EV Corridor

Governors sign MOU to plan regional EV corridor across seven western US states

The governors of seven western states in the USA have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to provide a framework for creating a regional electric vehicle plan to realize the economic and environmental benefits of a coordinated ‘electrified’ infrastructure.

The governors of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming have signed the MOU to create the Regional Electric Vehicle Plan for the West (REV West Plan), which aims to create a recharging corridor in the region.

The plan, which was announced at the Energy Innovation Summit hosted by the National Governors Association in Salt Lake City earlier this month, intends to create a network that will make it possible to seamlessly drive an EV across the states’ major transportation routes.

The plan spans more than 5,000 miles (8,000km) of highway across east-west Interstates 10, 40, 70, 76, 80, 84, 86, 90 and 94, and north-south Interstates 15 and 25. With more than 20,000 EVs and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) already on the roads in the western states, the electrification of these major corridors is expected to reduce range anxiety and drive further adoption of EVs, while transforming the market to allow smaller communities to plug into the regional system.

The MOU calls for a coordination group to undertake the following actions:
• Create best practices and procedures that will enhance EV adoption by promoting consumer acceptance and awareness by addressing ‘range anxiety’;
• Coordinate on EV charging station locations to avoid redundancy and to ensure stations are sited at a frequency and locations to optimize usage and to minimize inconsistencies between charging infrastructure in each state;
• Leverage economies of scale;
• Create voluntary minimum standards for EV charging stations, including standards for administration, interoperability, operations and management;
• Identify and develop opportunities to incorporate EV charging station infrastructure into planning and development processes, such as building codes, metering policies, and renewable energy generation projects;
• Encourage manufacturers to stock and market a wide variety of EVs within the states;
• Identify, respond to, and where possible collaborate on funding opportunities to support the development of the REV West Corridor.

“This framework is another example of the innovation and bipartisan collaboration happening around energy here in the West,” said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

“Through this collaboration, we will drive economic growth and promote our outdoor recreation opportunities across our states. Our residents and the millions of visitors to our states will be able to drive electric vehicles from Denver to Las Vegas, from Santa Fe to Helena.”

October 19, 2017

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Alibaba smart DC’s

Alibaba’s delivery arm opens smart warehouses for shopping bonanza

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-10-18 15:18
Alibaba's delivery arm opens smart warehouses for shopping bonanza

A Wifi-equipped, self-charging robot which is responsible for transporting goods is pictured at the quicktron of the logistics arm Cainiao Network of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group in Huiyang district, Huizhou city South China’s Guangdong province, October 17,2017. [Photo/IC]

GUANGZHOU – Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s delivery arm Cainiao Network on Tuesday unveiled a flagship automated warehouse in Huiyang district, Huizhou city in South China’s Guangdong province.

It is among several automated warehouses that Cainiao plans to set up across China for the upcoming “Singles’ Day” shopping period.

According to Cainiao, the flagship warehouse has around 200 AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) robots, which can help process more than one million shipments per day. In the past, sorters would pick up goods one by one in warehouses, but now robots can bring goods to the sorters.

The flagship smart warehouse, with more robots and larger storage space, is an updated version of an automated warehouse the company built in Huiyang in July. It will provide efficient logistics services for online shoppers in southern inland cities and Hong Kong.

Cainiao will open a variety of automated warehouses in cities such as Shanghai and Tianjin, and provinces including Guangdong, Zhejiang and Hubei before Singles’ Day.

These warehouses will be equipped with automated production lines, AGV robots and robotic arms to improve logistics efficiency, said the company.

November 11 is known in China as Singles’ Day because the date, 11-11, resembles four “bare sticks,” a term used in China to refer to single people.

The day started to become associated with commerce when Alibaba launched a major promotional campaign for Singles’ Day in 2009.

Walmart looks to see if virtual shopping is better than the real thing

  October 19 at 3:38 PM

A man wears virtual reality goggles during a product demo in Switzerland. Walmart is looking to incorporate virtual reality in its stores and websites. (Valentin Flauraud/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Walmart has spent billions buying up websites like Jet.com and ModCloth, and is investing in new technology as it goes head-to-head with Amazon.com. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.) Now, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is setting its sights on virtual reality.

Imagine this, says Katie Finnegan, who heads Walmart’s tech incubator: You need a tent for your next camping trip. If all goes to plan, you could one day virtually swoop in to your campsite and see any given tent in action. “You could unzip it, lay down, look left and right and say, ‘Oh, this is supposed to be a two-person tent? It’s kind of tight,’ ” she said.

