Axios What's Next
August 30, 2022
Can high-tech windows help slow climate change? We're about to find out, Alex reports today.
Today's Smart Brevity count: 806 words ... 3 minutes.
1 big thing: Welcome to the "smart glass" era
Among the Inflation Reduction Act's little-noticed yet potentially game-changing provisions: a big incentive for "smart glass," which can make buildings significantly more energy efficient, Alex Fitzpatrick reports.
Why it matters: Buildings account for 27% of annual global carbon dioxide emissions, by one estimate. While eco-friendly buildings aren't as sexy or exciting as electric cars, anything that makes them greener is a big win for hitting climate goals.
Driving the news: The IRA, which President Biden signed into law earlier this month, includes a 30% smart glass tax credit.
- That credit stands to increase adoption by reducing the effective cost of retrofitting old buildings or using smart glass in new construction.
How it works: Smart glass, also called "dynamic glass" or "electrochromic glass," differs from regular glass in that its tint level can be adjusted on demand — think Transitions glasses, but for buildings.
- Smart glass contains thin layers of metal oxide. When small amounts of electricity are applied to those layers, ions move between them, changing the glass' tint level.
- When the summer sun is hitting the side of a building, the tint level can be increased, allowing visible light to pass but blocking some solar radiation — thereby reducing incoming heat.
- Conversely, the tint can be decreased in colder seasons, allowing more natural heat to pass through.
Smart glass can help reduce a building's heating or cooling energy needs by about 20%, per a U.S. Department of Energy estimate.
- Plus, if lots of buildings in a single city adopt smart glass, it can reduce the peak load on the local electric grid during times of heavy use.
What they're saying: "The demand here is just going to explode as a result of this," says Rao Mulpuri, CEO of smart glass maker View, of the IRA tax credit.
- View's glass systems are connected to the cloud and managed by predictive, automatic dimming software.
- The company's U.S.-made glass has been or is set to be installed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, an Amazon office in Redmond, Washington, and 10 World Trade, which aims to be one of Boston's greenest buildings.
- Other companies in the space include SageGlass and Gentex, the latter of which focuses on automotive and aerospace applications.
Yes, but: Smart glass is still pretty expensive, and building owners don't change out their windows all that often.
- Yet as with other kinds of green tech, long-term energy bill savings can make up for upfront installation costs.
The big picture: Combined with the semiconductor industry-boosting chips bill, the IRA's green tech incentives could jump-start America's high-tech hardware industry, Mulpuri says.
2. The battery plants are coming
Honda and LG Energy Solution are investing $4.4 billion in a new U.S. electric vehicle (EV) battery plant, Axios' Ben Geman reports.
Driving the news: Construction is slated to start in early 2023. The factory will produce batteries for Honda and Acura EVs sold in North American markets.
- The location was not disclosed, but Ohio is an option, per several reports.
Why it matters: It's the latest in a slew of major battery projects underway or planned in the U.S., a trend that has accelerated since the IRA was signed into law.
- The law ties consumer subsidies to rules on sourcing batteries and materials from North America and other free-trade partners.
The intrigue: "With battery prices surging on the back of rising demand and skyrocketing raw material costs, more inter-industry partnerships are likely to form over the next few years," the Wall Street Journal reports.
3. NASA's moon launch scrubbed
NASA called off its planned Artemis I launch yesterday due to engine troubles, Axios' Miriam Kramer reports.
Why it matters: It would have been the first flight for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion crew capsule, which it plans to use to return people to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo program.
The latest: One of the SLS' four engines didn't reach the correct temperature, preventing a safe launch.
- NASA has backup launch dates on Sept. 2 and Sept. 5, but it wasn't immediately clear if the issue would be fixed in time for those windows.
Of note: Artemis I is an uncrewed launch — essentially a flight test before the new rocket and capsule are cleared to fly human astronauts.
4. 📸 Fight fire with... robots?
A firefighting reconnaissance robot is seen at the 2022 International Safety and Emergency Response Expo in China on Sunday.
5. One fun thing: PSLs are back on the menu
Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte returns today, Axios' Kelly Tyko reports.
Driving the news: The coffee chain is breaking with its recent history of pushing pumpkin spice's return earlier each year, with its latest release date since 2018.
Flashback: The pumpkin spice craze started 19 years ago, when Starbucks debuted its Pumpkin Spice Latte — or PSL — in 2003.
Of note: The PSL's return comes as labor leaders blast Starbucks for what they say are union-busting tactics.
A hearty thanks to What's Next copy editor Amy Stern.
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