| Fuel-Cell Revolution: Can Toyota Save the Electric Car?

Fuel-Cell Revolution: Can Toyota Save the Electric Car? ~ Christian Wüst, SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Photo Gallery: Toyota's Fuel-Cell CarPhotos

Toyota has developed a new long-range electric vehicle powered entirely by a cutting-edge fuel cell. The project represents a dramatic departure from the goal of developing a mass-produced, effective, battery-driven electric car. But what does it mean for our future?

Soon there will be an electric car on the market that, believe it or not, works like a normal car. It will have a range of 600 kilometers (375 miles). Recharging it will take minutes, not hours. In fact, it won’t even require an electrical outlet, because its fuel is hydrogen and it makes its own electricity. And, just as surprising, this car isn’t the product of some bold startup company trying to secure venture capital — but of the world’s largest automaker.

At this year’s Tokyo Motor Show in late November, Toyota will unveil a sedan that — despite the company’s traditionally mediocre design and the car’s moderate total output of about 100 kilowatts — is likely to attract attention. It will be the world’s first series-produced fuel-cell car to be sold on the market. Toyota has announced that it will be available for purchase starting in 2015.The car is powered by a fuel cell — a sort of power plant on wheels which combines hydrogen and oxygen in a controlled manner, producing electricity in the process. Although fuel cells have been around for a long time, they lost their allure when battery technology advanced, making fuel cells, in comparison, too expensive, too complicated and too inefficient. The battery seemed to have won the race.

This makes Toyota’s project both revolutionary and sobering because it marks a turn away from the purely battery-driven electric car, which is being developed by almost every other automaker in the world. And ironically, this categorical renunciation is coming from the great master of alternative engine technology.

Toyota’s First Revolution

Toyota, based in Toyota City near Nagoya, delivered the key to electrifying engines when it unveiled the first successful hybrid automobile 16 years ago. Since then, the company has sold almost six million of these vehicles, in which an electric motor supports the gasoline engine and braking energy is fed into the battery, resulting in high fuel efficiency.

It was the first time in the history of automobile manufacturing that a Japanese producer had assumed technological leadership and outpaced the rest of the industry by an entire decade. Toyota’s fleet of hybrid vehicles already outperforms the European Union’s 2020 emissions target, which would limit CO2 emissions to an average of 95 grams per kilometer, a target German automakers have tried to make less stringent via lobbying efforts and substantial campaign contributions to the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Now Toyota’s competitors are about to be humiliated a second time. Many viewed hybrid cars as a bridge technology to battery-based electric vehicles. But now that they have started selling electric cars, they are confronted with an unresolved problem: The cars cost too much and are inefficient. Their ranges are too small and it takes hours to recharge their batteries. Electric cars have not managed to become the standard anywhere in the world. Engineers and politicians alike are realizing that batteries will not enable our mobile society to reduce its dependency on the exploitation of fossil fuel reserves.

Battery Cars: ‘Loss Makers’

Koei Saga of Toyota is a short, sturdy man who speaks very openly, but preferably not in English. The 62-year-old is part of the generation of Japanese business executives who prefer using an interpreter. Saga spent about 10 years working on hybrid drives before becoming the carmaker’s chief developer last year.

Saga is standing in a reception room at Toyota’s administration building in Nagoya, speaking loudly and confidently. Battery development has brought Toyota to the “half-point to our target,” he says, but he doubts this goal will ever be attainable. Electric cars based on today’s battery technology, says Saga, are “loss makers.”

Tesla, a California startup miracle that produces electric sports and luxury cars and was briefly profitable, could serve as a counter-argument to Saga’s statement. “Tesla is a rare case,” says Saga. “They are targeting rich people, and you have many rich people in California.” The battery car could exist as a niche toy for eco-snobs, says Saga, but it isn’t suitable for the masses.

Toyota does use Tesla as the supplier of a battery engine for an electric version of its RAV4 SUV, but not out of conviction — it does so to satisfy a California quota rule requiring a certain percentage of cars to be electric. Tesla was a suitable partner for the venture, says Saga. “We don’t have resources for everything,” he notes.

