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Bulletproof Armor Protects Power Grid from Attacks

A substation sniper attack prompted new power grid armor. Also, VW's new microbus, and Airbus' new eVTOL wings.

VW's New Microbus

This week, Volkswagen unveiled the new ID. Buzz along with the ID. Buzz Cargo. The ID. Buzz is the hip new name they gave the microbus. With the Buzz, VW wants to tap into the microbus's tradition of maximum space with a minimum footprint. 

The new vehicle is more reminiscent of Canoo's Lifestyle Vehicle, though it does have a more traditional seating configuration. 

Available first in Europe by the third quarter of 2022, it's not coming to North America until 2024. The ID. Buzz is a five-seater with an all-electric rear-wheel drive. It has an electronically limited top speed of 90 mph, which is sad but safer, and VW didn't disclose the driving range. However, the company did note that the battery could get about an 80% charge in 30 minutes using DC fast charging.

The EV is built to be sustainable with recycled materials, organically based paint and non-animal interior material. 

The materials used for the floor coverings, roof liner and seat covers incorporate recycled material, including a fabric made from Seaqual yarn, which is derived from 10% ocean-collected plastic and 90% recycled PET bottles.

Part of VW's sustainability plan includes battery recycling, which will help them be reused. In addition, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles guarantees eight years or 100,000 miles on the ID. Buzz battery.

Airbus Partners on UAM Aircraft

This week, Airbus agreed to a deal with Spirit AeroSystems to develop wings for the company's CityAirbus NextGen, the company's eVTOL entry into the urban air mobility landscape. 

This partnership will help Airbus look into disruptive aircraft design while complying with stringent regulations. 

The fully electric CityAirbus NextGen is a prototype equipped with fixed wings, a V-shaped tail, and eight electrically powered propellers as part of its distributed propulsion system. 

The NextGen hopes to attain a 50-mile operational range and reach cruise speeds of 75 mph. 

Spirit will develop and manufacture the NextGen's wings in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Bulletproof Power Grid

A team of researchers wants to make the power grid bulletproof, but not metaphorically. 

In 2013, several gunmen attacked the PG&E Metcalf Transmission System in Northern California, causing more than $15 million in damage and destroying 17 transformers. 

The attack prompted Idaho National Laboratory researchers to develop a novel protective solution: the Armored Transformer Barrier system.

The system is made of military-grade steel and creates a formidable barricade to protect high-value, critical substations from threats. It not only protects from gunfire, but vehicles carrying explosives, as well. 

This week, the technology was licensed for production by Michigan-based Waltonen Engineering. 

Each barrier system has four parts: an A-shaped frame, two armor cassettes that slide into the frame and an optional top-hat armor extension. The idea is to assemble them on-site using simple hand tools, forklifts and lifting cranes. 

Although grid attacks are rare in the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security has warned of the implications a long-term power outage caused by a physical attack on key parts of the grid could have on society. 

The armor isn't just protecting the grid but the investment in these transformers. According to the Idaho Lab, the U.S. imports about 85% of its high-voltage transformers; they cost from $2.5 million to $10 million each and can take more than a year to build. They could also have potential as personal mobile panic rooms.

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