Monday Morning: So Good to Me

Yeah, Mondays start off well as we emerge from the safe warm cocoon of our beds to begin our day. But Monday evenings are a different kettle of fish.

Like this Monday — we’ve enjoyed a weekend’s cozy glow from soft power exercised through diplomacy now that the IAEA kicked off the new Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). By mid-morning the flying monkey hoard of dissent will saturate media, making a cesspool out of the evening news.

Can hardly wait. Meanwhile…

Un grupo de 66 accionistas de Volkswagen
I admit my command of Spanish is weak, but even at first glance this article didn’t look good for VW. A group of shareholders—again? Let’s translate:

A group of 66 shareholders of Volkswagen (VW) take legal action against the German automaker after the company distorted evidence of greenhouse gas emissions. The complaint will be presented this week, according to the British newspaper Financial Times.

El Pais reports this is the second class-action lawsuit against VW in relation to the emissions controls defeat technology; plaintiffs for this suit are believed to be investment banks. However there were dozens of class action suits in the U.S. as of last fall, including dealerships stuck with rapidly depreciating but unsalable inventory.

A second article in El Pais also noted VW’s Mueller announced additional investment in its Tennessee-based plant after apologizing to the U.S. for the emissions control ‘trick’ (this last word was ‘trucaje‘ in Spanish). VW has now lost marketshare in the EU for the first time in eight years.

USDOT, NHTSA, Automakers agree on Proactive Safety Principles — including improved cybersecurity
Seems rather feel-good in a non-binding sort of way, but USDOT and NHTSA managed to convince automakers to agree to collaborate on vehicle safety and cybersecurity. The agreement announced last week at Detroit’s auto show coordinates with the Obama administration’s proposed $4 billion budget earmark for automated vehicle research and development.

I still can’t see the benefit in individual autonomous cars over public mass transit. My gut says this White House-driven effort at coordination is really aimed at cybersecurity — and surveillance. And no mention of the Three Laws of Robotics, either.

Formic acid fuel cell to power Dutch students’ car
Now this is a great bit of automotive and alternative energy news. Students at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands are working on automotive fuel cells powered by formic acid instead of hydrogen. Much of the fuel cell technology to date relies on hydrogen, but the problem has been hydrogen generation and storage. This challenge has stymied fuel cell-powered cars for nearly two decades. Formic acid could be handled like gasoline; it is fairly easy to produce from wood pulp and other fibrous plant mass, or by catalysis, and is low in toxicity, though care must still be used in its handling.

Given the potential application beyond vehicles, I’d rather see investment in this line of automotive research.

U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission looking into China’s military robots
Since the 1990s there have been a number of organized cyber attacks originating in China which seek out military and industrial content. China’s recently-developed military robots look an awful lot like those developed by QinetiQ. USCESRC is hiring researchers to assess China’s current robotics capabilities, and how much of this capability arose from U.S. sources.

The article in NextGov about USCESRC’s effort characterizes QinetiQ as a “Pentagon contractor.” Funny, that.

Enjoy your peaceful Monday morning while it lasts.

14 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    Contrary to what El Pais said, the VW investment in Tennessee is not “additional.” VW had announced it earlier. What is newsworthy is that some auto industry folks have speculated that VW might pull back on this program as it tried to dig itself out of the diesel exhaust mess. Mueller gave a speech to the Tennessee VW workers and turned this notion on its head. From the Chattanoogan:

    “The midsize SUV will be crucial for Volkswagen’s future in America,” Mr. Mueller said to the Chattanooga plant workers. “It’s going to be a great car that embodies everything you can expect of a Volkswagen. Today, I ask you to do all you can to make this a big success and please help demonstrate that this team—that Volkswagen—deserves the trust of our customers, partners and the American public,” he said.
    Volkswagen Chattanooga CEO Christian Koch congratulated the workforce on the successful launch of the updated Passat and said that it was important to apply the lessons learned from the Passat ramp-up to the BSUV, because it will be a bigger challenge as the second line is integrated with the first.
    Mr. Mueller concluded by assuring the workers that, “we are proud of you all and our factory. Volkswagen firmly stands by the planned $900 million investment in the new midsize SUV, a car that will create another 2,000 jobs.”

    Mueller is cleverly positioning the VW workers as not just technicians building a vehicle, but also as VWs best PR people in the US. He’s saying to them “Our recovery in the US depends on them trusting *you,* not on them trusting us Germans.”

