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Meals on wheels: Hungry squirrels go nuts over this man’s Honda

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Lenard Broadhead says biodegradeable materials used in his new Honda are so “eco-friendly,” hungry squirrels find them irresistible.

Broadhead, who lives in Ottawa, says the rodents have made a series of targeted strikes on his air-filters, motors and fuel injector wiring, with repair costs eating away about $1,000 of his savings.

Now his new routine is to remote-start his vehicle from a safe distance and then watch the underside for escaping squirrels.

“I’m paranoid about this, because it’s freaking expensive,” Broadhead said.

Watch as Lenard Broadhead explains what squirrels have been doing to his car: 

Lenard Broadhead says a squirrel that finds his Honda car irresistible has cost him $1,000 in repairs. 0:41

A gnawing problem

Many automakers have shifted to bioplastics in recent years.

Resins derived from soy, rice husks, corn, castor oil and even agave are used to make seat cushions, plastic moldings and insulating covering for wires in newer vehicles.

In the U.S., several class-action lawsuits have been launched against Honda, Kia and Toyota, with plaintiffs typically arguing that the environmentally friendly wire insulation gives off a faint smell of vanilla when warm — too tempting for rodents to resist.

In Broadhead’s case, he said the damage is more than just an expensive inconvenience. He worries it’s also a safety issue.

While driving earlier this month, Broadhead’s car “went crazy with all kinds of alarms,” he said.

He headed back to the dealership at 30 km/h and waited while technicians discovered that wires leading to his vehicle’s fuel-injection system had been gnawed.

Technicians at a Honda dealership added genuine Honda anti-rodent tape to some of the wiring in Broadhead’s CRV. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Hot tape

At Hunt Club Honda, service manager James Ringwald is sympathetic, even to the point of making repairs to Broadhead’s cars at cost, but he isn’t so sure the parts are the problem.

He said rodents wreaking havoc on vehicles isn’t anything new, and that cars of any vintage and any manufacture can be irresistible to nesting pests.

But Broadhead is sure the problem is with the formulation of the plastics in his car because on other occasions, Kia, Mazda, Hyundai and Ford automobiles have been parked in his driveway and none has been gnawed-upon.

He thinks the existence of Honda Part No. 4019-2317, a cayenne-pepper infused anti-rodent tape, stands as a tacit admission that there are uniquely-Honda problems with the company’s plastic formula.

“How come they’re the only manufacturer that sells this?” wonders a skeptical Broadhead.

At $91 for a thin 20-metre long roll of tape, it’s not just the taste of the tape that made Broadhead’s eyes water.

Last week, he paid for technicians at Hunt Club Honda to add short lengths of the special rodent-deterring Honda tape to wiring under the hood.

He’s waiting to see if it works.

Honda Part No. Honda 4019-2317 is a cayenne-pepper infused, anti-rodent tape meant to prevent pests from chewing through wires.

Eating the costs

In addition to investing in the spicy electrical tape, the 69-year-old former bureaucrat with the federal government now parks in the garage.

“It’s the only safe place,” Broadhead said.

He has also added a mesh bag containing both mothballs and cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil to his engine compartment.

Additionally, he’s mixed up his own elixir of dish soap, water and hot pepper sauce to spray around the perimeter of his driveway.

Honda Canada did not respond to questions about plastics problems from CBC News.

Broadhead tries not to park his 2017 CRV in his driveway out of worries that squirrels will cause more expensive damage. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Honda isn’t the only company developing bio-plastics for industrial applications. Dupont’s Zytel RS is a nylon resin made with sebacic acid extracted from castor oil.

In 2006, Mazda announced the creation of a bioplastic that is 88 per cent corn.

In 2016, Ford Motor Company and Jose Cuervo announced they were developing a sustainable bioplastic derived from the tequila-maker’s spent agave plant fibres.

None of it impresses Broadhead, who believes he has been eating the costs of environmentally-friendly plastic.

“I’d like to see cars that are not friendly to rodents,” Broadhead said.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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