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Porsche’s Panamera hybrid brings sports car fun to a station wagon

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

The Porsche brand has never really been synonymous with family. The legendary 911 just doesn’t lend itself to playdates, Target runs and road trips with the kids. Then the German automaker introduced its SUV line in 2003 and suddenly the offspring had a place to sit. But an SUV is not a sports car. The Panamera line, on the other hand, has the potential to be a bit of both.

Gallery: 2018 Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo review | 29 Photos 29 +25

The 2018 Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, starting at $104,000, checks off a lot of boxes for potential Porsche owners that also have family obligations. There’s room for more than two people, for starters. There’s also an honest to goodness cargo area for shopping runs. It’s a hybrid, too, so the more judgy parents you know won’t get on your case and finally (and really more importantly) it’s a sports car. Also, it looks 100 percent better than the first iteration of the Panamera and it does all this in a way that makes you realize that station wagons can be cool. Very cool.

When I received Panamera, Porsche made sure I was aware that the hybrid system wasn’t an efficiency play. The automaker is known for sports cars after all. Still, the vehicle has four modes: E-Power (pure EV mode), Hybrid, Sport and Sport plus. During startup, it defaults to E-Power mode and when fully charged Porsche says it has a range of up to 30 miles at speeds up to 90 miles per hour. That seems pretty efficient to me. If you plug in the car at night and the majority of your trips per day are less than 25 miles, it could be weeks before you hit the gas station.

In hybrid mode (which includes options for saving and charging up the battery), the Panamera is ready for longer drives on the freeway and surface streets. The switch between the gas engine and electric motors is seamless during regular driving. But going slow (below 10 miles an hour) does feel like you’re holding back an excited puppy. Sometimes it jerked a bit more than expected.

It’s that excited puppy that’s at the heart of the vehicle and once you drop off the kids or finish picking up your organic quinoa at Whole Foods, you can put the Panamera E-Hybrid into Sport or Sport plus mode and really understand what the automaker was talking about when it said that the hybrid wasn’t an efficiency play.

Driving in either of the two sport modes, the car aggressively recharges the battery so it can use that power and electric torque to deliver outstanding acceleration. With a zero to 60 of 4.4 seconds, it’s one

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Zero motorcycle’s modular battery is one pricey upgrade

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

FX Get more info More Scores Engadget Not yet scored   Critic Not yet scored   Users Not yet scored   Key Specs

On a spreadsheet, electric motorcycles can be a tough sell. For starters, gas-powered bikes get outstanding mileage. So while hybrids and electric cars can save a driver money in the long run, that doesn’t really apply to motorcycles. Instead, there’s the warm fuzzy feeling that you’re doing something good for the environment. In addition, you can silently cruise around without frightening the neighborhood pets with a bombastic exhaust. Oh and there’s also the incredible electric torque.

Engadget Score Poor Uninspiring Good Excellent Key Zero Motorcycles FX 83 Pros Fast and nimble Fun to ride No transmission Over-the-air updates Cons Pricey Modular battery pack only makes sense for a small group of people Summary

A fun, quick and nimble commuter bike with a modular battery pack that most people won’t use. The fixed 7.2kWh is probably the the better bet.

The new Zero FX with modular battery (starting at $8,495.00 for the 3.2kWh version) is an even tougher sell on that spreadsheet. It’s a great bike with an intriguing feature: the ability to swap batteries and keep on riding without the hassle of waiting for a bike to charge. That sounds awesome right? It is, but it’s for a select group of riders and to be part of that group, be ready to pony up some cash.

The FX is the more capable version of the FXS I rode before. It’s able to hit the asphalt as well as the dirt. I had a blast riding it in both environments. Plus its lightweight (289 pounds) which gives it a nimbleness that’s perfect for lane splitting on San Francisco’s narrow streets.

I rode the 7.2kWh version of the bike which actually uses two 3.6kWh modular battery packs. Removing the batteries isn’t tough (you just unlock a bar and pull them out) but it requires you to be ready to carry a very heavy brick of electrons. The FX only requires a single battery to operate giving you the option of charging one battery while riding with another hence the 3.2kWh version of the bike. But with that second power supply plugged in the FX bike has 78 foot-pounds

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Tesla to cover the cost of Germany's court-ruled subsidy repayments

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Some German Tesla owners are facing a surprise €4,000 bill for purchasing their Model S cars, thanks to a confusing ruling by Germany’s Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control. In a bid to push EVs and plug-in hybrids in the country, Germany offers a €4,000 subsidy for electric vehicles with a base price under €60,000 (half of the subsidy comes from the government, the other half from the automaker itself).