And then you could move on to the next tent — without leaving your couch

“There is a lot of technology we’re excited about,” Finnegan said, “but virtual reality in particular offers an opportunity to actually experience products and items in an immersive way.”

The technology has yet to catch on with the mainstream, so such concepts are still in the gee-whiz stage with no guarantee of boosting sales. But this summer, the company put out an open call for technology firms, venture capitalists and other entrepreneurs to submit their ideas. A panel of five judges — including Arianna Huffington, founder of Thrive Global; and Marc Lore, head of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce operations — whittled the 200 applicants to five winners. They then spent about two months at Walmart’s technology incubator, called Store No 8, coming up with new shopping-centric applications for virtual reality.

Walmart has been experimenting with virtual reality to help train its employees for busy shopping days like Black Friday. It is also testing a program that would allow delivery drivers to walk into customers’ homes and deliver groceries straight to their refrigerators.

Here are the five ideas the Bentonville, Ark.-based company says could be making their way online as early as next year:

  1. 3-D holograms at Bonobos.com, the male clothing site Walmart acquired this year for $310 million, that would make it possible for shoppers to try on virtual clothing for fit and style. According to Walmart, the technology would allow customers “to view how the fabric moves and get a sense of sizing, allowing for more realistic shopping previews and reviews.” (The idea was proposed by 8i, a New Zealand-based maker of virtual reality software.)
  2. At ModCloth, the women’s clothing site Walmart took over in March, customers may one day be able to take 3-D photos of themselves using their smartphones, and use those images to get an idea of how something might look on. That way, executives say, shoppers could “experience the realistic feel of an item before they purchase without having to physically go in-store.” (A concept offered by Fyusion, a San Francisco-based company that develops technology for processing 3-D scans.)
  3. An “interactive virtual store” for designer Rebecca Minkoff, whose items are sold at Walmart.com, would allow customers to sit in on fashion shows and shop directly from the runway. The technology, the company said, would effectively allow it to create a virtual store-within-a-store. (Developed by Obsess VR, a New York-based technology firm that specializes in 360-degree shopping sites.)
  4. Tired of shopping online alone? If Walmart gets its way, you may soon be interacting with other shoppers and experts as you pick out items for your virtual cart. Need help picking a pair of jeans? A virtual fashion assistant may be able to help. Trying to figure out why your nightstand is lopsided? An employee could tell you which screws are loose. (A concept from Nurulize, a Los Angeles-based virtual reality software developer.)
  5. Electric outlets, stove tops and door handles can all be child safety hazards — and soon, an online tool could peek inside your home and tell you where the biggest risks are lurking. The site could also give product recommendations and allow customers to test items virtually before buying them. (Piloted by Specular Theory, a Venice Beach, Calif., company that specializes in immersive content.)

Consumer Spend

CONSUMER | 10-19-2017

Growth was tough to come by at the start of the year, but topline sales did increase during the second quarter. Overall, dollar sales for the year are up 1.4%, with online growth driving the majority of the uptick (0.1% brick and mortar vs 21.1% online). Despite the meager growth, the future looks promising, as Americans are feeling very positive about their general situations: Consumer confidence remains strong at an index of 118, maintaining optimistic levels well above the global average of 104.

Following a tough first three months of 2017, dollar sales increased $6.7 billion (3%), unit sales grew $2.2 billion (3.2%) and deflationary pressures dissipated in the second quarter. Despite the inklings of a rebound, we can see that from an annual trend perspective that we’re not out of the woods yet.

THE E-COMMERCE ELEMENT

While e-commerce represents a sliver of overall dollar sales, it’s growing rapidly and steadily gaining prominence. In fact, online channels have driven 90% of FMCG growth in the past year.

Dollar Sales Growth Across Channels

Big Food Brands

Big Food Brands Can’t Come Back

Kellogg and Campbell Soup may be the weakest in packaged foods. Pinnacle Foods may be the best.

Oct. 19, 2017 11:11 a.m. ET
Credit Suisse

U.S. Nielsen-measured food and beverage sales fell 0.1% over the four-week span ended Oct. 7, reversing from a 2% gain last month and a string of positive data since June.

