Art in Responsible Innovation, Maurizio Montalti in Conversation

Long ago, back in February of 2015, I wrote this post about Maurizio Montalti and his work with fungus.

Montalti produces various materials in what he calls a collaboration between living organisms, compostable materials that can be used to replace plastics and chemical based products.

Since I first met him he has begun to produce a host of materials on an industrial scale with the foundation of his company MOGU, and earlier this summer I was fortunate enough to catch up with him again and record the video interview you find below, part of my Art in Responsible Innovation series for the Bassetti Foundation.

Maurizio is a designer, scientist and artist whose works is extremely innovative, research and experiment based and perched on the border between art, design and biology.  He has been active in promoting responsibility within innovation throughout his career, with lots of ideas around sustainability and science communication and the role of science in society.

Learn more about this intriguing character and his work through the video and podcast below.

EV Charging 101

Following Jonny’s electric vehicle charging article, here’s everything you need to know about charging an EV in Europe – from someone who’s driven one since 2019!

You’ve Bought Your First EV 🔌🔋⚡🚗

Fiat 500e Convertable
The convertible Fiat 500e

First of all, fantastic work, you’re awesome!

Thanks for making a great decision and welcome to the future!

So charging, that’s something you need to do now… no more dinosaur juice for you, you’re EV all the way!

🛢️🦕⛽💥

⬇️

☀️💨🔋⚡

But how do you charge?

Types of Charging

It’s really a lot simpler than you’d think there are just two types:

  1. AC – Slow and Fast charging
  2. DC – Rapid charging

AC Charging

Slow Chargers

A slow charger uses AC power. Alternating current (AC) is what comes out of your plug socket at home.

In fact, plugging your car into a Schuko/3-pin plug, is an example of slow charging.

The charging lead (often called a granny charger, because of how slowly it charges) plugs into your home socket at one end and your car at the other. Some chargers and cars enable you to select how many amps to pull. A Tesla can pull between 5 amps and 10 amps from a domestic socket. You might want to vary the amperage if your house has poor electrics, or if you’re trying to use what your solar is generating.

Hyundai Kona Electric Charging
Hyundai Kona Electric

So how much charge can a home plug socket provide?

10 amps x 230 volts = 2.3 kW (kilowatt)

The Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus has a 50 kWh battery pack, so on a 3-pin plug in the UK, you can charge half the battery (or 25 kWh) in 11 hours. That’s over 100 miles topped up on cheap, renewable electricity while you sleep.

Fast Chargers

Fast charging also uses AC power. If you get an EV chargepoint installed at home, it is likely to be a 7.4kW fast charger.

This would enable you to completely “fill” a Model 3 from empty to full in a little under 7 hours.

Fast charging speeds are limited by the cars onboard charger. This converts the AC power into DC power, to feed into the car’s battery.

Charging by AC and DC

Some BEVs (battery electric vehicles) have powerful onboard chargers, like the Renault Zoe, which can charge at up to 22kWh. The Model 3 has a 11kW onboard charger. Some cars are limited to slower speeds, like the VW e-Up! limited to 7.2kW AC charging.

Many supermarkets and retail parks have fast chargers onsite – which are often free! Spending 60 minutes in the supermarket can give you ~40 miles of charge.

DC Charging

Rapid and Ultra-Rapid Chargers

Rapid (and Ultra-Rapid) charging uses DC power. This means the power can be fed straight into the battery.

Rapid chargers can charge from speeds of 43kWh, to speeds upwards of 350kWh!

If you’re on a long road trip, you’d use a rapid charger to top-up the battery at super speed!

The Tesla Supercharger network is an example of an ultra-rapid charging network. Many Supercharger stalls now have 250kW chargers! In a Long Range Model 3 can charge at up to 250kWh, which is over 1,000 miles an hour!

Using the Supercharger network, you can top-up 200 miles of range in 15 minutes. That’s 3 hours of motorway driving in the time it takes you to visit the toilet and get a cupa tea.

Rapid chargers tend to be more expensive than Slow and Fast chargers, but they can deliver power and much faster speeds.

Rapid chargers are sometimes supported by battery storage, to ensure consistent supply and the cleanest possible energy. Here’s a video of the GridServe charging hub from the awesome team at Fully Charged.

Charging Plugs

European charging connectors are also really simple now.

European AC connectors for Slow and Fast charging are:

  1. Type 2 (AKA mennekes)
  2. Type 1

European DC connectors for Rapid charging are:

  1. CCS (AKA Combo 2)
  2. CHAdeMO

CCS and Type 2 use the same plug design – CCS is basically a Type 2 plug with an extra two pins.

A CCS plug (left) and a Type 2 plug (right)

Both have been the standard socket in Europe for some time now, with CHAdeMO and Type 1 slowly being phased out.

Some charging posts have more than one type of connector – using the right one for your car will ensure you get the best speed! For example, using a Type 2 charging lead will charge much slower than a CCS lead – if your car has both sockets.

Many charging units can charge more than one car at a time, but not all, so it’s worth checking beforehand.

Generally speaking, Slow and Fast chargers (away from home) don’t come with a charging cable – you plug your own in. Rapid chargers however always come with a cable – be that CCS or CHAdeMO.

Finding a Charger

The UK has more charging stations than petrol stations, so it’s not difficult to find a charger. To help you out (in the UK) Zap-Map have a fantastic live, interactive map! PlugShare is a similar map, which covers most of the world!

How many chargers are there within 10 miles of your home?

I bet it’s more than you thought!

De-extinction!

De-extinction

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the Earth BioGenome project in which I suggest that the idea of the project collecting and sequencing all of life was aimed at working towards being able to ‘de-extinct’ species that may be lost in the coming years.

Well this week the Guardian UK newspaper has run an article specifically about de-extinction, leading with the title Firm Raises $15m to Bring Back Woolly Mammoth from Extinction.

Now headlines don’t tell the whole story as we know, and what the article appears to be saying is that scientists (and I will come back to who) want to create an elephant-mammoth hybrid by making embryos in the laboratory that carry mammoth DNA. The plan is to begin by taking skin cells from Asian elephants and reprogram them into more versatile stem cells that carry mammoth DNA.

This could lead to the hybrids having long hair, larger fat depositis and other characteristics that would allow the animals to live in cold environments, rather like a mammoth.

The article has a subtitle though that makes for even more interesting reading: Reintroducing large animals can help restore ecosystems.

This is actually a link to an article that talks about the introduction of wolves and other non-extinct species into environments that suit their lifestyles, although the scientists proposing to do this with mammoths argue that their introduction may help to restore the degraded arctic tundra habitat and help in fighting global warming.

As we might imagine however none of the above comes without criticism, with other scientists arguing that these environmental claims might be baseless and the problems of producing such a hybrid aminal should not be underestimated (in technological terms).

George Church

Now to come back to the scientists. The money has been raised by bioscience and genetics company Colossal, co-founded by Ben Lamm, a tech and software entrepreneur, and George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School who has pioneered new approaches to gene editing. I don’t know much about Lamm, but George Church is a very interesting character. He has been at the forefront of all types of genetic research for many decades, raising plenty of controversy along the way.

He is a pioneer who has pushed scientific boundaries, and I had the pleasure of meeting him and sharing lunch back in 2012. I have to admit I was a bit frightened though. What do you say in such presence? There doesn’t appear to be any box to think out of for him!

This seems like an incredible project to me, to the point that I don’t know what to think. I grew up in the era of the Jurassic park films! Will I one day look out to see a pterodactyl fly past?