Toyota is directing its energies elsewhere. Company officials note that about 500 Toyota engineers are working on fuel-cell technology, which, even for a major corporation, is a considerable number. This suggests the technology is Toyota’s top R&D priority.

The Catch: Green Energy

The key figures in the company’s earlier advance into hybrid technology are the ones who are now pressing ahead with the project. In addition to chief developer Saga, they include nuclear physicist Katsuhiko Hirosethe descendant of a family of Samurai warriors.

Hirose, an eccentric intellectual, is sitting in a hotel lobby in Nagoya, wearing a wrinkled sports coat and a shirt open at the collar. He explains nuclear fusion with sugar cubes and the world’s energy problem with charts on a scratched laptop, which he always has with him. He praises the Energiewende, Germany’s shift away from nuclear energy and toward renewable energy, and wants to see Japan move in a similar direction. The island of Hokkaido has “enormous potential for wind energy,” says Hirose.

One thing is clear to the decision-makers at Toyota: The environmental benefit of the fuel cell car hinges on an oversupply of green energy.

As tempting as the short refueling times and large ranges of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle are, this energy footprint is also a substantial deterrent. To be climate-neutral, hydrogen has to be split from water using green electricity. Then it has to be transported, condensed to the enormously high pressure value of 700 bar, converted back into electricity by the fuel cell in the automobile, and then converted into motion.

About 70 percent of the energy is lost along the way. In an electric car, which is charged slowly, thereby saving electricity, more than 70 percent of the energy is utilized. But from Toyota’s perspective, this enormous benefit is worthless if the result is not a fully-operational car capable of traveling longer distances.

A Global Energiewende?

The efficiency drawback of the fuel cell car, physicist Hirose explains, would be offset in the long term if other economies emulated the GermanEnergiewende and one day had a surplus of green energy — and therefore hydrogen.

But when would this scenario become a reality? After the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s energy economy has been inundated with problems. The island nation currently generates most of its electricity with natural gas, coal and oil. In Germany, with its Energiewende, wind turbines have marred large swathes of the countryside. And yet wind energy satisfies only 8 percent of demand, and doesn’t even provide a reliable base supply because it depends on the vagaries of the wind. Energy storage technologies are urgently needed so that green energy can be reliably stored in the grid, in anticipation of times when the wind isn’t blowing.

According to a report by the German Federal Environmental Agency, “a realistic expansion of renewable energy to the greatest extent possible will not result, by 2030, in a significant potential for surplus electricity” from solar, wind or biomass sources that could be used for hydrogen production. “This cannot be expected to be achieved on a large scale until at least 2050.” A rejection of the environmental vision of the hydrogen car couldn’t be put more clearly.

Forcing Change

This helps explain why there is so little interest in developing an infrastructure for this type of fuel. German has only 15 hydrogen fueling stations. And the recent announcement — by an industry association affiliated with gas supplier Linde — that this number will be increased to 400 stations by 2023 seems neither realistic nor environmentally desirable.

Toyota is aware of this. “We cannot solve these problems,” says chief developer Saga. But, he adds, the carmaker must perform a pioneering role. According to Saga, it is Toyota’s duty to offer a product that will make large-scale hydrogen production from solar electricity make sense in the first place. “Otherwise the change will never come.”

There is a valuable idea in what he’s saying, and it explains why the gasoline engine prevailed despite the fact that, at the time of its invention, hardly any oil had been discovered. It also explains why the electric car has been a failure. It is failing because it is an immature product, not because of a shortage of electrical outlets.

Competitors Get Into the Game

No one can predict whether the fuel cell car will ultimately be the key to our automotive future. But the competition is certainly impressed by Toyota’s dedication. “I have great respect for Toyota, because they think on a long-term basis and they don’t engage in technology hopping,” says Herbert Kohler, head of R&D at Daimler.