While the Model S has a base price low enough to qualify, it was previously removed from the approved vehicles list when the government came to believe the base model wasn’t actually available in Germany. Tesla could only prove this model was available to German buyers from March 6th, so anyone purchasing the car prior to this date was — according to the government — erroneously in receipt of the subsidy, and must now pay it back.

The decision affects around 800 Model S owners, but Tesla is stepping in to help. In a statement, the company said that “the arbitrary decision to temporarily remove Tesla from the list of vehicles eligible for the Environmental Bonus (Umweltbonus) was unjustified, contrary to the stated goals of the program, and unfair to our customers.”

It says it plans to appeal the government’s decision, and “to make sure our customers are not harmed by this decision, we will cover the cost of the bonus for them until the issue is resolved.” It also says it won’t ask for its half of the payment to be returned. The issue could end up lumping Tesla with a bill of €1.7 million (the government’s share of the subsidy) — not a serious sum for a company of its size but certainly enough to get their accounts in a sweat, so it’ll no doubt push for a quick resolution.

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VW will build its electric microbus and crossover in the US

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Volkswagen

Volkswagen is pushing its EV strategy hard in Europe and China, and now intends to continue its momentum in the US, where it plans to produce its upcoming all-electric microbus and crossover SUV. Confirmed to Autocar this week, VW says it’ll produce the I.D. BUZZ electric microbus and I.D. CROZZ Concept in the States, ready for launch in 2022. According to Hinrich Woebcken, head of VW in North America, “For strong product momentum, they need to be produced in the USA. It’s not possible to come into a high-volume scenario with imported cars. We want to localize electric mobility in the US.”

The I.D. BUZZ electric microbus is a new version of VW’s iconic campervan. Last year the company unveiled a working prototype of the vehicle, which will come in two options. The higher-end model features all-wheel drive and a total output of 369 horsepower, powered by a huge 111kWh battery pack. VW claims it’ll have a range of 270 miles. The less expensive version clocks up 268 horsepower via an 83kWh battery, for a range around 200 miles.

The I.D. CROZZ Concept, meanwhile, comes with a dual motor powertrain boasting 75kW power in the front and 150kW in the back, totalling 225kW. VW claims the 83kWh battery will enable a range of 310 miles, but it’s expected to be closer to 275 miles when EPA estimates are taken into account.

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Investment in renewable energy drops as fossil fuel use rises

July 17, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Getty

Global investment in renewable energy is on the decline, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The energy watchdog says there’s a significant contradiction between the statements governments make regarding their attitudes to renewables, and the tangible action being taken. Investment fell by seven percent to $318bn last year.

Meanwhile, the share of energy supply investment in fossil fuels rose for the first time since 2014. To meet climate targets, fossil fuel investment needs to drop to 40 percent by 2030 — instead it rose to 59 percent in 2017.

The drop in renewables investment has largely been attributed to declining interest in wind and hydropower. Solar power hit record levels last year, but it’s not been enough to offset spending on oil, gas and electricity. Similarly, $43bn was spent on electric cars and hybrid vehicles last year, accounting for half of global growth in car sales, but this hasn’t put any significant dent in oil demand.

Dr Faith Birol, executive director of the IEA, said the figures pointed towards a “worrying trend,” and urged governments to create less investment uncertainty for green energy. “I was myself worried to see there is a contradiction between a) the statements the governments make and b) what the world needs today vis-a-vis the investment numbers, where we see a decline.”

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Girl Scouts add badges for cybersecurity and the environment

July 17, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

The US Girl Scouts campaign to promote STEM education is advancing to its next logical step: even more badges. The organization is introducing 30 new badges that promise to foster scientific and computer know-how across the Scouts’ age groups. Younger members from kindergarten to grade 5 can earn badges for topics like cybersecurity (particularly online privacy and safety) and space science, while older Scouts can learn to design and program robotics as well as prepare for college. And regardless of age, they can earn Environmental Stewardship badges that teach them to care for the planet.

There’s more. The outfit is now rolling out its previously unveiled national computer science program for girls in middle school and above. Likewise, there are are two Leadership Journeys that encourage girls to embrace programming and engineering. And a Mechanical Engineering badge that previously stopped at grade 3 now covers the net two grades up, increasing the opportunities to learn about crafting basic vehicles and understanding the physics that guide them.

The goals remain the same as with earlier badges. The Girl Scouts team hopes to not only encourage girls to enter STEM fields, but to prepare them for a modern world full of digital opportunities and threats. It’s not guaranteed that they’ll strive for the badges, but it’s at least an acknowledgment that the focus of the Girl Scouts needs to change with the times.

