TechKNOW Tomorrow – 2035: The End of Gasoline Vehicles

Image by Erik Mclean via Unsplash.

Despite our attempts to prevent or slow down climate change, it’s unfortunately too late – the damage we’ve done to our world is now irreversible. Regardless of where you live, you can see some of these effects on a daily basis. The typhoons in China, the floods in Pakistan and India, the wildfires in France and the United States, and the heat wave in Western Canada… all of these issues stem from climate change caused by humans to varying extents.

While much damage has already been done to the environment, many countries have finally recognized the importance of reducing greenhouse emissions to prevent an even worse climate crisis in the future. One major target discussed during the Paris Agreement in 2016 was the reduction of fuel emissions generated by gasoline-powered vehicles. That said, how does a country like ours reduce fuel emissions?

Another Chance for Electric Vehicles

Towards the end of June 2021, the federal government of Canada “pledged a goal of having all sales of light-duty vehicles, including pickup trucks, be zero-emission vehicles by 2035“. This means that by 2035, it will be illegal to own a new vehicle powered by gas, which includes hybrids and gasoline-powered vehicles. Zero-emission vehicles include three different types: battery-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell.

Many companies like General Motors (GM), Volkswagen (VW), and Ford are already changing their vehicle lineups and investing in rechargeable batteries and electric motors.

We’ve seen electric vehicles before, but most of us never bought into them. When the technology was in its infancy, the vehicles proved to be difficult to maintain and expensive to purchase. Most unfortunate, however, was the limited distance an electric vehicle could cover on a single charge compared to a conventional vehicle running on gasoline.

A recent technological breakthrough is changing that. Electric vehicles are currently powered by lithium-ion batteries, which come with numerous limitations. Today, lithium-metal batteries are being designed and tested to power vehicles, which could boost the current range of an EV by 80% and can be rapidly recharged. The goal is to have these batteries powering electric vehicles by 2025.

Pros and Cons of Electric Vehicles

Pros

  1. Electricity can be a renewable source of energy, while gasoline can’t. Solar, wind, and hydro power are all great examples of cheaper alternatives to gasoline.
  2. Electric vehicles don’t produce carbon dioxide emissions and electricity is much better for the environment than gasoline is.
  3. Lithium-metal batteries “could increase the lifetime of electric vehicles to that of the gasoline cars—10 to 15 years—without the need to replace the battery. With its high current density, the battery could pave the way for electric vehicles that can fully charge within 10 to 20 minutes.” Vehicle longevity, once a major concern for buyers, won’t really be a factor when making the move from gasoline to electric.
  4. Electric vehicles don’t need oil and, thanks to the electric motor, require less frequent and more affordable maintenance than a traditional combustion engine.
  5. Have you ever been annoyed by the sound of your vehicle’s engine? Electric cars are supposed to be a lot quieter.

Cons

  1. While this should change in the near future, electric vehicles still cost more than vehicles powered by gasoline.
  2. Electric vehicles, despite many improvements, still can’t travel the same distance on a single charge that a gasoline-powered vehicle can with a full tank. The lithium-metal battery should be able to make up for this soon, but it’s still not quite ready for the market.
  3. Lithium-metal batteries promise to offer a full charge in as little as 10 to 20 minutes, but the average electric vehicle today could take over an hour to charge!
  4. At the moment, it can be difficult to find a charging station for your vehicle. Canada has approximately 5,000 charging stations, while there are just under 12,000 gas stations across the entire country.
Image by Eduardo Arcos via Unsplash.

Ultimately, it may not be wise to invest in an electric car at the moment. That said, big changes are on the horizon – not just for Canada, but across the entire world. Like it or not, electric vehicles seem to be the future for the automotive industry… one that we’ll have to embrace sooner rather than later.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

TechKNOW Tomorrow – The Evolution of Video Streaming Services

Image by freestocks via Unsplash.

Betamax, VHS, DVD, Blu Ray, and 4K Blu Ray – what do these things have in common? Home video. Since the ’70s, you didn’t need to see a movie in theatres in order to experience it; you could wait for it to be released and then watch it from the comfort of your own home. It was the dawn of video rental chains like Blockbuster and Jumbo Video, which flourished throughout the ’90s and early 2000s. The thought of streaming movies seemed impossible at the time.

Everything changed in 2005 with the rise of streaming video giant YouTube. Its original purpose was to serve as a personal video experience that anyone could participate in, not for films or television shows. However, the seed was already planted, and the idea of streaming videos was about to change the industry as a whole.

By 2008, it was the beginning of the end for physical media AND cable TV packages. Internet speeds picked up with the invention of fibre optic broadband, which “used light rather than electricity meaning that its cables, technically, [had] no limit“. Netflix, previously an online DVD rental business, rebranded in 2007 by offering the world’s first movie and television show streaming service (not including Hong Kong’s iTV). In 2008, Netflix had the technology it needed to stream without limitations.

By 2011, several services like Amazon Instant Video and Hulu were also competing for dominance in the streaming market. As “Netflix’s relationships with several studios and media publishers had become strained” by 2012 (in part due to competition), Netflix knew it had to offer something that its rivals couldn’t – original content. Netflix Originals such as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black demonstrated the potential of offering exclusive content to attract more subscribers.

Today, cable television is dying, and physical media such as Blu Ray discs are slowly being discontinued. Samsung, for example, had already ceased production on their Blu Ray players two years ago.

The future is here, with streaming services appearing on the market for what will likely be at least another decade. Just as it was back in the early 2000s with the unpredictability of internet speeds, the next evolution in technology for the TV and film industry is nearly impossible to foresee.

