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Transportation Technology

Norway Will Make All Short-Haul Flights Electric By 2040 (independent.co.uk) 206

Norway's public operator of air transport plans to make all short-haul flights in the country entirely electric by 2040. "State-owned Avinor, which operates most of Norway's civil airports, is aiming to be the 'first in the world' to switch to electric air transport," reports The Independent. From the report: "We think that all flights lasting up to 1.5 hours can be flown by aircraft that are entirely electric," chief executive Dag Falk-Petersen told AFP. The announcement confirms Norway's reputation as a leader in electric power. In a 2017 report, Avinor announced that in cooperation with the Norwegian Sports Aviation Association and major airlines, it had set up a development project for electric aircraft. Avinor said it had "called for Norway to be established as a test arena and innovation center for the development of electric aircraft." Avinor intends to reduce aircraft greenhouse gas emissions in the short term by phasing in biofuels in the coming years, and then build on these reductions by phasing in electric planes.
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Norway Will Make All Short-Haul Flights Electric By 2040

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  • Nope (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 19, 2018 @07:37PM (#55964669)

    "Flight 666, I know you're at 1% battery, but maintain flight level 3 5 0 while we land more prominent flights."

    • Re:Nope (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday January 19, 2018 @08:22PM (#55964941) Homepage

      The funny thing is, electric aircraft can regenerate on descent [flightofthecentury.com]. If for some strange reason you "ran out of power" in the air, yes, you'd have to make an emergency landing, but it would be an emergency powered landing. Unlike the unpowered landing a combustion-powered aircraft landing has to make if it runs out of fuel.

      • Re:Nope (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jshackney ( 99735 ) on Friday January 19, 2018 @09:30PM (#55965247) Homepage

        Chip hasn't exactly been active on that blog for a while. Did he ever regenerate more than 2%? The drag on this system would be tremendous. I think it would make a better speed brake than a power regeneration system. In my aircraft, I have to descend at least at a 6-degree angle (or greater) in order for the weight of the plane to drive the N1. And that's a mostly free turbine (it does turn an accessory box for hydraulic and electric). I can't imagine putting a heavy electric-generating load onto a propeller system and recovering enough energy to do more than 60-90 seconds of modest powered flight. Perhaps that would be enough to make that one final correction on landing, but if it's not enough to do a go-around, it's just not enough.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          It certainly steepens your descent profile, but the scenario in question was the plane running out of power while circling. And even a couple minutes worth of propulsion at landing makes a world of difference (2% of a 90 minute flight = nearly 2 minutes).

          but if it's not enough to do a go-around, it's just not enough.

          Seriously, you're demanding go-around capability on emergency, out-of-"fuel" landings?

      • All aircraft can trade potential energy (altitude) for range. Even in an electric, rather then use the engines as generators it would be more efficient to feather the props and make use of the improved glide.

        Its a way that aircraft are fundamentally different from cars and why electric airplanes don't get the same sort of efficiency win.

        You could use regenerative breaking rather than putting out drag devices (spoilers and similar) but those are generally used for a small percentage of flight time because t

        • Electric aeroplanes don't win on efficiency because power to weight ratio is far more important, along with maximum power output

          Turbines use 30% more fuel than equivalent piston engines, but they're less than 1/4 the weight AND mechanically simpler (far lower maintenance downtime) AND they can scale up to 30MW output. The largest piston engines ever put on wings were only about 2MW and they were HEAVY as well as needing an overhaul pretty much after every long flight.

          Weight is key. Geared turbofans are much

    • I wouldn't want to be the controller who tells Bruce Dickinson that there are more prominent flights than his one.

  • Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hawk ( 1151 ) <hawk@eyry.org> on Friday January 19, 2018 @07:37PM (#55964677) Journal

    A timeline to switch over before the first successful prototypes been demonstrated . . .

    hawk

    • I was thinking the same thing. Has there been any successful electric planes made yet?
    • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday January 19, 2018 @07:57PM (#55964783) Homepage

      I assume you're kidding. People have been flying electric light aircraft since 1997, when the Alisport Silent Club added an electric takeoff option. The fastest manned electric plane, the 330 LE, goes 340 kph. For the low-end consumer, you can get an Electraflyer-ULS for under $60k [electraflyer.com]. While it has a 2 hour flight time, it's more like a powered glider, of course, with a very low cruising speed. For a bit more ($104k) you can get a 2-seater a Pipistrel Alpha Electro [wikipedia.org] with a cruising speed of 200 kph and a range of 600km.

      • How long do you think the lead time for commercial aircraft is? Not ultralights or piper cub speed light aircraft, new commercial aircraft.

        2040 isn't completely undoable, but they better have improved batteries soon or the schedule is blown. Norway isn't a big enough market by itself.

        • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday January 19, 2018 @08:09PM (#55964855) Homepage

          Quite to the contrary, I think it's absurdly pessimistic. People always underestimate S-curves. They did it with wind, they did it with solar, people are in various phases of realizing that they did it with EV passenger vehicles, and they're actively doing it with electric road transport, electric marine transport, and electric aircraft.

          There's several companies close to offering electric puddle jumpers. Today. It's not going to take 22 years to transition.

          • So you should be able to point me to one that's well into it's FAA type certification process. Being 'close' to ready. Cite?

            By 'puddle jumper' you mean commuter airliner, right?

            • What's an FAA and why do Norwegians need one?
              • Civil Aviation Authority - Norway

                An administrative agency responsible for ensuring safe and efficient operation of civil aviation. Issues regulations, lays down standards for civil aviation activities in Norway, grants licences and operating permits to persons and companies intending to conduct aviation and related activities. Oversees compliance with regulations and conditions.

                • in Norway

                  So, nothing to do with FAA, apparently.

                  • in Norway

                    So, nothing to do with FAA, apparently.

                    They often have the same rules and regulations. This makes it easier for aircraft and pilots to get the appropriate paperwork to fly in other markets. If anything the European organizations can be a bit stricter than the FAA about some things.

                    • So the country that created the first mass produced electric car, tesla, is the same country that is pushing against electric vehicles?
                    • Re: Amazing (Score:2, Informative)

                      by Anonymous Coward

                      Tesla isn't the first mass produced electric car, merely the first with a 300 mile range. Renault and Nissan were in the business before, and the latest offerings have 230 mile range, but were only about 80 a decade ago.

                    • Tesla was the first modern age mass produced electric car that people thought was cool. Props for that. But they're more than a 100 years too late to lay title to the first mass produced EV. EV's were all the rage 120 years ago.

                      We can agree that the US as a country is not pushing against EV's. But don't you get the feeling that the US government might be? And in the context of of FAA approvals, the government is a pretty important player.

                    • by lgw ( 121541 )

                      But don't you get the feeling that the US government might be?

                      No. Nor do I believe Bush did 9/11, or Obama was born in Kenya, or any other whackjob conspirator theory. The simple fact is: electric cars pre-Tesla were garbage cars, sold at a massive loss. Tesla is a big step up, to a markedly sub-standard car at the price (but still something reasonable) sold at break even or a minor loss (once you net out the subsidies). It's a difference in kind: the Tesla S is almost a viable electric car, and the 3 might actually be the first to cross that line.

                      Tesla is remarka

                    • It's hardly a conspiracy theory to note that the Trump administration has opinions on environmental issues.
                    • by lgw ( 121541 )

                      If you want an electric car because of "environmental issues" that's virtue signalling. If you want to force electric cars on others, that's totalitarianism. But if you want an electric car because it's a better car, well, that better car isn't quite here yet. Once it is, you can invent conspiracy theories about The Man keeping it down, but in the meantime no evil government action is needed to explain why consumers didn't buy bad products.

                  • The point is surely that if you plan for the economics to work, Norway probably needs to be able to sell these things outside Norway -- In the EU, US, Japan, China. And to do that, they are going to need airworthiness certifications including FAA.

