Thursday, July 31, 2014

No. 848: Japan’s latest weather satellite Himawari 8 is launched in October (July 31, 2014)

Japan Meteorological Agency will launch Japan’s latest weather satellite “Himawari (Sunflower) 8” in October. It will start observation in summer of 2015, succeeding the Himawari 7 now in operation. The Himawari 8 will deliver color photos for the first time in the world as a geostationary weather satellite. Shooting accuracy improved considerably to tell the development of cumulonimbus that brings about guerilla rainstorm. The camera mounted on the Himawari 8 can shoot 500 square meters instead of 1,000 square meters that the camera mounted on the Himawari 7 can shoot.

At the same time, filmed images increase from five kinds to 16 kinds. The color photos will allow high precision observation of yellow sand and volcanic ashes. While the Himawari 7 shoots images every 30 minutes, the Himawari 8 can shoot images in every 10 minutes. In addition, it can shoot every 2 minutes and 30 seconds only in the case that it shoots areas closed to Japan and a typhoon. I will be launched from the Tanegashima Space Center. Exact date of launch will be set shortly.    

 Himawari 8

 CC of Himawari 8

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

No. 847: Efforts to halve the price of hydrogen accelerate (July 30, 2014)

The competition to reduce the price of hydrogen is heating up because fuel-cell vehicle (FCV) will be put on the market toward the end of this year in Japan. The Japanese government plans to halve the price of hydrogen by 2020 to spread FCVs and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) published Hydrogen Energy White Paper for the first time. The whie paper will be downloadable from NEDO's website shortly. 

Iwatani Corp. is making strenuously efforts to construct a hydrogen station that does not need a compressor to fill liquefied hydrogen into an FCV. It costs 100 million yen to construct a gas station, whereas it costs 460 million yen to construct a hydrogen station, of which 140 million yen is for a compressor alone. The company is trying to introduce the system to fill liquefied hydrogen into an FCV only by the special pump developed by the Linde Group of Germany. It is negotiating with the High Pressure Gas Safety Institute of Japan to install the special pumps in Japan, and it plans to start production of these pumps in Japan next year.  

Currently, the wholesale price of hydrogen is 60 yen per cubic meter and the retail price is 150 yen per cubic meter. The retail price should be reduced to 100 yen to make the fuel cost of FCV as low as the fuel cost of gasoline vehicle and to 80 yen to make it as low as hybrid vehicle. The government wishes to reduce the fuel cost of FCV to as low as the fuel cost of gasoline vehicle in 2015 and to as low as the fuel cost of hybrid vehicle in 2020. To realize a retail price of 80 yen per cubic meter, the wholesale price should be 30 yen and the profit of hydrogen station should be 50 yen.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries is taking another approach. The company is planning to produce hydrogen from brown coal produced in Latrobe Valley in Australia. Brown coal is very cheap: it is one tenth of ordinary coal in price. It will construct an experiment plant in Australia in 2017. It also plans to build the world’s first hydrogen carrier. Chiyoda Corp. has been conducting experiments to put a technology into practical use. The technology is to liquefy hydrogen by dissolving it in organic solvent and transport liquefied hydrogen to hydrogen stations by tank vessel and tank at ordinary temperatures and pressures.

The project to send hydrogen to city streets from a hydrogen plant using pipes has already started in Kyushu under the initiative of an industry-government-academia organization. The concept of Kitakyushu HydrogenTown receives hydrogen from the Yawata iron works of Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal. As the world’s first concept, using hydrogen sent from a nearby iron works to city streets attracts attention worldwide.   

 The project of Kitakyushu Hydrogen Town

Let's drive a Toyota's FCV

Monday, July 28, 2014

No. 846: Technologies to support automated driving are advancing (July 29, 2014)

Developing technologies to support automated driving is critical to spread automated driving. Hitachi developed a technology to keep the visibility of the mounted camera excellent. The technology gives a warning when camera’s accuracy to recognize the traffic lane deteriorates when dirt blurs the lens or waterdrops mist the lens. It collects enormous amount of pictures to judge the stains of the lens. In the experiment, it successfully gives a warning when the recognition accuracy of the lens goes down to less than 90% of the image given by the rear view camera regardless of weather and regardless of day or night.

Technova, one of the subsidiaries of Aisin, developed a technology that allows quick charging without cable. The technology is helpful to the contactless charging that transmits electricity from coils buried in the road to a travelling EV. It is possible to charge an EV when it stops at a red light and charge an EV by bits while it is traveling. A circuit to increase electric current by reducing voltage is built in the rectifier mounted on the vehicle. With this technology, it is possible to transmit electricity at two times higher voltage. Accordingly, a parked EV in a parking lot can be charged in three to four hours, about half the time required by the charging that uses cables. The demonstrative experiments are under way to make the technology ready in time for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.  

A demonstration of automated driving

Sunday, July 27, 2014

No. 845: An inexpensive three-seated electric vehicle from a venture company (July 28, 2014)

A venture company in Hyogo Prefecture, Koumei, developed an inexpensive three-seated EV to be used as taxi and courteous vehicle. The company plans to put it on the market for 1.5 million yen. Named EVK-TRES, this EV does not have doors and side windows. Because it employs a pipe structure, it weighs only 286 kg. Two small motors are built in the two rear tires, eliminating the necessity of shaft. It can travel about 70 km per charge. The maximum speed is 60 km/h. 

An inexpensive three-seated EV from a venture company

The three-seated EV satisfied the requirements imposed by the government, and the user can drive it with a standard driver’s license. For further information, please click here.

Nissan's seven-seated EV to be launched nationwide this October

Thursday, July 24, 2014

No. 844: A robot delivers drugs inside the hospital (July 24, 2014)

Panasonic developed a robot called “HOSPI” to deliver drugs inside the hospital. The HOSPI picks up designated drugs from the drugs department in the basement and brings them up to the sixth floor in a few minutes by itself. It gets on and off the elevator and walks to the nurses’ station, dodging people and obstacles inside the hospital. Nurses take out drugs from the abdominal part of the HOSPI.

Children and the elderly get excited with the HOSPI and they want to take a commemorative photo with him. Actually, the HOSPI gives them relief. Besides helping nurses in terms of time and labor, it delivers something needed to help patient recover sooner than anticipated.

Panasonic's HOSPI delivers drugs 
from the basement to the sixth floor by itself