Electric Vehicles

BMW working to capture the power of cow manure and turn it into EV energy

BMW is partnering with California's farmers to develop clean energy.

Photo courtesy of BMW

BMW is in deep when it comes to electric vehicle development. Now, they're also in deep ... manure. The German automaker is teaming up with California's farmers to harvest manure.

"This collaboration is the first of its kind in the auto industry," said Bernhard Kuhnt, president and CEO, BMW of North America. "It is a perfect fit for the BMW Group, which has long valued creative technologies and partnerships that can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

BMW i3 Straus Organic Dairy Farm When owners plug-in to charge, the energy they use may be coming from the remnants of cows' dinners.Photo courtesy of BMW

As part of the new agreement, Straus Organic Dairy Farm, located in Marshall, California, will be using a methane biodigester to capture methane from cow manure, which would otherwise enter the atmosphere. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 14 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions comes from manure from the agriculture sector.

The captured methane from the Northern California farm is transformed into renewable energy that is sent to California's power grid. When electric vehicle owners plug their car in, they could be running on poo-generated energy.

"In addition to being a great collaboration, we are developing the blueprint for a model that can generate revenue for other farmers throughout California," said Albert Straus, founder and CEO of Straus Family Creamery.

The family farm is one of the first steps in BMW's poo-energy procurement plants. "We are well on our way to ensuring that every electric mile driven by BMW and MINI owners in California is covered," said Adam Langton, BMW USA Energy Services Manager.

This methane plan is in addition to the ChargeForward pilot program that currently operates in the San Francisco Bay Area. That program allows owners to charge their vehicles using as much solar energy as possible.

The Cruise Origin self-driving vehicle has been revealed.

Photo courtesy of Cruise LLC

Cruise has passed on a steering wheel, a rearview mirror, and pedals in its new Origin electric vehicle. The ride share mobility solution debuted last night in San Francisco was co-developed by the arm of General Motors in cooperation with Honda.

In addition to the self-driving aspect of the news, the biggest innovation with the vehicle is that it is nothing like the any other GM alternative fuel mobility solution. There's not really speck of Bolt in the design.

It's actually more like the Navy shuttle than the Bolt, resembling the most modern of train cars. Its exterior is smooth and not aerodynamic. Its sliding doors open wide via a sliding mechanism rather than outward like a traditional car door. There's a display area featuring a number on the outside of the vehicle to help with rider-vehicle identification.

The Origin is the same size as a full-size sedan but seats six in a different configuration than the typical car. It has a 78-inch height, which means it can still park in most garages.

Inside, the vehicle seats six on two sets of three seats that share a large space for legroom and bags.

What's more notable is what the Origin is lacking. There's no driver's seat, pedals, steering wheel, windshield wipers, gauges, nor rearview mirror. Because there's no driver, there's no need for that. Cruise has said that the vehicle features SAE Level 4 autonomy. In layman's terms, that means that a computer controls all the functionality of the vehicle and is contained within its service area only by things like a speed limiter or geofence.

Its software has been co-developed by GM and Honda.

Cruise hasn't divulged powertrain or range information.

In January, the federal government released a new set of guidelines concerning self-driving vehicles.

Under Cruise's plans, no individual will own the Origin. The ride sharing vehicles will be summoned via an app and offer ride service to anywhere in the vehicle's service area. The defined regions of the service area and fares associated with a ride have yet to be announced.

So, it's just an app-controlled electric short bus, right? Yes.

Cruise says that the model is ready for production and plans to that end will be announced shortly.

Subaru recently debuted its VIZIV Tourer concept.

Photo courtesy of Subaru Corporation

Subaru has a goal. By 2030, they want at least 40 percent of their globals sales to come from electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles. To get there, the automaker will be continuing to work on electrification via the application of the technology to Subaru's current lineup.

"Although we're using Toyota technology, we want to make hybrids that are distinctly Subaru," Chief Technology Officer, Tetsuo Onuki, recently commented to Reuters. "It's not only about reducing CO2 emissions. We need to further improve vehicle safety and the performance of our all-wheel drive."

Subaru VIZIV Touring concept the VIZIV Touring concept has a WRX-like front end.Photo courtesy of Subaru Corporation

At first, this plan likely means more model variants in the same vein as the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid. Reuters has reported that the first new model that will enter the Subaru lineup under this plan will be a "strong hybrid" vehicle using Toyota technology. But, it's not coming until later this decade. Subaru previously activated this partnership in the marketplace to launch the Crosstrek Hybrid.

The automakers are also working together to launch an all-battery electric car (BEV) around that time as well.

Don't set your calendar yet. Plans are continually developing and timelines are bound to shift as the market for new vehicles changes. Subaru will likely keep the public updated as their plans develop by releasing concept car versions of their designs ahead of any big news.