                    • Not just Norway. When the Norwegians demonstrate that the use of these airplanes is both safe and cost effective, European airlines will order them rapidly. The main thing holding back the expansion of Schiphol Airport right now is both sound pollution and air pollution. Any airline that flies EV planes will get as many slots as they need, and will push out the other airlines when so required, because suddenly Schiphol can go from 500.000 airplane movements to "as many as they can handle", which is quite a

            • No cites. I'm treating the original claim as bullshit.

          • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday January 19, 2018 @08:33PM (#55964997)

            I don't, i think it's wildly optimistic.

            The problem with switching an aircraft over to electric power involves a metric which isn't really that much of an issue with cars or boats - weight.

            Batteries weigh the same at the start of the flight as they do at the end of the flight - so the aircraft has to carry more weight further.

            It also has to land with that extra weight, each and every time.

            So the airframe needs to be stronger, which inevitably means more weight.

            In airline terms, weight is everything. Boeing and Airbus get to pat themselves on the back when they remove a single metric tonne of weight from an aircraft such as the 787 or A350, so when you take an aircraft such as an ATR-72 and tell it to fly around and land with an extra 1.5 tonnes of weight for it's entire lifespan, it's going to be an issue.

            22 years to move to an all electric platform in a 1.5 hour sector goal is a huge ask, imho.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

              so when you take an aircraft such as an ATR-72 and tell it to fly around and land with an extra 1.5 tonnes of weight for it's entire lifespan, it's going to be an issue.

              That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works. You don't put batteries into an existing design. You make a new design which accommodates the batteries correctly. Luckily, basically every major aviation company has been working on this for decades, and every one of them has a prototype. For example, Boeing has committed to a hybrid by 2022 and are backing a startup which plans to have craft in the air within five years.

              The entire aviation industry thinks this is not just possible, but happening,

          • "They did it with wind, they did it with solar"

            Windmill efficiency hasn't increased, but size has. Reliability is slightly better but they're still catching fire and/or shredding gearboxes at an alarming rate - to the point where they're barely economic even with direct subsidies, "must take" and "inflated buy price" rules. About the only way to be profitable with one is to park it and get paid via the subsidies whilst NOT generating electricity or by the grid operators NOT connect to the grid (this is a bi

        • "How long do you think the lead time for commercial aircraft is?"

          Based on China's Comac C919 ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] ) , a decade -- maybe a bit more.

          But overall, I think you're correct. When you try to scale up a small scale demo, not everything scales by the same factor. Scaling an electric model plane up to an airliner surely is NOT just a matter of multiplying all the specs by 60.

          Caveat -- I am in no way shape or form an Aeronautical Engineer. But neither, I suspect, are the folks pushin

      • by pz ( 113803 )

        [snark] Did you look at the Pipistrel Alpha Electro specs? Yeah, I definitely want to have hundreds of pounds of lithium-polymer batteries in my small, two-seater aircraft. [/snark]

      • Those are not passenger craft. A very expensive-to-fly proof of concept aircraft is not the same as flying thousands of passangers a day from a commercial airport.

      • The numbers you give for the Pipisterel are for the gas version. The electric has a 1 hour endurance. Cruise speed not listed, but no more than 200km/h and probably lower for max efficiency.

      • flying toys is not the same as flying a commercial aircraft full of passengers and luggage and needing to operate many hours every day
      • I assume you're kidding.

        I assume you're clueless if you don't grasp the difference between lightweight single passenger sport aircraft and commuter aircraft. The former is no more a prototype for the latter than an econobox rice burner is a prototype for a Formula One race car. There's a massive difference in degree and kind.

      • Ultralites and fans attached to gliders dont count as electric powered cargo planes
      • The Alpha Electro has a flight duration of approx 1 hour, or less if you're playing around with touch-and-gos or aerobatics (38 mins to 25% capacity at extreme load)

        Don't confuse the specs for the gasoline version (which is what you quoted) with the electric. You're not going to go far from your home base in an electric trainer with a practical range of only 100 miles and a 1 hour refuelling time - and if you were to put 2 average adults + 20kg baggage apiece in the thing you're unlikely to even get airborn

    • 9/12/61, JFK proposed the US commit itself to landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade. No meaningful successful prototypes existed (a Soviet man had already gone to space, but that's not the same thing as going to the moon, just like we already have successful examples of electric planes at the prototype level).
      • Yes, JFK did that - but he didn't say "do it with economics that work for both airline and aircraft manufacturer", he and his successors basically just threw money at it until it happened, and then it was cancelled.