The Stuttgart-based company was the first automaker to show its support for hydrogen-powered cars. Back in 1994, Daimler researchers unveiled a small truck powered by fuel cells. At the time, the fuel cells and secondary batteries took up much of the truck bed.

Daimler has since invested more than €1 billion ($1.37 billion) in fuel cell drives, has entered into an R&D alliance with Ford and Nissan to bring down costs and is preparing for possible series production of the technology. As with Toyota, Daimler’s drive modules have since been reduced to such a compact size they can be housed in a standard car without impeding on the passenger or trunk space. The three companies envision a market introduction in 2017.

Also in the running are a manufacturers’ alliance consisting of General Motors, Honda and South Korean automaker Hyundai. After paying little serious attention to the issue for a long time, German automotive giant Volkswagen formed an alliance with Canadian fuel cell producer Ballard this year, so as not to be caught unawares in case the technology takes off.

The big question of whether Toyota will once again outpace the competition will depend mainly on the price at which it can sell a hydrogen-powered car. Costs were the main reason behind the slow development of the fuel cell drive. The first units still contained about a pound of platinum. Now, says Daimler executive Kohler, the amount of the precious metal being used has declined to about the level of the first catalytic exhaust converters, and it will continue to decline even further. The question is: how far? Can this car end up being cheaper than a battery-powered electric car?

What Will It Cost?

Satoshi Ogiso is standing in front of a party tent on an asphalted open-air site in Tokyo. He is smiling. Ogiso, 52, is one of the hybrid developers in Saga’s team and his potential successor. Japanese and American test drivers are driving prototypes of the fuel-cell car. The engines are on display inside the tent. They are small, relatively light and easy to install. No one doubts anymore that this technology works. Everyone wants to know how much the car will cost.


Ogiso cites two numbers. The price of the first series-produced fuel-cell car will range between five and 10 million yen, he says. That’s about €37,000 to €74,000. The higher number would be astonishingly cheap, while €37,000 would be a sensation — a car with a completely new drive technology for the price of a well-equipped, conventional mid-range car.Daimler’s Kohler prefers not to comment on these numbers, but he doesn’t hide the fact that he’s impressed. “It’s certainly not a marketing gag,” he says.

That much is clear.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan



| Times top 100 world universities 2013/14 – THE rankings!

Top 100 world universities 2013/14 – THE rankings ~ Times Higher Education.

The Times Higher Education (THE) world university rankings have been published, with the California Institute of Technology maintaining its position in first.

The Times Higher Education (THE) world university rankings, published today, saw the California Institute of Technology maintain its position as the top-ranked university.

MIT, which ranks first in the QS world rankings, once again came in fifth in the THE rankings.

British universities make up three out of the top 10, seven of the top 50 and eleven in the top 100, which are listed below. The University of Oxford maintains its position in joint second place.

Speaking about the rankings, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: “These rankings testify to London’s strength in higher education and to our lengthening lead over European rivals.”

The rankings are shown here in full:

