More carmakers caught in headlights of VW engine-rigging scandal

More carmakers caught in headlights of VW engine-rigging scandal
Volkswagen has admitted it installed illegal software into 11 million 2.0 liter and 3.0 liter diesel engines worldwide (AFP Photo/Josh Edelson)

Volkswagen emissions scandal

Iran's 'catastrophic mistake': Speculation, pressure, then admission

Iran's 'catastrophic mistake': Speculation, pressure, then admission
Analsyts say it is irresponsible to link the crash of a Ukraine International Airline Boeing 737-800 to the 737 MAX accidents (AFP Photo/INA FASSBENDER)

Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts

Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 commercial jet.

QZ8501 (AirAsia)

Leaders see horror of French Alps crash as probe gathers pace

"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

US pilot claims to have found MH370 on satellite image

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-04-30

The underwater vehicle Bluefin-21 is released into the water to search for
the missing flight on April 16. (Photo/Xinhua)

Michael Hoebel, a 60-year-old pilot from New York, says he has found Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 after searching through thousands of satellite images on the internet, reports the website of the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily.

The pilot looked through thousands of images on crowd-sourcing website TomNod and found a white object that he believes could be the missing airliner. Hoebel estimated that the object is 210 feet long given the scale on TomNod's map, which matches Boeing's data. He located the object in an area off the coast of Thailand where the MH370 made its last contact with ground control.

Despite Hoebel's reported finding, the multinational search for the missing plane continued in the Indian Ocean. Australia prime minister Toby Abbott said it has been the most difficult search in human history.

No trace of the MH370 plane has been found despite two weeks of underwater search efforts. The underwater vessel Bluefin-21 has searched 400 square kilometers of the seabed and has found nothing.

The plane has been missing for 53 days since taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8. One hundred and fifty-three of the 227 passengers on board were Chinese nationals.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Alstom's plight illustrates France's problems

Deutsche Welle, 29 April 2014

German tech giant Siemens and US company GE are competing for the French concern Alstom. The French president has vowed to intervene in the affair, which reveals many of the country's problems.

Alstom CEO Patrick Kron and his General Electric counterpart Jeffrey Immelt appeared to have everything signed, sealed, and delivered. GE, one of the biggest technology companies in the world, was to take over the French company for almost ten billion euros ($13.8 billion) - but the two companies had not banked on the interference of politicians.

"We will not allow this national flagship to be sold behind the back of the shareholders, the employees, and the French government," Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg said on Twitter on Monday morning (28.04.2014). The state would "defend the economic and industrial interests of France," he added.

Political outrage

Alstom is considered a strategically important company in France, because it is part of the energy sector, manufacturing turbines for the country's many nuclear power stations. But there is more at stake: the Alstom case is "unfortunately another sign that France has gone off the rails," Jean-François Copé, chairman of the conservative opposition UMP party, told the Europe 1 network.

"Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past," tweeted former socialist cabinet minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement, before naming "Pechiney, ArcelorMittal, Lafarge" - all companies that had been swallowed by the foreign competitors.

Jeffrey Immelt thought he
had the deal sewn up
Not included in Chevènement's list was PSA-Peugeot-Citroën, which has just been bought by Chinese investors Dongfeng and the French state . Shareholders gave the green light for the bailout last Friday.

Industrial-sized losses

These examples show that France is in danger of losing its industrial base. The European Union statistics office Eurostat has calculated that industry accounts for only 12.8 percent of the country's economic power - half as much as in Germany, and significantly less than in Spain or Italy.

Ten years ago, a conservative French government bailed out Alstom with taxpayers' money, preventing a takeover of its energy sector by Siemens. Now that same plan - Siemens buying the energy tech component of Alstom - is supposed to provide a solution. In return, the German company is said to be prepared to devolve its rail business to Alstom. At the moment, the French firm's high-speed TGV trains are in direct competition with Siemens' ICE trains.

Advantage Siemens

General Electric (GE) and Siemens each have a turnover of some 75 billion euros, dwarfing Alstom's 20 billion euros.

