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Wasps on standby

Horticultural industry groups and Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) have applied for permission to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to release the samurai wasp as a biocontrol agent in the event stink bugs are found in New Zealand.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Council chairman Alan Pollard said an incursion would have disastrous consequences for horticulturists and their industries as well as everyday New Zealanders.

“The stink bug is one of the biggest biosecurity threats we face, and it could cause hundreds of millions of dollars of losses. The wasp provides an opportunity to be proactive in our approach and gives us another tool we can use to control the stink bug,” Pollard said to Stuff NZ.

“It feeds on over 300 plant species and can multiply and get to very high population numbers rapidly, destroying crops and gardens and even get into your home.

“In the UA and Europe where the invasive pest has become established, it has caused severe damage to the horticulture industries. It’s also invaded residents’ homes and become a real social nuisance.

“We’ve also seen growers overseas use high levels of insecticides as the primary way to control the stink bug. We believe the wasp will provide a targeted and self-sustaining control tool and provides growers with another option other than increasing insecticide sprays.”

In February, infestations were found in four container ships headed to New Zealand from Japan.

 A NZIER report estimated that gross domestic product would fall by between $1.8 billion and $3.6b by 2038 if it became established.

 

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Petrol prices on the rise

Petrol prices increased 5.0 per cent in the year ended March 2018, Stats NZ said today. In the March 2018 quarter prices rose 2.7 percent.

Rising crude oil prices, and a falling exchange rate, contributed to pushing petrol prices up in the second half of 2017.

“The average price for a litre of 91 octane reached $2.00 in March 2018,” prices senior manager Paul Pascoe said. “This is the highest level since the December 2014 quarter.”

Average petrol prices in the CPI take into account loyalty card and supermarket discounts, and therefore differ from those seen at the petrol station.

For several quarters, petrol prices have moved in different ways in different parts of the country, rather than rising or falling consistently at a national level.

Since 2013, Wellington and the South Island have typically had larger increases and smaller decreases than the rest of the country.

The regional pattern changed in the year ended March 2018. Auckland prices either fell less or increased more than Wellington and Canterbury in three of the past four quarters.

In the March 2018 quarter, Auckland petrol prices rose 3.9 per cent, while Wellington and Canterbury rose 0.8 per cent and 0.1 per cent, respectively.

In the year ended March 2018, Auckland petrol prices increased 6.5 per cent, Wellington increased 1.7 per cent, and Canterbury 1.3 per cent.

From March 2013 to March 2018, Auckland prices decreased 5.0 per cent, Wellington prices decreased 3.8 per cent, and Canterbury prices decreased 3.1 per cent.

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First domestic V2G charger

UK firm, OVO Energy, has unveiled what the company is calling the world’s first widely available, domestic electric vehicle-to-grid charger.

With a 6kW charge and discharge power rating, this intelligent device has been designed to give drivers the option to discharge excess electricity from their cars back to the electricity grid, providing flexibility services and helping to supply energy at times of peak demand.

OVO CEO and Founder Stephen Fitzpatrick, said, “Today we’re launching the world’s first widely available vehicle-to-grid charger, helping to solve one of the biggest challenges facing the energy sector. We’re enabling thousands of EV batteries to help balance the grid in times of peak demand, more renewable energy to come onto the system, and households to reduce their electricity bills.”

Fitzpatrick added this new approach to energy was made possible by the “convergence of emerging technologies, applying intelligence, and years of working with customers to redesign the entire energy system.”

The 6kW OVO Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) Charger offers drivers of certain electric vehicles the opportunity to discharge excess electricity from their cars back to the electric grid to help supply energy at times of peak demand. 

Using VCharge, this charger will also optimise vehicle charging to take advantage of cheaper electricity when it’s available. The OVO Vehicle-to-Grid Charger will be rolled out from summer 2018 for up to 1,000 Nissan electric vehicle owners as part of a two-year trial.

VCharge is a highly scalable system that remotely connects distributed flexible electrical devices and aggregates them into a virtual power plant.

This connected system reacts as a whole to changes in demand and supply, recognising strain and reacting within a second.