Private-label sales and volume grew 2.1% and 0.3% respectively, below the year-to-date run rate of 3.3% and 2%. Branded food sales fell 0.6% versus last month’s 1.3% gain; volume was down 2.6% versus last month’s negative 0.7%. We find that the previous period’s outsize gains are being neutralized by this period’s drop, endorsing a pull-forward in consumption (pantry stocking) that benefited the prior period ended Sept. 9.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25 while Hurricane Irma reached Florida on Sept. 10. We estimate over 5% of the total U.S. population was affected by these storms. Our post-storm survey of 40 grocers in Florida indicated busy store traffic in the days following the hurricane as consumers stocked up on food and replaced refrigerated items. However, today’s data indicate that these sales merely pulled forward volume from October, thus causing a net neutral storm impact on consumption in the third quarter.

Our Big Food group’s struggles continue, with sales down 2.4% in the four-week and down 1.2% in the 12-week. Pricing was up by 2.7% in the four-week, offsetting a dramatic volume decline of 5.2%. Private label continues to outperform, with sales up 3.7% in the 12-week and 3.3% year-to-date. Among our companies, Kellogg (ticker: K) and Campbell Soup (CPB) looked the weakest, and Pinnacle Foods (PF) the best at up 0.9% in sales growth in the four-week. We remain skeptical that the big branded-food companies will return to positive growth in a sustainable way.

While Wal-Mart Stores ’ (WMT) comments at its Investor Day regarding pricing were more benign than expected, the challenging landscape for struggling food brands continues due to private label emphasis and store layout changes ahead.

Hershey (HSY) sales down 1.9% in the four-week and flat in the 12-week. Sales declined from last month’s 0.7% increase in the four-week, while 12-week sales fell from 1.5%. Non-chocolate candy and gum continued to show gains, but chocolate candy (at roughly 75% of total consumption) drove losses with sales down 3% in the four-week and 1% in the 12-week, due to volume declines. Company-wide pricing grew by 1.8% in the 12-week, while volumes fell 1.7%. We remain optimistic of Hershey’s ability to drive second-half growth and margin expansion through new product launches and input-cost favorability.

Organics Showing UP

CONSUMER | 09-14-2017

The word “organic” has become a household term, and purchasing trends are following suit. In the last year, 88% of U.S. households have purchased organic* food and beverages—a trend that’s growing in strength as consumers increasingly turn to more healthy and cleanoptions in food, beverages and non-food categories like personal care. And retail measurement data validates this shift. In the year ended Sept. 2, 2017, dollar sales of UPC-coded organic products grew 9.8%, and unit volume increased 11.4%.

In the past, organic products were most prevalently available in premier natural and fresh grocery stores. In recent years, however, organics have become more accessible—and popular—than ever, with dollar sales shifting across channel lines. Premier natural and fresh outlets account for 26% of organic spend, but share has started to shift in the last two years. Warehouse/club stores, which gained 0.8 percentage point in the last two years, now represent 27% of all organic spend. But organic products aren’t just making headway in the channels that high-income shoppers are more likely to frequent. In fact, supermarkets, mass merchandisers and discount grocery channels now represent a combined 25% share of organic spend, up 2.0 percentage points from two years ago.

Accessible Organics

In addition to becoming more accessible across retail channels, organic growth is also spreading across the actual store. Notably, fresh departments are top drivers of success for retailers when it comes to organic offerings, but there are still many other opportunities for growth across center store aisles that carry shelf-stable packaged goods, dairy and frozen foods.

Organic Growth Departments

For many, organic has become a state of mind. In fact, 29% of Americans say organic claims influence their purchasing of food and beverage categories. But the importance of organic does vary across specific fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) categories. According to Nielsen’s 2017 Category Shopping Fundamentals study, 40% of consumers said organic is important when shopping for baby food, though that level of importance is less so for other categories like milk (8%), lotion (6%) and ice cream (4%).

For a variety of reasons, including factors related to product supply and labor inputs, organic products often come with a higher price tag. In a recent Nielsen survey, 41% of consumers said financial costs associated with eating healthier foods are a barrier to their personal health. Compared to conventional products, organic eggs cost an average of 122% more than the average retail price for eggs; organic milk is 87% higher; vitamins are 40% higher and baby food is 20% higher.

For some households, especially lower-income households, price can be a significant purchase influencer. However, private-label products can offer the accessibility of organic products at a more affordable price point. When looking at the average price for a selection of organic items, the private-label basket was 18% less expensive than the branded basket. This suggests that private-label offerings could serve as the entry point for organics among consumers with less disposable funds to spend.

Private Label Organics

As consumers continue to search for clean products to fill their baskets, those labeled “organic” are sure to catch their eye. For retailers looking to boost their organic sales at price points that resonate with the average shopper, investing in private-label organics may open doors to a larger set of consumers on the hunt for healthier foods, regardless of which channel they shop in.