"Alstom has global sales, but a lot of its activities come from French costumers, for example SNCF or Electricité de France," said Thomas Michalski, economist at the HEC economic school in Paris. "And those customers haven't brought a lot of business in the past few years."

The French government seems to prefer Siemens' offer to that of GE, but has no objections to a foreign takeover in principle.

"There is still a knee-jerk reaction to keep French companies in French hands," Michalski told DW. "However, I would say the French government knows it's heavily indebted; it still runs a huge deficit; the financial capacity to intervene is very limited."

Slow change

But Michalski sees signs of a change of heart that is not just down to the lack of means. When steel company ArcelorMittal closed down its plants in Lorraine in 2012, there was some political outrage - but no intervention. Nor did the government do anything when Lafarge, the world's second biggest manufacturer of construction materials, announced that following its merger with market leader Holcim it was moving its headquarters to Switzerland.

Siemens and Alstom both
make high-speed trains
On the other hand, the state did attempt to prevent storied industrial company Pechiney from suffering the same fate. Then the fourth biggest aluminum producer in the world was taken over by the Canadian Alcan group in 2003.

"Alcan dismembered Pechiney, sold it in pieces and laid people off," said Michalski, adding that for the French it was shocking, because they have more of a stakeholder culture.

He also argued that it had been a shock to the French to see the protection of jobs and tax income subordinated to the interests of shareholders.

"That's why the French prefer alliances with companies from Germany, which also has a stakeholder culture, to alliances or takeovers by firms from the Anglo-Saxon shareholder culture," he said.

For the French economy minister, the Siemens offer could create two European champions. Montebourg compares the current situation with the establishment of European airplane manufacturer Airbus, which now competes with the previously dominant US manufacturer Boeing.

"We will either be bought by Boeing," Montebourg said on Twitter, "or we create one Airbus of energy and one of transport."

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, for his part, likes the idea. His spokesman said the fusion of Siemens and Alstom offered "huge opportunities" for both countries.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Big data reveals trends in Chinese auto market

Want China Times, Xinhua 2014-04-28

Cars on display at the Beijing Auto Show, April 26. (Photo/Xinhua)

Many cars at the ongoing Beijing Auto Show can momentarily seize the attention of visitors, but it is difficult to tell what models are in fact favored by consumers.

A new report based on big-data technology, however, discloses some clues into the world's largest auto market.

Prior to the opening of the auto show, Chinese internet search giant Baidu issued a report on the features and demands of car buyers in the country, analyzing massive search data generated by the 600-million-plus internet users over the past year.

The report continues to be upgraded via a real-time feed of search inquiries related to the show, which kicked off on April 21 and will conclude on April 29.

One finding that may be of interest to foreign investors is that the number of search queries for "imported cars" increased slightly year on year, up to 26.1%, although domestic cars still dominate the current vehicle market in China.

According to real-time results generated by the Baidu Index, searchers of imported cars are mainly young people under 30 years old. Another surprising finding shows that 42.6% of web users searching for cars come from the fourth-tier, or very small cities, and the number is almost three times that from first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai, which have rolled out car-purchase restriction policies to tackle traffic congestion and air pollution.

Price-sensitive Chinese consumers are beginning to pay more attention to the car's comfort and functions, as more than 50% of search queries are related to SUVs or compact cars, according to the report.

The report also offers a list of popular search keywords, including "most popular new models," "new-energy cars," "Top 10 traffic violations," and hot issues related to car consumption.

Although the data-based report seems only to include web users, it also reflects some changes and habits of Chinese car buyers. "It is becoming very important for people to get information about cars online, especially in cities with very few test-drive opportunities," said one netizen.

An analyst told Xinhua that the report may invoke a revolution in the auto industry, indicating that search engine marketing is prevailing.

It is not the first time that Baidu has used big data to launch hot issue discussions. In February, it applied the real-time result to trace human migration during the Chinese Spring Festival travel rush and made a similar quantitative report on the most popular issues during the annual political sessions in March.

Baidu c-founder and CEO Robin Li said at the sessions that the internet is accelerating the transformation of traditional industries towards higher efficiency.

