more paths to investing in them,” he said. “Since we started our first fund four years ago, we’ve been on a journey with our portfolio companies to discover what’s next for Toyota and for the world. Today, we’re thrilled to be embarking on the next leg of that journey with the Frontier and the Climate Funds.”
Gill Pratt, chief scientist of Toyota Motor Corporation, CEO of Toyota Research Institute and board member of Toyota Ventures, reiterated the company’s commitment to reducing carbon. “At Toyota, we’re taking a diverse science-driven approach to addressing climate change and offering people many ways to lower their own carbon footprint,” she explained. “Part of our strategy includes partnering with talented entrepreneurs from around the world to help accelerate innovation in the startup community. We are tremendously excited about tapping into that talent through the Climate Fund.”
There have been good reports from companies that Toyota Ventures has invested in so far. We reported on the latest investment Toyota made into eVTOL company Joby Aviation early last year, and JoeBen Bevrit, founder and CEO of Joby, was very positive about the outcome. “Four years ago, Jim [Adler] came out and watched a flight test. He asked incredibly thoughtful questions and then acted decisively on investing in Joby Aviation. That was just the beginning of an incredible partnership with Toyota Ventures and with Toyota Motor Corporation. It led to further financing and a strategic manufacturing partnership.”
With the expansion of the kind of startups Toyota is looking to fund in the future, let’s hope there will be more good news stories like this in the future.
Small Wave Energy Power Plants Could Be Wave Energy’s Path Forward
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.
ChargePoint Launches Electric Fleet Charging Ecosystem
The whole ground transportation sector should electrify in the next 15 years. However, when you look at the different uses cases, some seem much more logical immediately than others. Fleets that travel a lot of miles (or km) but on predictable routes or trip patterns can be exceptional cases for electrification. The lower cost of “fuel” (electricity versus fossil fuel) and other operational costs makes the “total cost of ownership” advantage that much better. Also, fleet managers are more likely to pay attention to and care about operational cost than private car owners.
So, with that in mind, it is both not surprising and quite exciting that ChargePoint has just rolled out a “global fleet solution portfolio.” No matter the type of size of your fleet, ChargePoint wants your business. Much of this is pre-existing products and services, but it is more comprehensively packaged and tailored to fleets now.
“From concept to scale, ChargePoint’s global fleet solution portfolio includes everything fleets need to electrify and optimize fueling as they grow,” ChargePoint writes. “Fleet management software combined with ChargePoint’s AC and DC fast charging solutions balance charging costs with operational readiness for light- to heavy-duty vehicles across depot, on-route and at-home charging. Expert design/build services ensure a smooth transition to electrification. Ongoing support and maintenance guarantee maximum uptime for essential fueling.”
Products and services included in its fleet charging options include:
- ChargePoint® Express Plus — DC fast charging built on software-defined hardware architecture, which includes:
- Each EXPP Power Block houses up to five self-contained EXPP Power Modules that can flexibly distribute up to 200 kW.
- EXPP Power Link dispenses power to EVs and supports up to two flexible cables compatible with all standard connector types.
- Connecting multiple EXPP Power Blocks optimizes power sharing flexibility and scalability.
- Multiple EXPP Power Links enable a mix of sequential and simultaneous charging.
- Cable management ensures EXPP Power Link stations can support various vehicle sizes and parking configurations while keeping cables safely off the ground. Mounting options include Wall, Pedestal and Gantry.
- The ChargePoint Express Plus solution features native support for the Open ChargePoint Protocol (OCPP).
- ChargePoint Fleet Depot, Mobility and Home software solutions — this includes:
- Depot software manages energy to minimize infrastructure and fuel costs while ensuring operational readiness through telematics, scheduling, utility and vehicle integrations.
- Mobility software ensures fleet drivers never get stranded on route by making it easy to find and pay for public charging using a variety of payment options including fuel cards.
- Home software enables fleets to offer home charging to drivers with take-home vehicles, managing the entire workflow of procurement, installation and fuel reimbursement.
- Application programming interfaces (APIs) and global partnerships across telematics, fuel cards, fleet and asset management systems complement ChargePoint solutions and ensure seamless integration with existing fleet operations.
