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Electric heavy lorries poised to overtake hydrogen trucks

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Mercedes Benz Trucks' eActros 600 electric long-distance lorry
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Hydrogen-powered heavy lorries were once seen as the future of emissions-free road transport but they could soon be relegated to niche markets in Europe, overtaken by electric trucks.

On the outskirts of Trondheim in western Norway, food wholesaler Asko has since 2020 been testing four hydrogen fuel cell trucks supplied by Swedish truckmaker Scania.

The experience has been mixed so far.

Integration problems, defective parts and a forced stoppage after the explosion of a charging station near Oslo have meant the vehicles have been available for use only 30 to 40 percent of the time.

“They’re not on the road as much as we would have liked. That’s the least we can say,” admits Asko project head Roger Saether.

“But we’re convinced that it will all work out in the end.”

When they’re running, the trucks, which have a range of up to 500 kilometres (310 miles), supply supermarkets spread across a vast region.

For closer deliveries, the group uses battery-run vehicles, which today have a shorter range.

That distribution of roles — hydrogen lorries for heavy loads over long distances, electric ones for lighter loads on short distances — has long been accepted as standard among industry experts due to the advantages and disadvantages of each technology.

But things are changing.

“Now what we’re seeing is that contrary to a few years ago, electric trucks and buses are actually playing an increasingly big role and we also see a very important role for them to play in the decarbonisation (process),” said Fedor Unterlohner, freight manager at NGO Transport and Environment.

– Electric Avenue –

Heavy duty vehicles account for six percent of the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Brussels has called for the industry to reduce its emissions by 45 percent compared to 2019 levels by 2030, and by 90 percent by 2040.

According to a study conducted last year by German authorities, truckmakers expect 63 percent of new lorries sold in Europe in 2030 to be “zero emission” vehicles.

Electric trucks are expected to make up the lion’s share, with 85 percent.

That’s because previous concerns about electric trucks have been eliminated as, unlike hydrogen, the technology for electric trucks has benefitted from advances made in the electric car industry.

Range?

Most heavy trucks in Europe drive fewer than 800 kilometres a day, a distance that could soon be within reach of electric batteries — especially given drivers’ strictly regulated breaks, during which they can recharge their vehicles.

Payload limited by the batteries’ weight?

The amount of energy batteries can store continues to improve, to the point where the weight difference compared to a diesel truck is expected to become insignificant.

Infrastructure?

So-called megawatt charging stations are currently being developed and should soon be able to provide 10 times more power than the fastest charging stations currently available.

– Economies of scale –

When it comes to cost — a crucial factor, given the narrow margins in the transport sector — electric trucks hold the advantage.

Purchase prices benefit from economies of scale generated by the rapid development of electric car batteries.

Operating costs are also modest, with e-trucks requiring little maintenance and electricity normally much less expensive than green hydrogen.

However, in some cases hydrogen lorries could be the wiser choice.

“For example, if you are driving with two drivers in Europe — which allows drivers to skip regulated breaks.

“Or when you are in very peripheral regions. Or on islands where you don’t have any connection to the grid,” said Unterlohner.

“Or if you’re transporting an 80-tonne wind turbine through Germany, where you have to block the roads in the night and you have to work all night. Then it may make sense,” he said.

But even Scania, which has supplied the four hydrogen trucks to Asko, has chosen to focus on electric heavy trucks “due to their cost advantage in total operation economy and fuel efficiency”.

“For some geographies and operations … we see that the hydrogen-fuelled vehicles might be a viable technology,” Scania senior official Peter Forsberg said.

“Therefore we have initiated some activities in order to learn how the hydrogen eco system might play out.”

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Meta ‘supreme court’ takes on cases of deepfake porn

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Meta's independent oversight board can make recommendations regarding the social media giant's deepfake porn policies but it is up to the tech firm to actually make any changes
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Meta’s oversight board said Tuesday it is scrutinizing the social media titan’s deepfake porn policies, through the lens of two cases.

The move by what is referred to as a Meta “supreme court” for content moderation disputes comes just months after the widespread sharing of lewd AI-generated images of megastar Taylor Swift on X, formerly Twitter.

The Meta board picked its two cases, regarding images shared on Instagram and Facebook, to “assess whether Meta’s policies and its enforcement practices are effective at addressing explicit AI-generated imagery,” it said in the release.

The board can make recommendations regarding the social media giant’s deepfake porn policies but it is up to the tech firm to actually make any changes.

The first case taken up by the Meta Oversight Board involves an AI-generated image of a nude woman posted on Instagram.

The woman pictured resembled a public figure in India, sparking complaints from users in that country.

Meta left the image up, later saying it did so in error, the board said.

The second case involves a picture posted to a Facebook group devoted to AI creations.

That image depicted a nude woman resembling “an American public figure” with a man groping one of her breasts, the board said in a release.

The board did not name the woman, who it said was identified in a caption on the synthetic image at issue.

Meta removed the image for violating its harassment policy, and the user who posted the content appealed the decision, according to the board.