1. California Institute of Technology US

=2. Harvard University US

=2. University of Oxford UK

4. Stanford University US

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) US

6. Princeton University US

7. University of Cambridge UK

8. University of California, Berkeley US

9. University of Chicago US

10. Imperial College London UK

11. Yale University US

12. University of California, Los Angeles US

13. Columbia University US

14. ETH Zürich ­- Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich Switzerland

15. Johns Hopkins University US

16. University of Pennsylvania US

17. Duke University US

18. University of Michigan US

19. Cornell University US

20. University of Toronto Canada

21. University College London UK

22. Northwestern University US

23. University of Tokyo Japan

24. Carnegie Mellon University US

25. University of Washington US

26. National University of Singapore Singapore

27. University of Texas at Austin US

28. Georgia Institute of Technology US

29. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign US

30. University of Wisconsin-Madison US

31. University of British Columbia Canada

32. London School of Economics and Political Science UK

33. University of California, Santa Barbara US

34. University of Melbourne Australia

35. McGill University Canada

36. Karolinska Institute Sweden

37. École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Switzerland

38. King’s College London UK

39. University of Edinburgh UK

=40. New York University US

=40. University of California, San Diego US

42. Washington University in St Louis US

43. University of Hong Kong Hong Kong

44. Seoul National University South Korea

45. Peking University China

46. University of Minnesota US

47. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill US

48. Australian National University Australia

49. Pennsylvania State University US

=50. Boston University US

=50. Tsinghua University China

=52. Brown University US

=52. University of California, Davis US

=52. Kyoto University Japan

55. University of Munich Germany

56. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology South Korea

57. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong

58. University of Manchester UK

59. Ohio State University US

60. Pohang University of Science and Technology South Korea

61. KU Leuven Belgium

62. Purdue University US

=63. University of Gottingen Germany

=63. University of Queensland Australia

=65. École Normale Supérieure, Paris France

=65. Rice University US

67. Leiden University Netherlands

68. University of Heidelberg Germany

69. Delft University of Technology Netherlands

=70. École Polytechnique France

=70. University of Southern California US

72. University of Sydney Australia

73. Erasmus University Rotterdam Netherlands

=74. University of Basel Switzerland

=74. Utrecht University Netherlands

76. Nanyang Technological University Singapore

77. Wageningen University and Research Center Netherlands

78. University of Pittsburgh US

79. University of Bristol UK

=80. Durham University UK

=80. Emory University US

=80. Tufts University US

=83. University of Amsterdam Netherlands

=83. Michigan State University US

85. Ghent University Belgium

86. Free University of Berlin Germany

87. Technical University of Munich Germany

=88. Case Western Reserve University US

=88. Vanderbilt University US

90. University of Notre Dame US

91. Monash University Australia

92. McMaster University Canada

93. University of California, Irvine US

94. Humboldt University of Berlin Germany

95. University of Rochester US

96. Pierre and Marie Curie University France

97. University of Colorado Boulder US

=98. University of Groningen Netherlands

=98. Maastricht University Netherlands

=100. University of Helsinki Finland

=100. University of York UK

The ‘THE World University Rankings 2013-14’ are © Times Higher Education

California University of Technology (Caltech)

California Institute of Technology maintains its position as the top-ranked university in the world according to the THE rankings. Photo: Alamy



| California man behind anti-Islam film to be freed from federal custody!

California man behind anti-Islam film to be freed from federal custody ~ Steve GormanLOS ANGELES, Reuters.

(Reuters) – The man behind a film that stoked anti-U.S. protests across the Muslim world was due for release from federal custody in California on Thursday after serving time for probation violations stemming from his role in making the video.

The 56-year-old Egyptian-born Coptic Christian, Mark Basseley Youssef, gained public notice for the crudely made 13-minute anti-Islam video he produced in Southern California that portrayed the Prophet Mohammad as a fool and sexual deviant.

The film, circulated online under several titles including “The Innocence of Muslims,” touched off a torrent of anti-American demonstrations in Arab and Muslim countries, where many consider any depiction of the Prophet as blasphemous.

The start of the unrest on September 11, 2012, coincided with an attack on U.S. diplomatic posts in the Libyan city of Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. Links between the Benghazi assault and Youssef’s film have since been debunked.

Youssef, a former gasoline station owner who previously served time for a 2010 bank fraud conviction, was sent back to prison last year after admitting that he breached the terms of his probation in connection with the making of the film.

Federal prosecutors insisted his arrest last September had nothing to do with the film’s content but with conduct that violated the terms of his probation, such as his use of aliases and the Internet, in the course of making the video.

Youssef, identified in some public records by his birth name, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, received a 12-month term in November, but earned credit for the six weeks he already had spent in jail since his arrest, Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said.

After a two-month stint at the federal detention center in Los Angeles, Youssef served the bulk of his sentence, about four months, in a federal prison in La Tuna, Texas. He was transferred to an undisclosed Los Angeles-area halfway house in late May to complete his term, Burke said.

He was due to be freed from federal custody altogether on Thursday, but will remain under the supervision of probation officials for the next four years, Burke said.