        When you can't simply throw money at a problem, the problem becomes a lot harder to solve.

        Will airlines be willing to bear the cost of a $40billion development? Would they buy aircraft priced at $150million each when they paid $30million before?

        Is Norway going to subsidise development and operat

        • There's a reason [wikipedia.org] that Norway told the EU, "Thanks, but no thanks."

          I'll let you ponder that and draw your own conclusions.

          • That doesn't answer anything at all - if Norway was going to foot the bill for this decree, they would have said so at the same time, but they haven't.

            Norway has no domestic airliner production industry they can indirectly subsidise either, so they have to rely on external companies delivering on their decree.

            Which isn't going to happen.

    • A timeline to switch over before the first successful prototypes been demonstrated . . .

      Necessity is the mother of invention.

      However, I think it would be wiser if they were more broad with there definition of "electric" so that you could use an extant technology like hydrogen fuel cells. It requires electricity to take hydrogen out of water but if you have plenty of electricity then it's feasible.

      • The "invention" that will arise here is not of an aircraft designed to fulfil these requirements, but rather that there will be no sectors flown direct from Norway under 1.5 hours - airlines will simply fly you to a hub further away and then you fly on to your destination.

      • "It requires electricity to take hydrogen out of water but if you have plenty of electricity then it's feasible."

        The amount of energy to do this practically (ie, at large volumes) means you need a nuclear power plant - and the temperatures required to do it efficiently means it needs to be a molten-salt plant.

        Once you have that amount of energy at your disposal, taking on carbon atoms is relatively easy and heavy liquid synfuels have a lot of advantages over hauling around a low-energy-density gas like Hydr

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Kjella ( 173770 )

      A timeline to switch over before the first successful prototypes been demonstrated...

      Norway is a tiny speck on the world map made rich by oil with vast delusions of grandeur. In particular I'd there's three areas where the elite thinks Norway makes a global impact:

      1. Peace talks
      2. Eliminating poverty
      3. Environmentalism

      The first one leads to things like the Oslo Accords [wikipedia.org] where Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton ended the Middle East conflict - that's pretty much what was promised anyhow. Strangely enough they also got the Nobel Peace Prize which Norway awards. The second is another

      • > where Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton ended the Middle East conflict

        Norway has been a good example of a stable and peaceful nation. But let's not over-estimate their accomplishments. If Norway develops aircraft as safe and reliable as the borders between Israel and Palestine set in the Oslo accords, would you consider that a success as well? I most certainly would not.

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          Norway has been a good example of a stable and peaceful nation. But let's not over-estimate their accomplishments.

          "Norway is a tiny speck (...) with vast delusions of grandeur. (...) that's pretty much what was promised anyhow."

          Did I really need an /s on that?

    • A timeline to switch over before the first successful prototypes been demonstrated

      Don't worry. They've been demonstrated [abc.net.au].

    • A timeline to switch over before the first successful prototypes been demonstrated . . .

      hawk

      Yes indeed. What we really need is a proposal that lacks both an idea and a goal. That will drive innovation! /sarcasm

    • Makes me want to say "business as usual" but I'm too embarrassed to say usual for who.

  • by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Friday January 19, 2018 @07:50PM (#55964745)
    Are they sure they don't mean "Norway to make all short-haul flights trains by 2040?" And, yes, I am aware of Norway's geography, it just seems like electric passenger flight is... uncertain at best.
    • Your insistence on your flight not exploding in a burst of lithium fire mid-air is just a personal bias. It's not where we are as a society.
      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        Yes, I prefer my airplanes to be filled with nice safe hydrocarbons [youtu.be]. They never burn.

