A government-industry project to invent a practical battery for electric vehicles is trying to do too much too soon. So concludes a study by a committee of the National Research Council. The U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) was formed in 1991 as an R&D project of the Department of Energy and the three major U.S. automakers. The purpose was to provide increased range and improved performance for electric vehicles "in the latter part of the 1990s." No technology has yet fully met even the midterm goals, the report says, because USABC had "an overly ambitious schedule imposed by regulatory requirements." (See "Nation's charge to electric cars stalls" in this issue.) For copies of "Effectiveness of the United States Advanced Battery Consortium as a Government-Industry Partnership" phone National Academy Press at (800) 624-6242.
Two researchers from Cornell University have won a $100,000 grant from NASA to continue work to develop an energy-harvesting robotic eel the space agency aims to use to explore oceans on one of the moons of Jupiter.
Is the factory smarter than it used to be? From recent buzzwords, you’d think we’ve entered a new dimension in industrial plants, where robots run all physical functions wirelessly and humans do little more than program ever more capable robotics. Some of that is actually true, but it’s been true for a while.
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