To hazard a guess, you may start finding combined subscription services or partnerships between the major players in the video streaming market. Just as cable TV services offer numerous channels for a single price, you may start seeing streaming subscription services bundles at a higher price. For example, maybe Netflix and HBO will offer a package that includes both services. Amazon and Disney could be another possibility.

Some Current Video Streaming Services Available in Canada

With so many options available, it can be difficult to choose which streaming service is best for you. Also, while you may be interested in multiple subscriptions, many of them aren’t available in Canada (e.g., Hulu). The following list of Canadian streaming services should help clear up any confusion. Links to the websites for more information will be provided as well.

NOTE: Film releases still circulating in theatres will likely cost extra on these platforms. All prices are in Canadian dollars (CAD).

  1. Netflix: The most popular streaming service for a reason, Netflix not only has a multitude of fan-favourite TV series and movies, but also a host of original/exclusive programs like Stranger Things, Orange Is the New Black, and Peaky Blinders. Plans start as low as $9.99 a month.
  2. Crave TV: This is another popular streaming service in Canada. Crave has many HBO/exclusive series such as Sex and the City, Game of Thrones, and The Handmaid’s Tale that are impossible to get on other services. Plans start as low as $9.99 a month.
  3. Amazon Prime Video: This one is great for online shoppers. The service is included with Amazon Prime’s one-day shipping method and includes original movies and shows like Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Modern Love, American Gods, and The Boys. If you’re interested in more shows or movies from Starz, BBC Earth, or The History Channel, there are optional add-ons that will cost extra. Prime Video costs $7.99 a month or $79.00 annually.
  4. Apple TV+: While the catalogue of exclusives is limited at the moment, Apple TV+ features some notable programs such as For All Mankind, Dickinson, Mythic Quest, and Defending Jacob. The service will set you back $5.99 a month.
  5. Disney+: New to the scene, Disney+ offers a variety of content primarily aimed towards children and teenagers. Notable titles include Star Wars Episode V, Inside Out, Beauty and the Beast, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Thanks to content created by their subsidiaries (e.g., FX or 20th Century Fox/Studios), content curated and developed for adults is also available. Disney+ costs $11.99 a month or $119.99 a year.
  6. Shudder: A service directed towards horror and thriller movie fans, Shudder has a massive collection of classic and modern films that may scratch that itch. More recently, they’ve been producing a couple of exclusive shows such as Creepshow, A Discovery of Witches, and The Last Drive-in With Joe Bob Briggs. Shudder can be yours for $5.99 a month or $56.99 a year.
  7. CBC Gem: This might be a good choice if you want to support a service with Canadian, European, or Asian content. Besides keeping up to date on the news across Canada, you can also support local TV series such as Pretty Hard Cases, Schitt’s Creek, and Workin’ Moms. Foreign hits like Luther and Das Boot are also included in your subscription, which you can purchase for $4.99 a month or watch for FREE with advertisements.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

TechKNOW Tomorrow – Synthetic mRNA and the Future of Biotechnology

Image by CDC via Unsplash.

Twenty years ago, we began work on an exciting new technology called synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA), unaware of how significant it would become throughout the 2020s. As the world was torn apart by COVID-19 last year, scientists turned to “mRNA as a way to create potential vaccines; in late December 2020, at a time when more than 1.5 million had died from COVID-19 worldwide, the vaccines were approved in the U.S., marking the beginning of the end of the pandemic“.

Today, thanks to this medical breakthrough and the swift, arduous work of biotechnology firms, people throughout the world are finally receiving their first or second vaccination for the virus. Going forward, these vaccines could potentially be what slows and eventually stops the spread of the virus – as well as any mutations. Therefore, it might be a good idea to better understand what synthetic mRNA is exactly.

Synthetic mRNA

mRNA is a naturally-occurring molecule found in the human body similar to DNA. The trillions of cells in the human body are all involved in the process of gene expression, which essentially helps make each of us unique. Synthetic mRNA is natural mRNA combined with technology to synthesize something unique, sort of like biological software or a cyborg cell.

Image by CDC via Unsplash.

Biotech firms can possibly control gene expression “by making precise tweaks to synthetic mRNA and injecting people with it, [so that] any cell in the body could be transformed into an on-demand drug factory“. Viruses use proteins to give commands to cells, such as replicating a bad cell until the entire body is infected. mRNA can simulate this process by masquerading as these virus cells and triggering an immune response.

We’ve seen this firsthand with the speed at which the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were developed, and with their approval by the FDA. Both vaccines are able to trigger our immune systems to develop protective antibodies without the need for COVID-19 to be present in the body.

Before, an inactivated vaccine was commonly used to treat viruses by introducing dead or dying cells into our systems to give our bodies an idea of what exactly these potential threats look like. With synthetic mRNA, that might no longer be necessary.

Why this Breakthrough is Important

COVID vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna have proven that synthetic mRNA finally has a place in the medical world, hinting at a future in which similar vaccines can be developed to deal with other infectious diseases such as malaria and ebola. Because we can easily manipulate mRNA, we should also be able to alter vaccines in case COVID-19 continues to mutate into alternate and more deadly strains.

Not only could vaccines for infectious diseases be finally treatable with mRNA – influenza, rabies, and HIV are all already undergoing human trials – but they could also be developed within three or four months. While this might seem overly optimistic, this discovery may have revolutionized modern medicine entirely: “mRNA vaccines can be used to target almost any pathogen. … You put in the code for a particular protein that stimulates an immune response. … It’s essentially unlimited.”

Of course, only time will tell.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.