Zhang Yi, CEO of internet consulting company iiMedia Research, said the report is not a piece of pioneering work as many conventional industries have begun to make use of big data. "What I am concerned more is how to use big data to solve the problem that people face every day," said Zhang, who added that internet giants should develop new technology to tell people about traffic conditions and offer drivers smart suggestions.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Utrecht to build world's biggest bike park - for 12,500 bikes, Sunday 27 April 2014

An artists impression of the completed bike park. Illustration: BAM

Building group BAM has been contracted by Utrecht city council to start building what it claims will be the world's biggest bike park - a three storey contruction with space for 12,500 bicycles.

The initial contract, to build the first phase of the bike park, is worth €8m. The total cost of the project is €48m, BAM says.

The underground bike park will form part of the redevelopment of the area around Utrecht's central station and will be completed by 2018.

Jakarta Announces Plan for Integrated Tunnels to Manage Traffic and Floods

Jakarta Globe, Suara Pembaruan, Apr 27, 2014

An illustration of the plan for the Jakarta Integrated Tunnels.
(Berita Satu Illustration/Istimewa)

Jakarta. The city administration said it would begin building two dual-purpose tunnels by the end of the year in an effort to address increasingly dire conditions on the capital’s gridlocked, flood-prone streets.

Private building contractor Antaredja Mulia Jaya has been awarded a contract for the Jakarta Integrated Tunnel (JIT) project.

“The JIT development will be in collaberation with French investor Bouygues,” Antaredja head Agus Sidharta said on Friday at City Hall. “Bouygues is an international company that has taken part in the development of tunnels in Europe, Africa, United States, and China.

The tunnels — connecting Ulujami to Tanah Abang and Pasar Minggu to Manggarai — have been designed to carry flood water and traffic on separate levels, at a projected cost of Rp 34 trillion ($2.92 billion), Indonesian news portal reported.

Agus said his company would work with Jakarta’s toll road developer to build and maintain the road portion of the project.

Each tunnel is set to measured 11 meters in diameter and 12 kilometers in length, from 5 to 15 meters below ground.

Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama said that the city government had given the project its full approval and saw it as a sensible plan for the city.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Passenger arrested after hijack scare on Virgin Australia flight to Bali

Passenger believed to be drunk attempts to enter the plane's cockpit on flight from Brisbane to Indonesian island of Bali, Peter Walker and agencies, Friday 25 April 2014

A Virgin Australia plane flying to Bali was the focus of a hijack scare after an apparently drunk passenger attempted to enter the plane's cockpit.

The security alert began when Indonesian officials said the pilot of the Boeing 737 flight from Brisbane reported a hijack attempt. When the plane landed at Bali's airport it was escorted away from the terminal by military trucks, with other flights grounded, witnesses at the airport said.

However, the local airport manager for Virgin Australia, Heru Sudjatmiko, told local TV the disturbance was caused by a seemingly drunk passenger, a 28-year-old Australian, who was acting aggressively and had to be handcuffed by crew after trying to enter the cockpit.

Drunken Australian passenger arrested by 
Indonesian police after sparking hijack alert
on Bali-bound plane. (AFP)
"This is no hijacking, this is a miscommunication," he was quoted as saying by AFP. "What happened was there was a drunk person. Too much alcohol consumption caused him to act aggressively.

"Based on the report I received, the passenger tried to enter the cockpit, through the cockpit door, by banging on the door but he did not enter the cockpit at all."

The man, named by Indonesian officials as Matt Christopher Lockley, was apprehended by crew members before being handcuffed and put in a seat at the back of the plane. After the flight landed he was removed and arrested.

"The police are having difficulty digging up information on what he intended to do because he is still in an unstable condition," a police official at Bali airport told reporters. A member of the flight crew told police that Lockley had appeared "paranoid". His blood is being tested for alcohol and drugs.

Indonesian military officials said later that no one on board had been injured and the 137 passengers were evacuated.

Virgin Australia Airlines, formerly Virgin Blue Airlines, is Australia's second-largest airline as well as the largest by fleet size to use the Virgin brand.