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Adidas pledges to only use recycled plastics by 2024

July 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Edgar Alvarez, Engadget

Adidas is planning to expand its use of recycled plastics well beyond its flagship shoes. The sportswear maker has promised to only use recycled polyester in its shoes and clothing by 2024. While the company’s Eric Liedtke didn’t provide a detailed roadmap in a chat with the Financial Times, he characterized it as a transition that will see Adidas take “right-sized bites” out of its budget to make the switch without hurting its profit margins. It’s no mean feat — about half of Adidas’ material is polyester right now, Liedtke said, so an “overnight” changeover isn’t in the cards.

A lot of that cost likely has to do with economies of scale. Recycled polyester can carry up to a 20 percent premium over the freshly-made variety, and it could prove daunting to process the material in Adidas-level quantities. The company is likely betting that refined techniques will bring the costs down over time.

The company wouldn’t be on the vanguard of embracing recycled plastics. Stella McCartney’s fashion label has vowed to stop using brand new nylon by 2020, as an example. It’d be uncharted territory for a company the size of Adidas, however, and that could have a significant effect on the viability of recycled plastics across the apparel industry. There’s certainly an impetus to make the transition. Eco-conscious design is good for the public image, of course, but it’s also crucial when ocean plastic is a serious problem that will only get worse if usage habits don’t change.

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Microsoft and National Geographic team up on AI research grant

July 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

GERARD JULIEN via Getty Images

Microsoft and National Geographic are partnering on a new grant program that will put $1 million towards projects using AI to address environmental challenges. Between five and 15 projects will be selected as recipients of the AI for Earth Innovation Grant program and winning researchers will receive funding, access to Microsoft cloud and AI tools, inclusion in the National Geographic Explorer Community and affiliation with National Geographic Labs.

“Microsoft is constantly exploring the boundaries of what technology can do, and what it can do for people and the world,” Lucas Joppa, chief environmental scientist at Microsoft, said in a statement. “We believe that humans and computers, working together through AI, can change the way that society monitors, models and manages Earth’s natural systems.” In a similar vein, Google just announced a partnership with UN Environment that will provide real-time data to organizations and governments about the impact of human activity on ecosystems.

Grant applications are open to researchers now and will remain open through October 8th. Projects should focus on biodiversity conservation, climate change, agriculture or water and funding requests must be $200,000 or less. Any models generated through the grant’s provided resources must be made open source so that other researchers can use the tools as well. Recipients will be announced in December.

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Google works with the UN to monitor environmental changes

July 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

TIMOTHY A. CLARY via Getty Images

Google is partnering with the United Nations to help measure the impact of human activity on ecosystems around the world. The project, which launches today, will provide real-time data to organizations and countries looking to plan and direct actions in response to quickly changing environmental conditions. The goal is that, with free access to this valuable data, more countries will pursue sustainable development.

“We will only be able to solve the biggest environmental challenges of our time if we get the data right,” Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment, said in a release. “UN Environment is excited to be partnering with Google, to make sure we have the most sophisticated online tools to track progress, identify priority areas for our action, and bring us one step closer to a sustainable world.”

In the short term, Google will focus on fresh-water ecosystems such as mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes. Google will produce geospatial maps and data on these ecosystems, thanks to “massive parallel cloud computing technology.” Countries and organizations can rely on both satellite images and generated statistics on the degree of change in these areas.

Longer term goals are focused on ensuring that the project becomes a platform for open-source, free environmental data. Both organizations hope to use it in order to gauge progress on the UN’s sustainable development goals. This isn’t the first use of satellite imagery to determine the impact of human activity on the environment, but it is one of the largest, and the fact that access to the data will be free of charge is definitely huge.

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Apple announces $300 million fund for clean energy in China

July 12, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Tonight Apple announced a new partnership that will connect its suppliers in China to renewable energy sources. This isn’t its first push to increase the use of clean energy in the country that has been called the world’s most polluting, but it does increase the scale. Along with ten suppliers, the company will jointly invest “nearly $300 million” over the next four years in to the China Clean Energy Fund.

The fund itself will be run by European asset management company DWS Group, with a plan to “give its participants the advantage of greater purchasing power and the ability to attain more attractive and diverse clean energy solutions.” That’s because even as clean energy project increase, Apple said that smaller companies may not have access to them. Just a few months ago Apple said that it is entirely powered by clean energy (when you include renewable energy certificates it has purchased to cover about 34 percent of its usage), and by 2020 it will, along with its suppliers “generate more than 4 gigawatts of new clean energy worldwide.”

The initial suppliers participating in the China Clean Energy Fund include:

Catcher Technology Compal Electronics Corning Incorporated Golden Arrow Jabil Luxshare-ICT Pegatron Solvay Sunway Communication Wistron