        EVs have a lower per-km rate of fires than gasoline cars (various figures suggest around 1/5th the rate). Why would it be any different with aircraft? Furthermore, it's much easier to make components redundant with EVs. Electric motors are light, batteries packs are easy to isolate from each other with no extra weight penalty, etc. In one design NASA has been working on there's a huge number of small props [nasa.gov] on the wing;

        • Huge number of small props, PV cells on every surface, the best batteries money can buy and barely able to break even on weight and power.

          Given how demonstrably impractical electric is for automobiles, who in his right mind thinks it's even remotely possible for passenger aircraft?
          • Huge number of small props, PV cells on every surface, the best batteries money can buy and barely able to break even on weight and power.

            Barely able is able.

            Given how demonstrably impractical electric is for automobiles, who in his right mind thinks it's even remotely possible for passenger aircraft?

            Yeah, they only work for 95% of the population, 95% of the time. That's terrible!

            • That's conjecture, to put it charitably. EVs aren't even .95% of sales, much less the whole passenger vehicle fleet.
              • That's conjecture, to put it charitably. EVs aren't even .95% of sales, much less the whole passenger vehicle fleet.

                That's conjecture, to put it charitably. The reasons most people don't buy EVs aren't that they won't suit their needs.

                • I'm afraid you've lost the train of your own argument. But let's keep going with it. Star Trek teleporters are an even better alternative than cars, planes, or trains. We should legislate the use of teleporters instead of wasteful personal vehicles for all transportation. They'd meet the needs of everyone everywhere all the time, not a mere 95% of the time. But people aren't using them. Not because they don't meet they're needs, because they don't exist. Like electric cars don't exist other than publicity s
          • I just can't figure out why my demonstrably impractical electric automobiles have safely and reliably been driven over 65,000 miles without any problems.

            Heck, I can't even figure out what is impractical about them at all. Can't be the zero time I spend standing out in the rain, wind, cold, dust, heat fueling them. Can't be the zero time I've spent getting oil changes. Can't even be the cost since they have been far cheaper to own than the gas powered automobiles that proceeded them.

            Those crazy Wright bro

  • Sure. Interesting idea. But it's in reality just an idea. It all depends on technology that doesn't exist yet.

  • We've had the capability to do this for quite a while, at least on the military side.

    Remember, without massive tax subsidies and tax exemptions, fossil fuels aren't that cost effective.

    People are just fearful of change: suppliers, operators, capital loans providers, and so on.

    • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Friday January 19, 2018 @10:50PM (#55965505) Journal

      We've had the capability to do this for quite a while, at least on the military side.

      Can you point to a single electric plane that can carry at least 70 people? The Embraer 175 series [wikipedia.org] is really the airplane of choice for short hop/short-haul planes, and it seats 75 to 85, depending upon configuration. What is out there, electric, that does that?

      Remember, without massive tax subsidies and tax exemptions, fossil fuels aren't that cost effective.

      Oh, so fossil fuels now get tax exemptions, not just tax subsidies? And solar and wind do not? Wind and solar are massively subsidized [eia.gov], especially when you take into account the much lower amount of energy we get from them. Without the much-more massive subsidies for wind and solar, they would be DOA.

      People are just fearful of change: suppliers, operators, capital loans providers, and so on.

      Some love change simply because they want to "stick it to the man" and want to "change things up" for no reason other than change. Forcing adoption of electric commercial planes - when there isn't a single, viable plane in existence or even planned - is extremely short sighted. But hey - it gets the no-nukes/hate-fossil-fuel crowd all motivated!

  • Small price to pay in Norway.

    It is just like Los Angeles right?

  • Definition of short-haul: the length of the cable.