Related Articles:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Philippine Airlines Quits Flying Shark Fins Amid Outcry

Jakarta Globe – AFP,  Apr 24, 2014

A family eats shark fin soup at Vancouver's Grand Honor Chinese restaurant
 in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this file photo. Philippine Airlines (PAL) said
on April 24, 2014 it has stopped flying shark fin cargoes. (Reuters Photo/Ben Nelms)

Manila. Philippine Airlines (PAL) said Thursday it has stopped flying shark fin cargoes, joining a number of other Asia-Pacific carriers in taking a stand for marine conservation.

The fins are used in shark fin soup, a much-valued delicacy in Hong Kong and China.

Conservationists say booming demand for such fins has put pressure on the world’s shark populations, prompting calls for measures to restrict their trade.

“PAL values the issue on protection and conservation of endangered marine life seriously, recognizing that the company’s long-term interest is and should be consistent with sustainable and responsible business practices,” a PAL statement said.

Air New Zealand as well as South Korea’s two largest airlines, Korean Air and Asiana, separately announced last year that they would ban shark fins from their cargo flights, a year after Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific also stopped shipping them.

Fiji Airways announced last year it would no longer carry “shark fins and shark-related products sourced from unsustainable and unverified sources”, and would only carry fins from species not threatened with extinction.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Teenage stowaway survives flight across Pacific in jet wheel well

Boy escapes unharmed despite losing consciousness after hiding in freezing conditions on flight from California to Hawaii, Jonathan Haynes and agencies, Monday 21 April 2014

The boy is taken away in an ambulance at Kahului airport in Maui, Hawaii,
 after stowing away in the wheel well of a flight from San Jose, California.
Photograph: Chris Sugidono/AP

A teenage runaway has survived a five-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean stowed away in the freezing wheel well of a jet plane.

Officials said it was a "miracle" the 16-year-old boy did not die after he quickly lost consciousness as temperatures dropped to as low as -62C (-80F) in the compartment on the flight from California to Hawaii.

He was discovered on the tarmac at Kahului airport in Maui, Hawaii, with no identification after jumping down from the wheel well and wandering around the airport grounds.

He had run away from his family after an argument, officials said.

Security footage from the San Jose airport, where the flight originated, showed that the boy hopped over a fence to get to Hawaiian Airlines flight 45 on Sunday morning.

FBI special agent Tom Simon said: "It's just an apparent miracle … There was no appearance of any special gear of any sort. He was unconscious for the lion's share of the flight."

Simon said the boy was medically screened and found to be unharmed. "[He] doesn't even remember the flight," Simon said. "It's amazing he survived that."

The boy, who will not be charged, has been referred to child protection services, he added.

Hawaiian Airlines said airline personnel noticed the boy on the ramp after the flight arrived and immediately notified airport security. "Our primary concern now is for the wellbeing of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived," it added.

In August, a 13- or 14-year-old boy in Nigeria survived a 35-minute trip in the wheel well of a domestic flight after stowing away. Authorities credited the flight's short duration with his survival.

Others stowing away in wheel wells have died, including a 16-year-old killed after stowing away on board a flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Boston in 2010 and a man who fell on to a suburban London street from a flight from Angola in 2012.

Related Articles:

Malaysia Airlines jet in emergency landing after tyre bursts

Yahoo – AFP, 20 April 2014

Malaysia Airline flight MH192 is seen on the tamrac after an emergency
landing at the Sepang International Airport, outside Kuala Lumpur on April 21, 2014

A Malaysia Airlines plane with 166 people aboard was forced to make an emergency landing in Kuala Lumpur early Monday in another blow to its safety image after the loss of flight MH370.
Flight MH192, bound for Bangalore, India, turned back to Kuala Lumpur after it was discovered that a tyre had burst on take-off, the airline said.

"As safety is of utmost priority to Malaysia Airlines, the aircraft was required to turn back to KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport)," the airline said in a statement.

The plane landed safely at 1:56 am (1756 GMT), nearly four hours after it took off, the flag carrier said.

"All 159 passengers and 7 crew members on board have disembarked from the aircraft."
The airline said tyre debris discovered on the runway had led to the decision to bring the Boeing 737-800 aircraft back.

"They have landed safely -- thank God," tweeted Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who is overseeing Malaysia's response to MH370.

