Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An electric car that will "talk" to power grids

Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday its future electric cars will "talk" to power grids across the country, part of an effort to drive interest in alternative energy vehicles.

The nation's second-largest automaker released details of a two-year collaboration with 10 utility companies as well as the Department of Energy on the design of a system that allows car owners to control when they charge vehicles and for how long.

Ford's first battery electric vehicle, the Transit Connect commercial van, will be available next year.

A battery electric Ford Focus compact car will go on sale in 2011.

"At the end of the day this has to be easy for our customer," said Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr., at a company round-table on electrification efforts.

"This can't just be an interesting science experiment. This has to be something that makes people's lives better and easier and that is what our dialogue is all about."

Utility companies say their grids already are ready to handle electric cars, although some drivers are likely to need additional equipment installed in their garages, depending on the vehicle's voltage requirement.

"The grid is ready now but on a lower technology basis," said Mike Ligett, director of emerging technology at Progress Energy Inc., a Raleigh, North Carolina-based energy company.

"We are not concerned about energy consumption, but more about when it's used."

General Motors Co. is set to release its Chevrolet Volt next year, a rechargeable electric vehicle the company says will get up to 230 mpg (98 kpl).

The Volt differs from Ford's forthcoming Transit Connect as the Volt contains a combustible engine, which kicks in after driving about 40 miles (64 kilometers).

Ford's Transit Connect will not contain a combustible engine and the number of miles a user can drive will be determined by the size of the battery Ford installs in the car, company officials said.

Specifics on the vehicle's driving range and price have not been released.

With connectivity between Ford vehicles and power grids in certain areas, owners can choose to recharge at off-peak times when electricity is cheaper, or when wind, solar or renewable energy is driving the grid, said Nancy Gioia, director of Ford's sustainable mobility technologies division.

"What we're doing is developing our capability."

Ford and the utility companies are testing the system and have logged 75,000 miles (120,695 kilometers) on a test fleet.

The goal is to have a network in place so drivers can recharge their cars at preset times at home, work or elsewhere.

The system aims to develop technical standards so that a car purchased and used in Michigan, can "talk" to an electric grid in New York if the driver moves or travels.

Vincent Dow, Detroit Edison's vice president of distribution operations, said there are "more questions than answers" about how electric car owners will seek to recharge their vehicles.

"Will they charge at home, or work?" he asked.

"What's the pattern going to be for them? We need to understand what the needs are going to be for consumers."

Mark Duvall, director of electric transportation at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, said that although the nation's current electric grid could handle widespread adoption of electric cars, more things can be done to use energy more efficiently.

For example, drivers could recharge a car at 3 a.m. so it doesn't tax the grid and costs less. - AP

Monday, August 17, 2009

Flying taxi crashes on test flight

Newly-assembled aircraft Jetpod, by the British-based Avcen Ltd, crashed and burst into a ball of fire during a test flight from Tekah airstrip near here, killing its inventor Michael Robert Dacre, 53, who was piloting the aircraft.

The crash happened at 12.30pm Sunday. Dacre is also Avcen's managing director.

Avcen Limited Malaysia is based at Patimas Technology Centre, Technology Park, Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur and Dacre had intended for the 8-seater flying taxi to be ready in 2010.

Taiping deputy police chief Supt Syed Abdul Wahab Abdul Majid said Dacre suffered severe burns and injuries and died at the scene.

The incident was witnessed by many residents, including retired soldier, Halim Hamid, 50, who lives in nearby Taman Saujana Jaya.

He said he was scooping shrimps to feed his pet fish at a disused pond about 50 metres from where the jet had crashed.

“Earlier, I saw it going down the runaway three times but it could not take off.

“However, on the fourth run, the jet took off into the air but at about 200 metres high, it shot vertically to the sky before veering to its left and then falling to the ground,” he said.

There was a loud explosion when it crashed but firemen who were at the scene managed to put out the blaze, he said.

Halim said the jet had been earlier transported in parts in a container to the airstrip about a week ago before it was assembled.

Police personnel at the scene were seen collecting the pilot’s burnt, dismembered limbs from the wreckage before sending his remains to the Taiping Hospital.

Some of the residents said a co-pilot had wanted to accompany the deceased on the test flight but Dacre decided to fly alone.

Several Royal Malaysian Air Force personnel were at the scene to check the wreckage.

Meanwhile, Bernama quoted Taiping Fire and Rescue senior operations officer Mohd Sobri Abdullah as saying that the fire and rescue personnel had been stationed at the airstrip since 8.30am on the request of the company.

He said the plane was at an altitude of 200 metres when it suddenly plunged to the ground and erupted into a ball of fire.

The fire and rescue personnel present provided emergency response but were unable to save the victim, he said, adding that investigations had commenced to determine the cause of the crash.