By intelligently managing both generation and demand in this way, the company states that VCharge could facilitate more renewable energy generation and supply without the need for costly infrastructure investment.  

Vector also introduced a two-way electric vehicle (EV) charger in New Zealand in July 2017.  

“With V2G technology, many homes could be powered by their EVs at peak time. Similarly, EVs will be releasing energy back to the grid to support grid demand while taking advantage of a higher peak energy buyback rate,” said Andre Botha, Chief Networks Officer.

According to Botha, Vector will be offering V2G to customers in the near future.

 

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Car carrier completes discharge

The latest update from Autohub has been released on progress of the Mitsui Osk Line (MOL) car carriers; the Courageous Ace, Primrose Ace, Glovis Caravel, Adria Ace, Palmela and Garnet Ace.

Courageous Ace
We are pleased to advise that the Courageous Ace has completed discharge at all New Zealand ports and has departed New Zealand.

Glovis Caravel
The Glovis Caravel inspections by MPI are progressing well, with final units’ heat treatment to be completed today (18th of April).

Cargo on the main decks has been discharged, cleared and released by MPI. MOL expect to have clearance for a full discharge once final units complete heat treatment.

Subject to yard space on Ports of Auckland MOL will look to discharge 2 decks (approx. 400 cars) of cargo for MPI to complete their deck surveillance requirements.

Based on space availability at Ports of Auckland, Glovis Caravel should be completely discharged by the 22nd of April.

Discharge delays
Due to discharge delays in Auckland from lack of yard space and the planned strike action in Lyttelton, MOL regret to advise that the Glovis Caravel will travelling to Lyttelton or Nelson.

All Nelson cargo ex the Glovis Caravel will tranship in Auckland to the Adria Ace.
All Lyttelton cargo ex the Glovis Caravel will tranship in Auckland to the Palmela.

To date there has been no change to planned strike action by the RMTU in Lyttelton. Strike action in Lyttelton will start the 20th of April ending midnight on the 24th of April and then from the 26th of April ending midnight on the 29th of April.

Please find below updated schedule (all schedules are subject to MPI inspections process, berth and yard availability):

*Subject to berth availability due to congestion
**tranship AKL to the Valiant Ace V.49

 

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Toyota to get cars ‘talking’

2017 Toyota Corolla

Toyota has announced they will start putting short-range communications chips in US vehicles in the next three years, in order to make cars safer by getting them to “talk” with one another.

The American car manufacturer will put the chips in Toyota and Lexus models in the US starting in 2021, said Andrew Coetzee, group vice president of product planning for North America. The technology will enable cars to send data on their location and speed to surrounding vehicles and roadside infrastructure to curb crashes.

Toyota is going public with the campaign in order to get the rest of the auto industry and industry regulators to embrace the technology.

It’s also headed for a clash with phone companies that would rather see carmakers embrace 5G cellular networks to accomplish the same task. 

“The dedicated short-range communications systems Toyota will start using, known as DSRC, send information back and forth to one another several times a second and can alert drivers to potential collisions before they happen,” said Bloomberg.  A broad coalition of auto companies, including Toyota and General Motors, urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in November to support a “talking cars” mandate for all new passenger vehicles by 2023.

 “We need to make a technology choice when there’s no regulatory requirement in place,” John Kenney said to Bloomberg, director of networking research at the Toyota InfoTechnology Center in Mountain View, California. “What we’re doing today is speaking up and saying ‘We will deploy DSRC technology and we encourage other automakers to do the same.’”

When the Transportation Department released a proposal for the requirement in December 2016, regulators under the Obama administration estimated the technology could prevent or mitigate 80 percent of vehicle crashes not influenced by driver impairment.

Coetzee said he’s not convinced automakers should share the spectrum band with cable or tech companies.

“We need to make sure we’re got super, super reliable and very quick transmission speeds,” Coetzee said to Bloomberg. “More testing will be needed to show you can do this” while sharing airwaves.

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Ford’s self-driving cars to launch ‘at scale’

Miami Mayor Carlos A. Giménez announces collaboration with Ford Motor Company to test its self-driving vehicle business model on the streets of Miami and Miami Beach.