American cast members said after the video came to light that they had been duped into appearing in a film they believed was supposed to be an adventure drama called “Desert Warrior.”

At least one actress sued Youssef for fraud and brought a copyright claim against YouTube, seeking a court order to force removal of the clip from the online video site, but a judge refused her request.

Youssef said in a New York Times interview last November that he made the film to reveal what he called “the actual truth” about the Prophet Mohammad and to raise awareness of violence committed “under the sign of Allah.”

But in a CNN interview last month, Youssef said he “never thought my movie can cause anyone trouble or anyone can get killed from my movie.”

(Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney)

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (L) is escorted out of his home by Los Angeles County Sheriff's officers in Cerritos, California September 15, 2012. REUTERS/Bret Hartman

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (L) is escorted out of his home by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officers in Cerritos, California September 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Bret Hartman _________________________________________________________________________

freedom of expressionA

free speechA

| Inside the never ending simulated Middle East War at the US National Training Centre!

Inside The Neverending Simulated Middle Eastern War At The U.S. National Training Center ~ , disinformation. 

simulated war

Venue visits the surreal Fort Irwin, arguably the Pentagon’s Universal Studios, where U.S. soldiers spend three weeks role-playing urban warfare in a mock city, complete with gruesome special effects, food markets filled with burqa-clad women, and gamer-style cards which instruct soldiers as to what injuries they must pretend to have:

Fort Irwin is a U.S. army base nearly the size of Rhode Island, located in the Mojave Desert about an hour’s drive northeast of Barstow, California. There you will find the National Training Center, at which all U.S. troops, from all the services, spend a twenty-one day rotation before they deploy overseas.


Sprawling and infernally hot in the summer months, the base offers free public tours twice a month of the simulated battlefields in which imaginary conflicts loop, day after day, without end. Picture paid actors shooting entire magazines full of blank rounds out of machine guns behind simulated Middle Eastern buildings in the Mojave desert.


Trucks began rolling down the streets, dodging a live goat and letting off round after round as insurgents fired RPGs (mounted on invisible fishing line above our heads) from upstairs windows; blood-covered casualties were loaded into an ambulance; and, in the episode’s climax, a suicide bomber blew himself up directly beneath us, showering our tour group with ashes.


Action is coordinated from above by a ring of walkie-talkie connected scenographers, including an extensive internal media presence, who film all of the simulations for later replay in combat analysis. The sense of being on an elaborate, extremely detailed film set is here made explicit.

During the Cold War, combat moved away from urban settings, and Fort Irwin’s desert sandbox became the stage for massive set-piece tank battles against the “Soviet” Blackhorse Cavalry. But, in 1993, following the embarrassment of the Black Hawk Down incident in Mogadishu, Fort Irwin hosted its first urban warfare exercise.


The vision is to expand the range of urban conditions into a “Decisive Action Training Environment,” in which U.S. military will continue to encounter “the world’s worst actors” [sic]—”guerrillas, criminals, and insurgents”—amidst the furniture of city life.


One soldier off-handedly remarked that he’d heard the village might be redesigned soon as a Spanish-speaking environment—before hastily and somewhat nervously adding that he didn’t know for sure, and, anyway, it probably wasn’t true.





| Her gig cancelled after tirade, Michelle Shocked plays outside in protest!

Her Gig Canceled After Tirade, Michelle Shocked Plays Outside in Protest ~ LARRY ROHTER, New York Times.

Michelle Shocked outside Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz, Calif.
Thomas Vincent Mendoza/Associated Press. Michelle Shocked outside Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz, Calif.

After the punk-folk singer-songwriter Michelle Shocked made remarks critical of homosexuality and same-sex marriage while performing in San Francisco two weekends ago, clubs around the country responded bycanceling bookings they had made with her. But that hasn’t stopped her: Thursday night she turned up outside one such club with her face covered and her mouth taped shut to protest the way she is being treated.