  • This seems a little stupid. Given the design and lead time to developing any aircraft how can they possibly expect to be fully converted in 20 years. They will be lucky to have a small test fleet of planes by then.
  • Fake news? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thor ( 5234545 ) on Saturday January 20, 2018 @05:09AM (#55966369)
    I don't know if this has been mentioned here by someone else, but somethings seems off about this news article. As a Norwegian I couldn't help to wonder where this story originated from, as I have seen nothing about this in norwegian newspapers. Slashdot links to the independent, that refers to an article by NRK on norwaytoday.info. This website does in fact not represent NRK. NRK uses their own NRK.no. The rapport from Avinor predicts that electric aircraft should be available from 2030, not that all Norwegian flight use them from 2040. This seems like a bad job by the journalists in siting sources, or just bad journalism.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 20, 2018 @08:42AM (#55966787)

    Norway doesn't need domestic flights. She is a long and thin country, much like Japan. Similarly, Norway could be ideally served by one or two longitudinal very high-speed railway mainlines with short branches to serves rural destinations. Furthermore, Norway has a huge amount of hydro-electric power installed on their fjord waterfalls, an essentially free source of electrified railway traction. Considering Norway's rather extreme weather and very long artic winter nights, surface transport by rail is also more reliable and less risky than flying.

    The problem is, Norway and neighbouring Sweden use an obsolete form of railway electrification, called fractional frequency supply. This scheme forces them to build a parallel national grid and/or install a lot of frequency-changing substations to provide 50/3 = ~16.7 Hz, 15kV AC electricity for the catenary, thereby excessive huge construction / expansion costs. (Note: a similar obsolete system for electric railway traction existed in small parts of the USA until early 1970s with ~ 11kV / 25Hz AC supply.)

    To this day, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and Germany haven't adopted the UIC world standard Kando-system, that is railway traction power taken directly from the national electric grid (50Hz AC in Europe) via simple, low-cost 120/25kV ZBD-type transformers. This germanic-nordic weakness is mercilessly exploited by the powerful air travel lobby, which is also supported by the military-industrial complex (namely EADS-Airbus in Europe) because aviation tech is considered useful for warfare, while railways are no longer appreciated by the general staff.

    The above is chief reason why Norway is investing in un-nneded and un-tested electric domestic aviation, even though high-tension electric railways have been a daily reality in service since 1902 and high-speed rail has been mature since 1964.

    • by alw53 ( 702722 )
      FAA requires commercial flights to be able to fly to the destination, then to an alternate and then for 45 minutes more. That's going to take a big chunk out of 1.5 hours.
    • And yet Germany has one of the longest and densest railway grids in the world. There are several power plants in Germany that provide electrical power just for the trains, even one nuclear reactor used to be amongst them. It is true that the fractional frequency supply is more expensive, but it is manageable.

    • by amorsen ( 7485 )

      Just to make it more fun, while Sweden and Norway and Germany are on 16.7Hz electric rail, Denmark is on standard 50Hz... While you are right that 50Hz is the sensible standard, from a pragmatic perspective it would have been better for Denmark to be on 16.7Hz.

      The problem is mostly solved by running diesel trains under the overhead wires. There ARE dual-standard trains like Öresundstoget though.

      Much fun is had with the difference in train signals between the various countries, which will get even more

    • Dude, have you ever *been* to Norway? There is just NO way in hell a train will ever be able to compete with a plane, over any sort of distance. The terrain is *rugged*.

  • Lets do some calculations. Lets start with a 737 class plane. Empty I found figures of just less than 40 tonnes, the highest MTOW I could find was 70 tonnes. Probably not for the same plane, but lets just take the extremes. That leaves 30 tonnes of fuel or in this case batteries. We're neglecting the fact that we might want to take along some passengers and freight, but this is back-of-the-envelope....

    Now I happen to have a few batteries that are not all bad at the energy density. 1.5kg for 800kJ
    So our elec

    • I'd mod this comment up. I think the end result will be Norway backs off on their requirement when no one comes up with the required product.
    • Why start with a 737 class aircraft when the Norwegians are talking about short haul flights with much smaller passenger counts?

  • The discussions and technological development about electric cars and airplanes always seems to imply an all-or-none approach to the power source and the drive train. The motive force, torque or thrust, comes from a fuel-energy system that is either all carbon-combustive or else all electrical. Why not a hybrid system?

    Assume that the best way to go for the future is an electric drive train. Electric engines provide the mechanical motive force to move the vehicle, and an electrical system (battery or fuel

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