A new electric bus prototype doesn’t just pick up passengers at its bus stops; it also picks up a charge for its battery.
Unlike its public transportation contemporaries, the electric “Aggie bus” at Utah State University has no overhead wires. Nor does it need to be plugged into a power source. Instead, the battery receives a five-kilowatt wireless boost from a charge plate installed at each bus stop. With consistent routes and frequent stops, the bus is able to charge as it goes rather than requiring a big battery on board to stockpile an entire day’s worth of power.
The Toyota Prius is one of the cars targeted by the new regulations.
Late last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that it will now begin assessing new regulations for green cars, whose quiet engines may pose a danger to unaware pedestrians. This is the agency’s first major step towards implementing the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, which requires automobile manufactures to equip new electric and hybrid vehicles with sound systems that alert pedestrians of the approaching machines.
But the move has come under fire by some green car advocates, who stress a lack of studies showing that such warning systems would actually make the streets safer for pedestrians:
The difficulty is that there’s simply not enough data on actual pedestrian injuries and deaths attributable to quieter cars. Part of that reflects a lack of categories to reflect such a problem, and the low incidence of pedestrian injuries in general.
[A] 2009 NHTSA report highlighted its own weaknesses: It was based on data from only 12 states (the ones that record Vehicle Identification Numbers) and limited to injuries from 2000, when hybrids first entered the U.S. market. The result: a small, possibly non-representative sample set.
Image: Flickr/M 93
Last night, in the third State of the Union Address of Obama’s presidency, he began by extolling the need for the country to compete with other rising nations for the jobs of the future (and using some version of his new catchphrase multiple times). The President hit many notes that have science and technology advocates smiling this morning, including his call to turn around yesterday’s sobering statistics about the lack of science proficiency of American students.
The world has changed, Obama told Congress, and the US will only retain its competitive edge over nations like China and India if it invests in a skilled workforce and cutting-edge science and technology: “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” [New Scientist]
Obama went on to urge parents to get their kids’ priorities straight, and uttered the line that may have tickled science geeks the most:
We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.
The President also called for more funding for biomedical, renewable energy, and other research to launch a wave of innovation. Obama deemed this our “Sputnik moment,” comparing it to the moment in the late 1950s when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite and the U.S. raced to catch up to and then surpass Soviet space science.
Twenty miles outside of Abu Dhabi, in the scorching desert of the United Arab Emirates, the new planned city of Masdar is nearly ready for its close-up. This weekend The New York Times reported from the experimental zero-carbon closed community, funded by stacks of oil money, which is now prepared to take on its first inhabitants. The urban design is simultaneously sleek and unsettling, raising the questions: Is this what the city of the future will look like, and would that be a good thing?
Masdar’s main designer, Norman Foster, hits all the notes that make green ears perk up: excluding any carbon-based energy sources, using simplified “sustainable” architecture, and learning from the lessons of the past, even going back as far as centuries-old desert settlements.
The goal: 80 days, 18,000 miles, no emissions.
Yesterday, the Zero Race electric car world tour began in front of the United Nations Palace in Geneva, Switzerland. Four teams–from Australia, Switzerland, Germany, and South Korea–won’t actually race one another to cross a finish line. Instead, spectators and experts will determine the winner based on reliability, energy efficiency, safety, design, and practicality, as the tour is meant to show the feasibility of electric vehicles.
The race organizer Louis Palmer won the European Solar Prize after driving a solar-powered vehicle around the world in 2008. He says in a press release that the “race” is against climate change and disappearing fuel.
“Petrol is running out, and the climate crisis is coming… and we are all running against time.” [Zero Race]
What looks like a giant helmet, can potentially zip through congested city streets, has eco-friendly bona fides, and can “talk” with other vehicles on the road? It’s the new 2-person EN-V, an “Electric Networked Vehicle” from GM–a concept car that the company hopes will change the way people in crowded cities drive in the future.
GM unveiled several models of the helmet-shaped concept vehicle in Shanghai. The 2-wheeled vehicles, built in collaboration with Segway and GM’s Chinese partner S.A.I.C., are powered by electric motors and can travel up to 25 miles on a single charge. The two-seater EN-V is also a third of the length of a regular car at 1.5 meters [about 5 feet]. It will be equipped with wireless communication and GPS-based navigation that will help it avoid accidents and pick the fastest routes based on real-time traffic conditions, GM says [The Wall Street Journal]. A driver could either control the car manually or could put it into the more relaxing autonomous mode.
Says GM executive Kevin Wale: “It provides an ideal solution for urban mobility that enables future driving to be free from petroleum and emissions, free from congestion and accidents, and more fun and fashionable than ever before” [The New York Times].
Stanford University researchers think they’ve stumbled upon a way to transform ordinary sheets of office paper into batteries and superconductors. By painting a carbon nanotube ink, which can collect electric charge, on plain copier paper, and then dipping the coated paper into a lithium ion solution and an electrolyte, they can create a current and store it within the paper battery.
The scientists had previously experimented with making batteries using a similar process of painting nanomaterial ink onto a thin layer of plastic. But in an unexpected twist, they found that pores in paper fibers make it hold the ink better than plastic, for a more durable battery [The New York Times]. The research team, led by Yi Cui, found that you can even crumple up the paper batteries or soak them in acid, and they’ll still work just fine. They hope their technology, which was reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, can usher in a new era of lightweight, low-cost batteries.
In a move that may give electric cars a literal and figurative boost forward, five battery-recharging stations have been established on California’s Highway 101, which will give certain electric cars enough juice to drive all the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles with one less-than-one-hour stop to recharge. But there’s a catch: At the moment, only Tesla Roadsters can charge at the stations [The New York Times].
One of the biggest concerns regarding all-electric cars is the limited driving range provided by a fully charged battery. The Tesla Roadster, for example, can go about 250 miles before pooping out, inspiring the new term “range anxiety”–the fear of running out of juice far from your home recharging station. This project is meant to demonstrate that ubiquitous availability of fast-charging stations could make that point moot [The New York Times].