The site of the sit-in staged by Ms. Shocked, who in the past has acknowledged being involved in lesbian relationships but now describes herself as a born-again Christian, was Moe’s Alley, in the university town and hippie haven of Santa Cruz, Calif., south of San Francisco. Seated outside the club with a mask across her mouth that read “Silenced by Fear,” she did not comment about the backlash against her onstage outburst, but instead pointed to a series of posters that had been placed above her head.

Her scheduled performance was canceled after she made anti-gay remarks at a show in San Francisco.
Thomas Vincent Mendoza/Associated PressHer scheduled performance was canceled after she made anti-gay remarks at a show in San Francisco.

“Does speech really scare you that much?” one inquired. Another asked “Is it possible Michelle Shocked was a target of fear-mongering in the name of a protection racket?” The most prominent reflected directly on the recent controversy: “What would you say to Michelle Shocked if you had waited to hear her side of the story vs. what was reported? Were you there?”

Dressed in a disposable safety suit, on the back of which was written “Gimme Wit Not Spit,” Ms. Shocked, 51, sat on the ground outside the club and strummed an acoustic guitar. Rather than engage spectators in conversation, she pointed to another sign, which invited people to use a marker and write their comments on her all-white outfit.

Earlier in the day, Ms. Shocked, who was raised in a religiously conservative household and is reported to have spent some time as a teenager in a psychiatric hospital, issued a Twitter message advising followers of what she planned to do. “It’s an art project,” she wrote. “’My Summer Vacation.’ I want your autograph. Bring Sharpie.”

At one point, the owner of Moe’s Alley, Bill Welch, came out to talk to Ms. Shocked. But he later told The Associated Press that he neither planned to rehire her nor take further steps against her. “We will not be bashing Michelle Shocked,” he said. “Rather we will celebrate music, diversity and send some healing Santa Cruz energy her way.”


free bird2


| Justice Raped: Petition CA Attorney General to release Daniel Larsen, ruled Innocent in 2010!

Petitioning Attorney General


Release Daniel Larsen, Ruled Innocent ~ christina combsVan Nuys, CA.

In 2010, after spending more than 10 years in prison, a federal court found my fiance Daniel Larsen innocent. His 1999 conviction for possession of a concealed weapon was overturned and he was ordered released. 

But Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed this ruling and today Daniel is still in prison – stuck in legal limbo – two years after being declared innocent.

In 1999, Daniel was convicted of possession of a concealed weapon (a knife) and sentenced to 28-years-to-life under California‘s Three Strikes Law. Two police officers claimed they had saw him throw a knife under a car in a bar parking lot, something he didn’t do.  There were nine witnesses to prove his innocence – including a Chief of Police from North Carolina, who happened to be within five feet of Daniel at the time the officers claimed to have seen him toss the knife.

But because of ineffective legal representation, these witnesses would not be part of his defense.

In July 2008, the California Innocence Project filed a habeas petition in the Federal District Court for the Central District of California. One year later, the court held an evidentiary hearing in which three witnesses testified as to Daniel’s innocence. Among the witnesses were the Chief of Police and his wife. After a hearing on the matter, the federal court found not only that Daniel was innocent but also that his trial attorney’s representation was constitutionally deficient in failing to call these witnesses at the time of his trial.

On June 14, 2010, the District Court judge reversed his conviction and ordered him released. But he remains in prison pending the Attorney General’s appeal.

Daniel and I  have plans to make a life together – he’s already spent 13 years in prison for a crime he was found innocent of. Please join me in asking Attorney General Kamala Harris to drop her office’s appeal to Daniel Larsen’s release.

Petition Letter

Attorney General Kamala Harris,

Please drop your office’s appeal to the release of Daniel Larsen, whom a federal court found innocent.

On June 14, 2010, a District Court judge reversed Daniel Larsen’s conviction and ordered him released. Yet, Larsen remains incarcerated pending your appeal.

Larsen has already served 13 years in prison. Using your offices resources to keep him in prison after a judge found him innocent and ordered him released is unjust. 

Please drop your appeal to the release of Daniel Larsen. 

Thank you for your time. 



[Your name]

Release Daniel Larsen, Ruled Innocent