The airline is still reeling from the loss and presumed crash of flight MH370, which disappeared March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

MH370 inexplicably diverted and is now believed to have crashed into the remote Indian Ocean with 239 people aboard.

Hishammuddin had tweeted that MH192 went into a holding pattern as other reports quoted officials saying it would only be allowed to land once all of its fuel had been burned off.

MH192's passengers would be accommodated in local hotels and the flight was re-timed to take off at 3:30 pm local time on Monday, the airline said.

Malaysia Airlines had previously enjoyed a good safety record, as did the Boeing 777 aircraft used for MH370.

An Australian-led multi-nation search effort is now scouring a remote area of the Indian Ocean for wreckage from flight MH370 in a bid to confirm its fate and hopefully recover the flight data recorders to determine what happened to it.

No surface debris has been found despite a month of searching, but search crews had earlier picked up signals believed to be from the beacons of the plane's data recorders.

A US Navy submersible sonar scanning device is now being deployed to look for wreckage on the seabed at depths of around 4,500 metres (15,000 feet) or more.

Nothing has yet been found and authorities have indicated they may reassess within days how to approach the extremely challenging search -- expected to be the costliest in aviation history with estimates of more than $100 million.

Malaysia's government and the airline have come under harsh criticism from Chinese relatives of MH370 passengers -- two thirds of its 227 passengers were from China -- who have alleged a bungling response and cover-up.

Related Article:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ryanair to appeal against Dutch court over fuel allegations, Friday 18 April 2014

Budget airline Ryanair is appealing a recent Dutch court ruling which rejected claims of defamation by Dutch broadcaster KRO in a three-part series, the Irish Times reports.

Current affairs programme Reporter carried interviews at the end of 2012 with four anonymous Ryanair pilots who said they regularly fly with less fuel than they would like on company orders.

The airline said at the time the programme was factually incorrect and criticised the makers for failing to contact it for a reaction. It then went to court demanding the series be halted and it be given access to unedited film material.

Three airports

The programme led the Dutch government to ask the Irish authorities for an explanation. Ryanair operates flights from three Dutch airports.

Ryanair described the Dutch court decision in favour of the KRO as ‘bizarre’.

This article was amended to reflect an inaccuracy in the Irish Times report.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Google buys drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace

Deutsche Welle, 15 April 2014

Google has purchased the company Titan Aerospace, a manufacturer of solar-powered drones. The Silicon Valley tech giant wants to harness drones to bring Internet access to people living in remote locations.

Google announced on Monday that it had acquired Titan Aerospace, placing it in competition with Facebook to expand global Internet access using drone technology.

Google did not say how much the acquisition cost.

Titan Aerospace, based in the US state of New Mexico, is developing solar-powered drones that can run for five years at an altitude of 19,812 meters (65,000 feet). The drones look like gliders and have a wingspan of 50 meters (164 feet). The technology is expected to be ready for commercial operations by 2015.

"It's still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring Internet access to millions of people and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation," a Google spokesman said in a press release.

Facebook was also reportedly interested in acquiring Titan, but opted instead to buy Ascenta, a British company that specializes in solar-powered drones. The acquisition cost $20 million (14 million euros).

Google is also developing Project Loon, which aims to transmit the Internet to remote locations via large, high-altitude balloons. Titan Aerospace will also work on Project Loon, according to Google.

slk/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)
Related Article:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

First glowing road opened near Oss, Thursday 10 April 2014

The glowing lines on the N329

A 500 metre stretch of highway near Oss has become the first in the country to have its markings made from light-absorbing paint which glows in the dark.

The paint was developed by construction group Heijmans and absorbs light during the day. It then glows for up to eight hours, showing motorists where the edge of the road is and other key markings

The 'glowing lines' project was devised by artist Daan Roosegaarde, who says the paint is a good option now some road lighting is being switched off at night.

'The focus is always on making cars cleverer and more energy neutral, but roads help determine the landscape,' he told the broadcaster.

Heijmans is keen to use the paint on other roads but has not yet negotiated any more contracts, Nos said.