People were invited to submit comment, particularly on the gravity of harms posed by deepfake pornography and the harm it does to women who are public figures.

Deepfake porn images of celebrities are not new, but activists and regulators are worried that easy-to-use tools employing generative AI will create an uncontrollable flood of toxic or harmful content.

The targeting of Swift, one of the world’s top-streamed artists whose latest concert tour propelled her to the top of American fame, shined a spotlight on the phenomenon, with her legions of fans outraged at the development.

“It is alarming,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, when asked about the images at the time.

“Sadly we know that lack of enforcement (by the tech platforms) disproportionately impacts women and they also impact girls who are the overwhelming targets of online harassment,” Jean-Pierre added.

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Samsung returns to top of the smartphone market: industry tracker

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Smartphone market tracker International Data Corporation expects Samsung and Apple will continue to dominate when it comes to high-end smartphones but that pressure will increase from Chinese rivals making more budget priced handsets
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Samsung regained its position as the top smartphone seller, wresting back the lead from Apple as Chinese rivals close the gap on both market leaders, industry tracker International Data Corporation (IDC) reported Monday.

South Korea-based Samsung overtook Apple as worldwide smartphone shipments grew nearly 8 percent in the first quarter of this year to 289.4 million, IDC said, citing its preliminary data.

It was the third consecutive quarter of growth in the global smartphone market, signalling that a recovery from a slump in the sector is underway, according to IDC.

IDC Worldwide Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers team vice president Ryan Reith expected top smartphone companies to gain share and small brands to struggle for position as recovery progresses.

Samsung shipped 60.1 million smartphones in the first quarter of this year, claiming nearly 21 percent of the market, according to IDC figures.

Apple shipped 50.1 million iPhones, garnering just over 17 percent of the market in the same period, IDC reported.

Apple smartphone shipments were down 9.6 percent in a quarter-over-quarter comparison, while Samsung shipments slipped less than one percent, according to the market tracker.

Meanwhile, China-based Xiaomi saw shipments grow about 33 percent to 40.8 million and Transsion about 85 percent to 28.5 million, taking third and fourth positions in the overall smartphone market, IDC reported.

“While Apple managed to capture the top spot at the end of 2023, Samsung successfully reasserted itself as the leading smartphone provider in the first quarter,” Reith said.

IDC expects Samsung and Apple to maintain their hold on the high end of the smartphone market while Chinese competitors seek to expand sales, according to Reith.

Nabila Popal, research director with IDC’s Worldwide Tracker team, said: “There is a shift in power among the Top 5 companies, which will likely continue as market players adjust their strategies in a post-recovery world.

“Xiaomi is coming back strong from the large declines experienced over the past two years and Transsion is becoming a stable presence in the Top 5 with aggressive growth in international markets.”

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Hong Kong conditionally approves first bitcoin and ether ETFs

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Hong Kong's securities regulator granted conditional approval for city's first spot-bitcoin and ether exchange traded funds
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Hong Kong’s securities regulator on Monday granted conditional approval to start the city’s first spot-bitcoin and ether exchange-traded funds (ETFs), firms involved said, positioning it as a leader in Asia for the use of cryptocurrencies as investment tools.

ChinaAMC (HK), the city’s unit of China Asset Management, said in a statement it had received regulatory approval from Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong (SFC) for the provision of virtual asset management services.

The company is “actively deploying resources in the development of spot Bitcoin ETF and spot Ethereum ETF”, it said. 

This will be done in partnership with BOCI-Prudential Trustee Limited, a joint venture of the fund management arm of Bank of China (HK) and the British multinational insurance firm.

Two other fund managers — the Hong Kong units of Harvest Fund Management and Bosera Asset Management — also said they had received conditional approvals from the SFC, Bloomberg reported.

The SFC declined to comment on individual applications.

OSL Digital Securities will provide custody services to China AMC and Harvest to ensure trading safety, the licensed digital assets platform announced Monday. 

“This collaboration marks a critical advancement in the financial landscape of the region, heralding a new chapter in digital asset investments,” OSL said in a statement. 

Hong Kong has been trying to edge ahead as a regional digital asset hub as its international financial centre status has been dented by political turmoil in recent years and China’s economic downturn.

The latest move came three months after the United States gave the green light to ETFs pegged to bitcoin’s spot price, making it easier for mainstream investors to add the unit to their portfolio.

Hong Kong is also widely considered an experimental field for including cryptocurrencies as mainstream investment tools — which are banned in mainland China.

“The financial hub is looking to establish itself as a competitor in the space competing with Dubai and Singapore as regulators open up crypto markets to institutional demand,” said James Harte, an analyst from Tickmill. 

He added that Bitcoin futures were down “around 7 percent at the lows of the day before sentiment reversed on” Hong Kong’s news. 

Last December, the city’s SFC said it was ready to allow retail investors to buy funds that are 100 percent invested in some of the digital assets, triggering the first wave of applications from fund managers. 

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