According to Wikipedia Jetpod is a design proposal for a very quiet aircraft that can take off and land in short distances (STOL), developed by Avcen Limited, a company formed in 1998 to promote development of the Jetpod.

A number of applications have been proposed, including as a military transport, an executive transport, and as a short to medium-range air taxi.

According to Avcen's publicity materials, the Jetpod's maximum speed is 550 km/h (350 mph, 300 knots).

It would need only 125 meters (135 yards) to take-off or land, allowing runways to be constructed close to the center of major cities, and would be sufficiently quiet to not be noticeable above city traffic.

The trip from Heathrow Airport to central London would take about 4 minutes and cost about $100. -TheStar

Saturday, August 15, 2009

EON Bank takes on a fruit-ful business outlook

WOULD one associate a bank with fruits? While the camel is allied with AmBank and the tiger with Maybank, EON Bank, which is familiar to all Malaysians as “the car bank”, could soon be recognised as a fruit-ful bank.

As part of its Project Quantum Leap (PQL) initiated in the last quarter of 2007, the bank has adopted a fruit concept to symbolise the refreshing change the bank will undergo to transform the banking experience for its customers.

“Fruits are synonymous with health. We chose fruits to symbolise financial health,” head of networking distribution and management Looi Kok Soon tells StarBizWeek.

It’s hard to miss the vibrant orange colour with the fruity concept of the bank these days, which personifies warmth and encourages greater interaction with banking management and staff.

Director of design and space analyst of interior design firm S.U.A, Ed Mun, was engaged by the bank under the EON Bank New Interior Design Concept programme.

He says the idea of a fruit theme was selected to capture people’s mindset and anchor their attention about EON Bank as a refreshed and modern-day bank.

“We did research and made a comparison with local and international banks. We found that orange was not a colour that was widely used in banks,” he says.

“We wanted a concept that matched EON Bank’s vision of banking made simple, convenient and adding value,” he says. -StarBiz

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Microsoft served Injunction over Word

Microsoft is served with an injunction and asked to stop sales of Word 2003 and Word 2007 in USA over a patent held by a Canadian company. A U.S. district court in Texas issued a permanent injunction which bars Microsoft from selling Word because it violates a patent held by i4i Incorporation. The court found Microsoft had infringed on the patent for its software that manipulates "document architecture and content."

I4i, a Toronto-based software producer, has been battling Microsoft over a patent related to Extensible Markup Language (XML). XML is a key software component of many websites as well as Word and other programs.

The judge also awarded the Canadian company damages of about USD290 million.

Microsoft, in a statement, said it would appeal the verdict. It must appeal within 60 days of the judgment.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cybercities: Look abroad for inspiration

Malaysia can learn much from other world-class cybercities to further improve its own such developments, said networking giant Cisco Malaysia.

Its managing director, Anne Abraham, said a lot of technological improvements can be learned from looking at cybercity projects outside the country. “A good example is the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ),” she said.

IFEZ is a development project in South Korea to build a cybercity that is designed to create the most favourable business and living environments with the help of cutting-edge technology.

The projects currently underway there include the Songdo Convensia Convention Centre, which is being equipped with the latest in radio-frequency identification (RFID) card systems for controlled accessibility.

There are also cameras with voice-recognition capability and wireless Internet access in all areas of the convention centre.

Also being constructed is the Songdo International School which will use blackboard-sized touchscreen projectors and an interactive teaching software known as enVision Math, designed to reinvent the way students look at mathematics as a subject.

The software employs visual aids and allows students to work out mathematical problems on big screens — making it easier for the others to learn the methods.

Those developing cybercities in Malaysia could take a leaf from South Korea’s book, said Abraham.

She said South Korea is the world’s 13th largest economy but the IFEZ project is enormous even by South Korean standards. It is set cost the Seoul government US$41bil (RM147bil) and will engulf three regions near the city of Incheon by the time it is completed in 2020.

“The city is being built on financial sustainability, service blueprints, urban planning and green technology,” she said.

“According to our South Korean partners, the cybercity will contribute about 2% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and create more than 300,000 jobs. This is certainly something Malasyia should be taking a closer look at.”

Cisco is providing advanced networking infrastructure and expertise for the construction of the IFEZ. It is also working with South Korean officials to create a business model and help with investment logistics.

“What we are trying to achieve in this city is self-sufficiency and for that you need to make it so that people can easily live and work there,” said the director of IFEZ’s u-city business division, Michael Byun.

“The ‘u’ stands for ubiquity. We want our technology solutions to be everywhere to facilitate people in their everyday lives,” he said.

Byun said the installation of an urban integrated operations centre will allow cybercity officials to consolidate different aspects of municipal management into a single system.

“Administration, transportation, facilities management, and disaster prevention are some examples of the various components that will come under the responsibility of the operations centre,” he said.

“Most importantly, the city is designed to be eco-friendly, utilising the most energy efficient technologies and techniques available.” - TechCentral