- 50-amp AC fleet charging stations & software
- 80-amp AC charging solution for fleets
- ChargePoint Assure® Pro maintenance and management package, which includes:
- Technical support around the clock in local languages
- Proactive station monitoring and role-based alerts and notifications
- One-hour response, same-day dispatch and 24-hour resolution commitments
- Extended parts warranty, including labor and spares management
Go ahead and sign up for a free fleet assessment if this interests you.
“Successful fleet electrification requires optimizing, adapting and scaling to all of the unique needs that fleets have — from planning to implementation — and we offer the most complete portfolio for the market,” said Bill Loewenthal, Senior Vice President of Product at ChargePoint. I interviewed Bill Loewenthal last month for an in-depth look at what ChargePoint offers. For more on that, listen to the podcasts below or head over to the summary articles:
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UN Greenwashes Shipping with Hopelessly Weak Carbon Efficiency Target
The global shipping fleet will be required to reduce its carbon intensity by just 1.5% a year under a climate plan adopted by the UN regulator, the IMO, yesterday. The target is as weak as what would be achieved under business as usual¹ and falls far short of the 7% annual reduction required to meet the goals of the Paris agreement. Transport & Environment (T&E) said the EU must resist all attempts by the IMO to stop it taking effective regional measures to reduce the climate impact of shipping in Europe.
Faig Abbasov, shipping programme director at T&E, said: “The maritime regulator is greenwashing shipping with a hopelessly weak ship efficiency target. The proposal shows total disregard for climate science and is nothing more than a cosmetic measure. Meanwhile, the IMO is meddling in the democratic affairs of the EU by trying to curb its plans to cut ship pollution. This is unacceptable.”
At the meeting the IMO secretariat again expressed disapproval of potential national and regional regulatory measures to address shipping’s growing climate impact where it has failed. The EU is preparing to include shipping in its emissions trading system when it revises the bloc’s carbon market on 14 July. The EU will also propose to require ships to progressively switch to alternative sustainable fuels.
Shipping accounts for about 13% of greenhouse gas emissions from European transport.
¹ The ICCT, Choose wisely: IMO’s carbon intensity target could be the difference between rising or falling shipping emissions this decade, 2021.
Heat Stifles & Strains Grids In US West
Mutually worsening heat and drought, both fueled by climate change, are stifling the American West, stoking wildfire fears and straining electrical grids — and the worst is far from over. “We could have two, three, four, five of these heat waves before the end of the summer,” Park Williams, a UCLA climate and fire scientist who has calculated that heat waves are intensifying because soil in the western half of the nation is the driest it has been since 1895, told the AP.
A record-breaking heatwave trapped by an area of high atmospheric pressure, known as a heat dome, is pushing temperatures as much as 30°F above normal and subjecting 40 million people to temperatures over 100°F. Doctors in Arizona and Nevada warned touching pavement could cause third degree burns. Extreme heat and heat waves are some of the clearest impacts of climate change on extreme weather and kill as many as 5,600 people living in the U.S. every year. The human health harms caused by extreme heat heighten societal inequities — extreme heat danger is often worst in historically redlined neighborhoods.
The extreme heat is also straining electrical grids. California grid operators called for voluntary demand reduction and, for the second time in four months, Texas grid operators are asking their customers to reduce their energy usage — including using less air conditioning and putting off cooking and washing their clothes — prompting jokes that Sen. Ted Cruz would soon be flying to Alaska.
‘This is as about as good as it’s going to get’
The intense heat and drought are fueling wildfires across the region and stoking fears that more will come as the season is just starting. And so is the warming. “We’re still a long way out from the peak of the wildfire season and the peak of the dry season,” Daniel Swain, a UCLA climate scientist, told the New York Times. “Things are likely to get worse before they get better.”
Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan, agreed.
“The Southwest is getting hammered by climate change harder than almost any other part of the country, apart from perhaps coastal cities,” he told the New York Times. “And as bad as it might seem today, this is about as good as it’s going to get if we don’t get global warming under control.”
Sources: Heat wave: New York Times $, AP, Washington Post $, Reuters, CNN, San Francisco Chronicle, Bloomberg $, Axios; Burns: AP; Grid crunch: The Guardian, Bloomberg $, Reuters; Ted Cruz memes: Buzzfeed; Fires in: North Dakota: AP; Montana: AP; Idaho: AP; Nevada: AP; Arizona: AP; Climate Signals background: Extreme heat and heatwaves; Drought; Wildfires.
Originally published by Nexus Media (image added by editor).
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