  2. lefty665 says:

    A thought for Dr. King on his day. May we continue to work to make his dreams reality.
    Can you believe that most of the chatter has been about prisoner exchange and not the actualization of the nuclear deal and dropping of sanctions on Iran? Suppose they just happened in conjunction during a weekend news vacuum? Or was it a conscious, “Here, watch this hand” to distract attention. Either way we sure got a boatload of plain old American bozos baying at the moon as usual.
    Thanks for a good start to another week.

    • bmaz says:

      That is because warmongers and “Conservatives”, a fairly overlapping group, are fighting their hardest to ignore the true value of the moment. The engagement with not just Iran, but also Cuba, may truly be the legacy of Obama. And if so, that is pretty valuable.

      • Rayne says:

        bmaz — Wouldn’t want any interesting parallels drawn between Great White Conservative Hero Saint Ronald Reagan and the 1980 hostage crisis negotiations with Iran, and an uppity mixed-race occupant in the White House missing adequate American Conservative birth credentials*.

        I’m especially fond of the conservative Free Speech proponents cheering on release of journalists, who also think African American college students should STFU about racism.

        (* that’s snark, readers.)

        • lefty665 says:

          Saw a comment recently to the effect that nobody a hypothetical president Cruz would nominate to the SC would find that he was eligible to serve. Almost enough to make “strict construction”ism sound attractive, but not quite. I’m sure there’s no truth to the rumors that many conservatives think Hawai’i is a furrin country but Canada is not.
          Looks like Sanders is the real deal on Change that the aforementioned “uppity mixed-race occupant in the White House” promised and failed to deliver. (Don’t have to dig too deep to find we’re all ‘mongrels’ as the KKK used to rant. Goes back a long ways, we can thank the neanderthals for our our immune genes).

      • wayoutwest says:

        I thought that the Drone Wars and Full Spectrum Dominance at home and abroad would be BHO’s lasting legacy but this hype about a safer world and the power of diplomacy sure plays better with the rubes.

        I don’t think the Iranians view this peace legacy the same as some people here do, testing their banned ballistic missiles and threatening to sink the US Gulf Fleet is strange diplomacy and the inflow of their frozen funds and western investments will help them cover the costs of their peace efforts killing Sunnis in Syria and Iraq.

        • lefty665 says:

          wow, not much of a fact basis there.
          Someone has to kill Sunni terrorists in Syria and Iraq. It’s not US, we’re training and arming them. A tip of the hat to the Iranians and Russians for picking up the slack.

  3. Rayne says:

    Peterr (8:42) — Thanks for that. I knew VW was already committed to a plant, hadn’t looked at overall amounts VW said it would spend to note the so-called “additional.” Based on what I know, VW is already retrenching, though slowly.

    I also note non-English speaking EU folks use words meaning “trick” or “trickery,” which we don’t use in U.S. about VW. This is the second time I’ve seen it, the first time in German. Wonder if this is a gap in our understanding, our language, or litigation avoidance?

    left665 (9:56) — Probably has a lot to do with hostages taken by Iran being in media, will invest more coverage on one of their own. Which is a pretty handy thing when certain parties might not want to draw attention to the near-term availability of Iranian oil in an already glutted market, or Iran’s new access to markets and more cash to spend.

  4. haarmeyer says:

    I can just see the ant problems one would have parking a formic acid based vehicle in a garage /s.

    Seriously, there was a bidirectional methanol fuel cell promulgated a few years ago by a Dr. Olaf originally at JPL. It got mired in exclusive development rights and startup failure while it was still too unreliable for scale up, but it had the following advantage: It could be run as a battery and charged the way an electric or hybrid vehicle charges or reclaims charge, and it could be filled at existing pumps with methanol.

    The bidirectionality seems to have completely disappeared in the haze — the most recent prototype is a unidirectional DMFC fuel cell. But the bidirectional concept is just about perfect for a transportation energy storage.

      • haarmeyer says:

        Several years ago, George Olah (USC, Nobel laureate) was on Science Friday explaining their research, which was according to him done at JPL. It was a little frustrating, because Ira Flatow kept trying to move the conversation along, and Dr. Olah was more into making sure each explanation was correct. At the time, he talked about the bidirectionality of the fuel cell being an important feature on the radio show. It was some kind of DMFC fuel cell, but he did say it was bi-directional.

        A few years later, there was an announcement that the cell would be commercialized by a start up company, and then later came announcements that the company was having trouble with reliability issues, and then that the project was defunct. Then it seemed to resurface again, but as a 300 watt DMFC project with no mention of bidirectionality.

        I remember it this well because I cited that project in a white paper I did about balancing industrial energy use in a more ecological way. Which is something I still think needs to happen, but most of my paper was about the Calvin cycle, and not the fuel cell.

        Found it! The NPR show is here.

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