Stories tagged transportation

OK, it's Monday, not Friday, but last week's Science Friday video is too cool to skip. Without further ado... Science Friday
Science FridayCourtesy Science Friday
"Maxwell von Stein, a 22-year-old graduate of The Cooper Union, built bicycle that uses a flywheel to store energy. Instead of braking, Max can transfer energy from the wheel to the flywheel, which spins between the crossbars. The flywheel stores the kinetic energy until Max wants a boost, then he can transfer the energy back to the wheel using a shifter on the handlebars."

Kennedy saw it.
Kennedy saw it.Courtesy US White House
A concept for a plane that could make the trip from New York City to London in 90 minutes (a trip that ranks somewhere between going to the grocery store and going to the bathroom for me, in terms of frequency) was just unveiled at the Paris Air Show. It uses standard jet engines, along with rockets and ramjets. Also, it will use jet fuel made from algae. Pretty sweet.

Unfortunately, while it only takes an hour and a half to cross the Atlantic, it will take 40 years to arrive in reality. If it ever does. We'll probably all be riding pegasuses (or octopi) at that point anyway, so supersonic jets will seem lame.



Buses can recharge at every stop

Como Park will have 3 or 4 circulating shuttle buses next year to help solve the traffic and parking problem at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. They will allow free and easy parking by the State Fair grounds and within 7 minutes, will drop you off at the front door.

Como Shuttles should use ultracapacitors

Ultracapacitor buses have low maintenance cost, low operation cost, zero tailpipe emission, and can reach a zero carbon footprint if powered by renewable energy sources.
The estimated savings in energy costs over the 12 year life of the bus (at current electric and oil prices) is $200,000.

Why ultracapacitors are perfect for short bus loops

Ultracapacitors will only power a bus for 5-10 blocks, then need about 3 minutes to recharge. Only two recharge stations would be needed, one at the parking lot and one a the conservatory drop off. The bus recharges while passengers load and unload. Capacitors do not wear out like batteries. A capacitor bus is 40 per cent cheaper to build than a battery powered bus. Because the buses can use regenerative braking, they use 40 percent less electricity than an electric trolley using over head wires.

Source: Next Stop: Ultracapacitor Buses;Technology Review
Sinautec Automobile Technologies, L.L.C.


Last week Japan's Honda Motor Company unveiled a new invention, the U3-X personal mobility device, pictured in the short video here. As one might expect from the folks who brought you ASIMO, a humanoid robot that can even recognize faces, the U3-X looks a lot like something you might see in a futeristic Sci-fi movie.

Instead of pedaling, this battery operated unicycle moves in whichever direction you lean, sort of like a Segway Personal Transporter (and in my opinion, just as awkward). To me it looks like it might be a little precarious, but Honda claims that the U3-X is easy to use. They hope that this invention will be useful to commuters and the elderly. They claim that it's small size, light weight (less than 22 pounds), and easy-to-use design make it an ideal transportation device for people who live in crowded cities.

Sound like fun? Well, unfortunately the invention is still so new that you can't even buy one. For now you're stuck with a regular old unicycle.

You can read more about the U3-X and see a longer video on National Geographic News.


This jump is brought to you by: Joy.
This jump is brought to you by: Joy.Courtesy tbonzzz_6
Get your bells out, everybody, and ring them! The Chevy Volt is here! (In a year.)

GM released new details today about its new gas and electric hybrid car, the Chevy Volt. Using a plug-in battery (as opposed to current, unmodified hybrid cars, which recharge only via the gas engine), GM claims that the Volt should be able to achieve approximately 320 miles to the gallon during city driving. Estimates haven’t been completed for combined city and highway driving, by officials are confident that fuel economy will remain in the triple digits.

The car should have a range of about 40 miles, using its battery alone, at which point the gas engine would kick in. Nearly 80% of Americans, however, commute less than 40 miles each day, so most of the expended energy could come from the electrical grid (the car will plug into a standard outlet), instead of from gasoline.

GM’s chief executive calls the Volt a “game changer.”