Indonesia Takes Delivery of Presidential Jet

Jakarta Globe, Ezra Sihite,Apr 10, 2014

Indonesia’s first presidential plane. (JG Photo/Ezra Sihite)

Jakarta. Indonesia took delivery of its $91 million presidential plane on Thursday, a Boeing jet the State Palace will use for official business instead of chartering flights from flag carrier Garuda Indonesia.

“This is the first time in Indonesia’s 69 years of independence that we have our own presidential plane,” State Secretary Sudi Silalahi said at the delivery event at Halim Perdanakusuma airport in East Jakarta, as quoted by his officialwebsite,

Sudi said the Boeing Business Jet 2, which has a capacity for 67 passengers, had been customized to meet the requirements of the government.

“After meticulous calculations along with deep consideration and input from many parties — especially the House of Representatives — the ownership and usage of a presidential plane [was determined to have] more benefits,” he said.

The government has been keen to emphasize the cost-saving benefits of the plane, countering those who believed the plane was an unnecessary expenditure.

“From our calculations, we can save the state budget around Rp 114.2 billion [$10.05 million] every year from the use of the plane for the years ahead,” he said.

Sudi said the livery was chosen by the government and dismissed critics of the ministry’s color scheme. 

“Why does it have to be blue? Ask why does the sky have to be blue,” he said. “Blue is part of camouflage in flight security and it’s the color of the Air Force.”

Next generation solar plane unveiled in Switzerland

Yahoo – AFP, Agnes Pedrero, 9 April 2014

People look at the second Solar Impulse experimental solar-powered plane,
 the HB-SIB, to be used for a round-the-world voyage next year, during its
presentation in Payerne on April 9, 2014 (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

Payerne (Switzerland) (AFP) - The masterminds of sun-powered plane Solar Impulse formally unveiled their new aircraft Wednesday, a year ahead of their planned round-the-world flight.

Solar Impulse 2 is the successor of the original plane of the same name, which last year completed a trip across the United States without using a drop of fuel.

"These two airplanes are the most energy efficient airplanes ever designed," pilot Andre Borschberg told a 500-strong audience of officials, sponsors and diplomats at Switzerland's Payerne airbase.

"The first plane was a prototype, a flying laboratory," said the former Swiss Air Force jet pilot.

Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard (L) and
 Andre Borschberg, who flew the Solar
 Impulse experimental solar-powered
 plane on a transcontinental trip, present
 on April 9, 2013 in Payerne their second
 solar-powered plane, the HB-SIB (AFP
 Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)
Solar Impulse 2 is a bigger, better version of its predecessor, he said, reeling off the new aircraft's statistics.

The new plane has a wingspan of 72 metres.

While that is the same as an Airbus A380, at just 2,300 kilos, Solar Impulse 2 is less than 1 percent than the weight of the super jumbo jet.

That is thanks to the fact that the plane is built from carbon layers that weigh less than 25 gramme per square metre -- one third of the weight of a sheet of paper, Borschberg said.

It will be powered by a massive 17,248 solar cells spread across its wings and fuselage.

The goal, Borschberg said, is to be able to fly for at least 120 hours non-stop around the globe.

After test flights in Switzerland starting from next month, the plan is to take off sometime after March 1, 2015 from a location in the Gulf, ideal for its weather conditions, and head eastwards.

"We will need at least five days and five nights to fly from China to the US and from the US back to Europe," said Borschberg.

While that cannot compete with traditional air travel, the point of the project is to push the boundaries of green-flavoured research, said fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard, the latest member of a dynasty of Swiss scientists-cum-adventurers.


"If you say you want to fly around the world in a solar airplane, everyone thinks you're crazy," said Piccard, who in 1999 was the first person to fly around the world non-stop in a hot-air balloon.

"But technology doesn't come out of the blue," he added, noting that spin-offs from such projects are crucial for sectors from energy to auto manufacturing, and bio-science to chemicals.

The new solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse (AFP Photo)

Borschberg said that the plane's designers had wrestled with issues such as the fact that more reliable technology tends to be heavier, but that weight means less performance.

Other issues to resolve have been how to ensure pilot safety at an altitude of 8,000 metres on a flight that will cross oceans.