Ford seems determined to meet its 2021 deadline to launch a service in the United States using its self-driving cars. This won’t be a small test operation in a single city, it wants to launch and operate its own service “at scale,” with all the necessary components in place to ensure it’s both efficient and profitable.

Ford’s Jim Farley recently told the Financial Times in an interview that the automaker’s self-driving car network will be running “at scale” in 2021.

Farley also emphasised that this would be a truly Ford-run service. While Ford does have self-driving car partnerships with companies like Lyft, it intends to “own the fleet” for its own services. That’s somewhat similar to Renault-Nissan, but a sharp contrast with Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo and others focused on selling vehicles to outside services.

The company’s own efforts are focused more on delivery than on passengers. However, it’s not entirely surprising that the company would push for a large, in-house driverless network.

Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, said that his company is developing its very first “autonomous vehicle operations terminal” to maintain and securely house its vehicles.

The site, located a short distance from downtown Miami, is set to include facilities to wash the vehicles, including their all-important sensors, with routine maintenance also carried out.

To help drive its autonomous-vehicle ambitions, Ford last year invested US$1 billion in artificial intelligence company, Argo A.I.

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EV selection set to take off

2017 Hyundai Ioniq

New electric vehicles (EVs) will hit the market at a rapid pace over the next two years, not-for-profit group Drive Electric says.

That is because the push towards electrifying the world’s vehicle fleet is gathering momentum, with many countries setting deadlines of between 2030 and 2040 to end the sale of new internal combustion engine cars.

Drive Electric board member Dean Sheed says original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been pouring money into electric and autonomous vehicles in order to keep up with the deadlines.

“There’s some big paradigm shifts happening in the world. Everyone is investing serious levels of money in EVs and autonomous drive.

Dean Sheed, Drive Electric board member

“Because different brands have their own unique development pathways, you will get critical mass in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Then the number of models on offer starts to get really significant.”

However, converting the fleet will take time, Sheed, who is also Audi New Zealand general manager, says.

“2.3 per cent of the 100,000 new cars in 2017 were hybrids or EVs.

“We are on the way, which is great, but we need a bigger share of EVs coming into the country as new and used. “Then you’ll see consumer behaviour change.”

On a global scale, Sheed says the move to petrol vehicles may actually go up in the short term as diesel falls out of favour in places like Europe, because of the current focus on harmful emissions, like NOx.

“Moving from diesel to petrol will probably see CO2 increase. It’s going to get a lot of people concerned about CO2 in the shorter term until the move to EVs. “At some point internal combustion engines will come down as EVs take over and become the demand focus.

“Many countries in the world have CO2 targets to meet with taxation effects. EVs are the solution to get there.” Unlike many other countries, New Zealand is in an enviable position to adopt EVs, with 85 per cent renewable energy.

“New Zealand is one of the four or five countries globally in terms of cleanest producing electricity. “The world has to get off electricity generated by coal.” In the next five to ten years, the increasing percentage of EVs will become available in both plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) and battery electric (BEV) forms.

“Ultimately BEVs will take over and we will all be in fully electric vehicles, with increasing levels of autonomous drive.”

There could be more incentives put in place to get New Zealanders into EVs more quickly, Sheed says.

“If the Government wants to see more fleets adopt EVs, it needs to have some levers to pull to make them more attractive for businesses.” Ideas like lowering fringe benefit tax on EVs through Drive Electric’s Project Switch is one potential way to do that.

“The more adoption of EVs by big companies the better. After three years, fleet cars go back to the consumer as ex-lease vehicles.”

New Zealanders’ love of SUVs and utes is also a challenge that has to be met, Sheed says. While there are some electric SUVs on the way, the same can’t be said for utes.

“You need to have an electric offering in all vehicle segments.”

Getting the infrastructure in place is also important to sell the EV message, Sheed says. “Rapid chargers need to go sub 30 minutes and then sub 15 minutes for a full charge. We need massive chargers that can dump high volumes of current in quickly.

“It’s about having enough of them at the right capacity. Infrastructure needs to be built up at the same time as the fleet.”

