Need to Know
14 : 08 : 20

The future of urban electric vehicle energy exchange, Karana’s plant-based spin on Asian comfort foods, and US citizens switch off from social media.

Nissan swaps surplus electricity for free parking

Pavillion by Nissan, Japan
Pavillion by Nissan, Japan
Pavillion by Nissan, Japan

Japan – Nissan is pointing to a future in which electric vehicle (EV) drivers access free parking in exchange for sharing their car's spare electricity.

Part of The Pavilion, Nissan's Yokohama-based exhibition exploring the future of mobility, the space allows visitors to pay for parking by sending electricity from EVs into the building. The exhibition itself acts a demonstration for Nissan’s Energy Share and electricity storage technologies, with vehicles such as its Leaf cars showing the potential to power homes and city infrastructure during energy blackouts or disasters.

By suggesting a future where building and car park owners ask EV drivers for a share of electricity in exchange for discounted or eliminated parking fees, it could be that the pay-with-electricity initiative encourages more electric car demand and use in our towns and cities.

Electric vehicles have been gaining traction in recent years, with many brands and consumers considering the importance of sustainability as part of our urban mobility futures.

Asian comfort foods’ plant-based pivot

Karana, Singapore Karana, Singapore
Karana, Singapore Karana, Singapore

Singapore – Emerging food service company Karana is positioning its sustainably sourced plant-based meat as a comfort food alternative.

Launched as a response to local consumers' desire for more transparent, healthy and sustainable food options, Karana is offering its first product – a jackfruit alternative to pork – to other local food brands as a minced or shedded option for use in dumplings, gyoza and bánh mì baguettes. The young jackfruit is sourced from smallholder farmers in Sri Lanka, with minimal processing.

‘Sustainability has never been more important, especially when it comes to food, and our first base ingredient was carefully chosen with this in mind,’ explains Dan Riegler, co-founder of Karana. ‘Jackfruit is an extremely efficient crop with high yields and low water usage making it friendly to smallholder farmers.’

Looking ahead, Karana plans to extend its offering to ready-to-cook home products, adding a direct-to-consumer layer to the business. Elsewhere, brands like Omsom are rebranding Asian foods for Western markets to celebrate their heritage and flavours.

This ecology game informs real-world research

UK – EcoBuilder is an online game that lets players build their own explorative plant and animal worlds using the same simulations as real-life ecologists.

Developed researchers at Imperial College London, the game provides both entertainment and education, letting players build particular ecological models to see how plants and species can thrive – or fail.

In turn, high game scores within EcoBuilder will help researchers to better understand successful ecosystems, with models in the game considering how carbon sequestration can affect species’ diversity. A future update plans to include aspects of climate change.

The game's open methodology directly involves players and stores their ecosystem decisions on a server to aid wider ecological research. ‘There’s a chance that the results that come from the strategies that the players use, and similar understanding of real ecosystems, could be used to inform environmentalist policies,’ explains Jonathon Zheng, a PhD student at Imperial College London.

In Activism Gaming, we examine the ways people are using gaming platforms to express their social, environmental and political values.

EcoBuilder by Jonathan Zheng, Imperial College London

Stat: US citizens shun social media for self-care

Paper phone by Google Paper phone by Google

A survey by The Ohio State University reveals that American social media habits are changing in response to the social and political events of 2020.

More than half (56%) of Americans say their social media habits have changed as a result of Covid-19, racial inequality, and other divisive political issues. This has led to one in five (20%) of Americans taking breaks from social media.

‘Being constantly immersed in this stressful environment and being overexposed to contentious or traumatic events can make you feel like the world is a less safe place to be,’ explains Ken Yeager, Ph.D., director of the stress, trauma and resilience (STAR) program at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

With mainstream social media causing continued anxiety, a series of Anti-social Networks are allowing people to better connect with others through close-knit communities.

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