Birthrate Declines

Drop in Teen Birthrate Helps Drive Decline in Fertility

Economists track the trend because it suggests how many people will be competing for food—and jobs

The U.S. birthrate hit a record low in 2016.
The U.S. birthrate hit a record low in 2016. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Their biological clocks may be ticking, but fewer U.S. women are listening—at least fewer young women.

The country’s birthrate hit a record low in 2016 with 62 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age, but that top-line figure conceals a main driver of the decline:

The birthrate among teenagers fell 9% from the previous year to 20.3 births per 1,000 women, the lowest figure for that age group since at least 1940.

The only group having fewer children was women ages 40 to 44. But unlike teens, the older women gave birth at a higher rate than the year before, increasing by 4% to 11.4 births per 1,000 women.

The National Center for Health Statistics released the latest general fertility figures for women of childbearing age, defined as ages 15 to 44, in September.

Fertility LevelsU.S. births per 1,000 women, by age groupTHE WALL STREET JOURNALSource: PRB analysis of data from the National Center for Health Statistics
.birthsOverall15-19 years20-24 years25-29 years30-34 years35-39 years40-44 years1986’88’90’92’94’96’982000’02’04’06’08’10’12’14’1602040608010012014020-24 yearsx2005x101.8 births

Women ages 35 to 39 also pulled down the overall average with 52.7 births per 1,000 women, an increase of 2%. But the rates of birth for the three remaining age groups were all substantially higher than the average.

Women ages 20 to 24 had 73.8 births per 1,000 women, down 4% from the previous year. Women 25 to 29 had 102.1 births per 1,000 women, down 2%. And women 30 to 34 had 102.7 births per 1,000 women, an increase of 1%.

Economists and others pay attention to fertility because it reveals how many people will be competing for food, property and jobs in the future, as well as how many will be available to support programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Too few births, in the absence of mitigating factors such as immigration, could compromise the economy, but it’s possible today’s younger women are merely delaying pregnancy rather than skipping it altogether.

“That’s the question people are asking,” said Mark Mather, who specializes in U.S. demographic trends for the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit demographic-research group. “Will they catch up or will their completed fertility levels be lower than those of previous generations?”

It isn’t unusual for births to decline following an economic downturn—at the start of the 2007-09 recession, the general fertility rate was 69.3 births per 1,000 women—but general fertility is only one measure.

“This is an important piece of information, but it’s not a full picture,” said Brady E. Hamilton, a statistician who co-wrote the NCHS report.

A measure favored by some demographers is the total fertility rate, a projection of how many children a woman will have in her lifetime.

“Most demographers would tell you the total fertility rate is the preferred rate in terms of really getting at women’s propensity to have children,” Dr. Mather said.

The two measures are related.

The general fertility rate is calculated by dividing the number of live births by the number of girls and women who are of childbearing age. (The result is multiplied by 1,000 to get the rate per 1,000 women.)

Total fertility calculates the same rate by age or age group and then sums up the results to estimate the average number of children each woman will have during her lifetime. (If five-year age groups are used, the sum of the rates is multiplied by five.)

“It’s kind of a hypothetical number, but demographers like it because it’s essentially a projection of what would happen if today’s fertility rates were held constant through this girl’s lifetime,” said Gretchen Livingston, a demographer at Pew Research Center who is an expert on fertility.

New Ways to Monitor Pregnancy in Real Time
Researchers are hoping to better understand the function of the placenta and how to monitor it during pregnancy. The goal: to better identify and intervene earlier with common pregnancy problems such as preeclampsia, preterm birth and stillbirth. Sumathi Reddy reports. Photo: Getty (Originally Published November 2, 2015)

At its low point in 1976, the total fertility rate projected that women of childbearing age that year would have an average of 1.7 children. The rate is now 1.8.

Other measures have also increased.

Completed fertility, a retrospective measure that shows how many children women ages 40 to 44 actually had, hit a low point in 2006 with an average 1.86 births per woman. It’s now at about 2 births per woman, or nearly replacement level. And the raw number of births bottomed out in 1973, when there were 3.1 million. Last year, there were 3.9 million.

“The total number of births has generally increased or remained steady over time even though fertility rates have declined,” Dr. Mather said. “This is because the total number of women of reproductive age in the U.S. has increased as the population has grown.”

Taken together, the different measures provide a more complete picture of fertility in the U.S.

Corrections & Amplifications 
The birthrate among teenagers in 2016 fell 9% from the previous year to 20.3 births per 1,000 women. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the 9% decline referred to the teen pregnancy rate. (Oct. 20, 2017)