"We didn't want to spend time taking swimming lessons, so we really want to make sure we have no trouble in the air," Borschberg said, laughing.

Borschberg and Piccard founded the Solar Impulse project themselves over a decade ago, after previously having struggled to get traditional aircraft manufacturers to take them seriously.

"Each time I look at this airplane, I have a memory of my childhood coming back and I am sure you have the same memory: it's the Walt Disney animation cartoon Dumbo," a tongue in cheek Piccard told the crowd.

"When Solar Impulse was born 12 years ago and we could show the enormous wings and the light weight of its structure on a computer design, all the specialists in world aviation started to laugh like stupid people can laugh at Dumbo. Today this airplane exists."

The first Solar Impulse took to the air in 2009.

The following year it notched up a 26-hour flight that proved it was able to stock up enough electricity during the day in order to keep flying at night.

Before its trans-American flight last year, the plane had already flown through Europe and crossed the Mediterranean to reach Morocco.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Toyota Recalls More Than 6 Million Autos, Among Biggest Ever

Jakarta Globe – Bloomberg, Apr 09, 2014

A visitor looks at a Toyota Motor’s car at the company show room
in Tokyo on May 8, 2013. (Reuters Photo/Yuya Shino)

Toyota Motor, the world’s largest carmaker, called back more than 6 million vehicles to fix a range of safety defects in one of the biggest recalls in automotive history.

The company found five types of safety hazards in vehicles including some of its top sellers such as the Camry sedan, RAV4 sport utility vehicle and Corolla cars, according to a statement today.

The carmaker isn’t aware of any injuries or fatalities linked to the defects, it said.

The recall, Toyota’s second-biggest since late 2012, is a setback for President Akio Toyoda, who has spent years trying to restore the company’s reputation for quality after calling back millions of vehicles in 2009-2010 because of unintended acceleration.

Scrutiny of safety practices in the auto industry is rising as US regulators investigate General Motors for its handling of deadly ignition-switch flaws that the company knew of as far back as 2001.

“Something is wrong,” Koji Endo, an analyst at Advanced Research Japan in Tokyo, said by telephone. “They may even need to review their production process. Even if the problem is with the suppliers, Toyota should be responsible for it.”

Though details weren’t available for precise calculations, Endo estimated that the recall could cost Toyota about 60 billion yen ($588 million) to 70 billion yen, or 10,000 yen per vehicle.

Toyota fell 3.1 percent to close at 5,450 yen in Tokyo after the announcement, dragging down the benchmark Topix index, which declined 2.1 percent.

Biggest recalls

The recalls involve 6.39 million vehicles, some of which are being called back for more than one issue, pushing the total tally to 6.76 million, the company said.

The Toyota City, Japan-based carmaker recalled 7.43 million vehicles in October 2012 to fix power-window switches on models including its Camry and Corolla cars.

Toyota last month admitted to wrongdoing and agreed to reviews by an independent monitor who is assessing its safety reporting practices as part of a $1.2 billion settlement, the largest criminal penalty ever imposed in the US on an automaker.

Toyoda, 57, has pledged to improve the company’s recall process after calling back more than 10 million vehicles for problems that led to sudden acceleration.

Lawmakers last week drew parallels to Toyota’s unintended-acceleration recalls as they pressed CEO Mary Barra on GM’s handling of flawed ignition switches that the company has linked to at least 13 deaths.

The largest US automaker is being fined $7,000 a day for failing to fully answer questions about the flawed part in cars including the Chevrolet Cobalt.

Spiral cables

In today’s recall, about 3.5 million of the vehicles — more than half in North America — are being called back to replace spiral cables that may prevent driver’s-side airbags from deploying.

Models involved include RAV4, Corolla, Yaris, Highlander, Tacoma and Camry that were produced from April 2004 to December 2010. Another 2.3 million vehicles are being called back to inspect and replace the front seat rails of three-door models.

Springs that lock these rails may break if the seats are frequently adjusted back and forth, the company said.

The models involved with this issue, which could lead to seats that move in the event of a crash, were built from January 2005 through August 2010.