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Autofile survey – closing soon

A couple of weeks ago we launched a survey asking you, our loyal readers, how we could improve your experience when reading our monthly magazine.
We just wanted to send out a reminder that the survey will be coming to a close on Friday this week. 

Thank you very much to all who have already completed the survey. Our reader’s views are a crucial factor in helping us to determine what sections of our magazine are useful and is a chance for us to see what you would like to see more of in the magazine and how we can improve it.

As a thank you for taking the time to complete our survey, all entries that include an email address will enter a draw for a chance to win a $100 Prezzy Card.

To complete the survey before it closes on Friday April 20 click here.

 

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Drivers struggle to stay engaged

The difficulty of keeping drivers in automated vehicles engaged is a growing safety concern that has spurred several car companies, including General Motors (GM) and Subaru, to position infrared cameras in the cockpit trained on the driver to track head and eye movement.

However, U.S. safety investigators have called on carmakers to do more to ensure drivers stay engaged when using an autonomous vehicles. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened three investigations, two of which involve Tesla vehicles, that call into question the progress that’s been made in guarding against motorist misuse of autonomous/semi-autonomous driving technology.

Tesla has lagged behind automakers in embracing driver monitoring. While the electric carmaker still relies on technology that federal investigators said was too easy to sidestep, it’s now working on unspecified improvements to its vehicles, according to the NTSB.

“They have indicated that they have already made some improvements and are working on additional improvements,” agency spokesman Peter Knudson said to Bloomberg, in the first indication that the company is contemplating more changes to its driver-assistance system. NTSB highway investigators have been in contact with Tesla technical staff, he added.

Driver-monitoring technology is needed for any vehicle that needs humans to handle part of the driving task, said Bryan Reimer to Bloomberg News, who studies driver behaviour at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This includes conventional vehicles without driver-assist systems, cars that guide themselves for some periods without human inputs, such as cruise control, and self-driving cars with people serving as safety monitors.

Motorists today are bombarded by distractions, from mobile phones to in-dash navigation systems, Reimer added. “Drivers need help making better decisions.”

The NTSB is investigating two crashes this year in which Tesla drivers were using Autopilot. The system can automate steering and follow traffic in some conditions, but the company warns drivers they must monitor it at all times. The system isn’t designed to be fully autonomous and can’t detect some objects in its path, according to Tesla. 

In the most recent case, a Model X slammed into a concrete highway barrier on March 23 in Mountain View, California, killing the driver Walter Huang. His family has hired Minami Tamaki LLP to explore legal options, the firm said Wednesday in a statement.

Tesla said in a blog post last month that Huang, 38, didn’t have his hands on the wheel for six seconds prior to striking the barrier where lanes split on the freeway.

“The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive,” the company said in the March 30 blog post.

“What Tesla has is basically a sensor that just detects whether your hands are on the wheel,” said Mike Ramsey, an analyst at researcher Gartner Inc. “If it doesn’t detect anything on the wheel for a certain amount of time, it first gives a visual warning, then an audible warning, then the car starts slowing down. It’s somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 seconds or longer. At 70 miles per hour, that’s a long time — a lot can happen in that period of time.”

Tesla has installed an inward-facing camera above the rear-view mirror in its new Model 3 sedan, but hasn’t confirmed whether it could be used to monitor drivers.

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Autofile survey

Help us continue to enhance the auto industry’s oldest and most trusted magazine.

Here at Autofile, we endeavour to create the best possible magazine tailored to the New Zealand auto industry business sector.

We do know, that engaging readers in niche magazines, like Autofile, we must deliver relevant and interesting content – but what does that mean in terms of engaging you, our reader?

In order to deliver content that is relevant to you, we would like to get to know you better and find out what sections of our magazine you find the most useful, additionally we would love to also know what you would like to see more of in the magazine and how we can improve it.

As a thank you for taking the time to complete our survey, all entries that include an email address will enter a draw for a chance to win a $100 Prezzy Card.

To enter the prize draw, you must complete the survey before midnight on the 20th of April.

Please note that we will not be storing your contact details for anything other than to randomly select a winner for the Prezzy Card.

We look forward to hearing your views!

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