Finally, a game-changing American car. Not like those sissy Prius drivers, making smug environmental statements by purchasing impractically expensive vehicles. Sure, the Volt will be entering the game about 9 years late, but it does so with the confidence that every environmentally conscious working-class American with $40,000 to drop on a sweet new car will… wait, what?

What about the rest of GM’s 2010 lineup? They’re cutting more than half of their 30+ mpg cars? But a few Volts on the road should bring that fleet average up, right?

And GM is pushing for environmental responsibility in other areas, at least, right? Oh, they’re pulling out of a partnership that collects toxic mercury from their old scrapped cars?

Well, it was a nice thought. And it’s comforting to hear someone say something like “game changer” now and again.

Weeellllll... it looks like the volt may be kind of an unremarkable car after all. Despite their claims last year that it would get something like 230 miles to the gallon, auto trade magazines are test driving it now, and saying it actually gets mileage in the 30 - 40 mpg range. That's less than a Prius. But don't worry, it's still super expensive. Huh. I mean, I couldn't design a "game-changing" car, but, then again, I never said I would. It turns out, too, that even though GM insisted that it wasn't really a hybrid car, and that the gasoline powered engine would only drive a generator for the battery... that's all not true. The gas engine does charge the battery, but it also will drive the wheels. Prove me wrong, Chevy (or commenters), but is this actually a crappy idea, and not a significant step towards changing our energy use?

Also in honor in of Bike / Walk to Work Week, this fun video asks the question: which is faster, a gasoline-powered motorcycle, or a yogurt-powered bicycle?


Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'...
Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'...Courtesy nebarnix
This week is National Bike-Walk to Work Week!

That means that in cities across the country people are being encouraged to take at least one trip to work or school on foot or by bicycle. Why? Pick your favorite reason! Mine include: biking and walking save me money, biking and walking are more fun than sitting in traffic, and biking and walking let me see things in my neighborhood up close. If you live in the Twin Cities you can even get free breakfast tomorrow at select locations in honor of Twin Cities Bike Walk to Work Day.

There's no doubt that biking and walking are good for your body, but are biking and walking more energy efficient than driving a car? Sure, you don't need to stop to fill up at a gas station, but something has to power your commute. According to most statistics, bicycles are the most efficient means of transportation in terms of calories, but I also came across this article about one UK environmentalist who claims that walking is worse for the planet than driving, since modern food production is so energy intensive - especially if, like me, you sometimes power your commute with coffee and bacon.

What do you think? What's the most energy efficient way to travel? How do you like to travel to school or work?


Tata Nano: solution or pollution?

Just like Ford's Model-T, Tata motor's Nano will make owning an automobile possible for several hundred million families. Use this link to Wired Magazine to learn more about India's 50-MPG Tata Nano.

Test driving the Tata Nano

Huge demand the $2000 Tata Nano

Demand for the Tata Nano is so high the company is using a lottery system to select the first 100,000 lucky owners.

At the moment, the Nano will be offered only overseas, but the company insists a version could be headed to North America in three years. Wired

Will the Tata Nano lead to $5 gas?

If hundreds of millions of poor families can now afford to drive a car, won't that demand raise the price of gas? Millions of new automobile users will surely emit additional carbon dioxide into the world's atmosphere.

The Nano supposedly emits 30 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer, well below the 160 g/km average of Europe's cars and far less than the 130 g/km standard the European Union will adopt in 2012. Wired (click link to learn more)

What impact will the Nano car have?

Nano - the wonder car: Available March 23, 2009
Nano - the wonder car: Available March 23, 2009Courtesy SanDev

Tata's Nano car on sale

The ultra cheap ($2050) Nano car hits the market in India tomorrow. It is 10.2 feet (3.1 meters) long, has one windshield wiper, a 623cc rear engine, and a diminutive trunk. Newsvine

St. Paul Metro Transit runs a program called Bike2Benefits. If you register, and keep track of your bike commute using their calendar, you'll not only see your mileage and your carbon emissions savings add up, but you'll also receive a Twin Cities bike map and be eligible for the year-end drawing. But hurry: you need at least 1 bike commute in each of 8 consecutive weeks before the end of the calendar year, and the temperature outside is dropping. (You can document rides retroactively, though.)