The vehicles are the Ist, Vitz, Belta and Ractis in Japan, and Scion xD, Urban Cruiser and Yaris in other markets.

Unstable brackets

Toyota also will fix noisy and potentially unstable steering column brackets on about 760,000 vehicles globally.

The remaining safety campaigns are to replace windshield wiper motors of about 160,000 Ractis vehicles in Japan and the engine starters of about 20,000 vehicles in Japan and Hong Kong.

“This is Toyota being more active in calling back vehicles to ensure quality,” said Takaki Nakanishi, a Tokyo-based analyst for Jefferies Group LLC, who has a hold rating on the company’s shares. “The number is big, but the faults are minor and not critical.”

Among other big recalls in automotive history, Ford Motor called back more than 14 million vehicles in 2009 for a faulty cruise-control switch that could cause a fire, according to the US Transportation Department’s website.

In 1996, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker recalled 7.9 million vehicles for defective ignition switches that could short circuit and cause fire.

GM called back 6.7 million vehicles in 1971 to fix mounts that may cause the engine to lift and loss of vehicle control.

Factory freeze

Toyoda, the grandson of the company’s founder, has instituted a three-year freeze on new car plants to tilt the company’s priorities to quality and efficiency after the 2009-2010 recalls.

Following its crisis, Toyota said it improved procedures that had been too dependent on decision-making in Japan and didn’t give regional operations the autonomy to make fixes.

The carmaker also formed a global quality group that Toyoda has chaired.

This is the second major global recall for Toyota this year.

A recall of 1.9 million Prius hybrids in February covered more than half of the models sold since its debut 17 years ago.

The company has updated software in Priuses to fix glitches that could cause them to lose power or shut down and stop.

Toyota apology

“We sincerely apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and concern brought by this recall announcement,” the company said today in an e-mailed statement. “Toyota has rededicated itself to strengthening its commitment to safety and quality. In part, that means refocusing on putting customers and people first, by listening better and taking appropriate action.”

Recalls haven’t slowed down Toyota’s earnings. The company has forecast profit for the year ending March 31 will surge to a record 1.9 trillion yen. Toyota also has set a target of selling an unprecedented 10.32 million vehicles in 2014 after leading GM and Volkswagen AG in global auto deliveries for a second straight year in 2013.

With assistance from Ma Jie in Tokyo


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Beijing steps up promotion of new-energy cars

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-04-08

A new energy car on charge during a promotional event in Kunming,
Yunnan province, April 3. (Photo/CNS)

Chinese vice premier Ma Kai recently visited Shenzhen to promote new-energy cars and hosted a work conference for the industry, signaling the central government's determination to promote new-energy vehicles, reports the Guangzhou-based Southern Daily.

Ma said many problems remained in the development of the sector, including a lag in the construction of charging facilities, insufficient support from government policies, an incomplete profitability model, local protective barriers, as well as a relatively low price-performance ratio.

The conference in Shenzhen was attended by several government agencies, including the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Finance and the National Energy Administration, as well as high-ranking officials from 19 provincial cities, the paper said.

Ma previously visited Shenzhen as well as Hefei and Wuhu in eastern China's Anhui province in January, to inspect the development of the new energy automotive industry. During the trip, he paid visits to 10 local electric car makers, including BYD, JAC Motors and Chery Automobile.

"I learned a lot during my visit to Shenzhen and Hefei in January," Ma said, adding that Beijing is determined to stimulate the new energy automotive industry.

Meanwhile, local protective barriers, which have been major obstacles to the sector's development, have been resolved gradually through Chinese high-ranking officials' promotion of new-energy cars, the paper said.

Firts-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have recently partly allowed the entry of non-local brands for formulating new measures related to new-energy cars, which has significantly expanded market demand.

According to public figures, 1,738 new-energy cars were sold in February this year, up by 1,682 from a month ago. Shenzhen-based BYD said its Qin, a plug-in hybrid compact sedan, reported sales of 834 units in February and the company also sold 238 of its e6 during the same period. Since the company's new-energy cars went on the market in December last year, BYD has sold over 6,000 vehicles. However, the company's most popular cars are still not permitted to be sold in Beijing.