Eco-Supercar Dusts Ferarris

Based on the Ariel Atom and utilizing next-generation battery materials (of course meaning: no further details available), the Wrightspeed X1 plug-in hybrid will set you back $120,000. The batteries alone cost more than double that used Prius you’ve had your eye on. But a 0-60 time better than any other production street car under $1,000,000 – 3.07 seconds – suddenly makes this supercar look like a bargain.

It’s creator, Ian Wright, created the X1 full-electric prototype in his Silicon Valley garage. It gets 170 MPG equivalent, and even with an electronically limited top speed of 112 MPH it still runs low 11’s in the quarter mile. An obvious EcoGeek, Ian did some math and figured out that we’ll save more fuel by bringing efficiency to the "high-end, big-margin gas guzzlers that garner big profit margins" than by improving already efficient passenger cars.

From the WrightSpeed website:

If reduction in fuel consumption is the goal, it would be better to replace 10mpg cars with 20mpg cars, than to replace 50 mpg cars with 100mpg cars. 5 times better.

Counter-intuitive? HereÂ’s the arithmetic. The 10mpg car uses 10 gallons to go 100 miles. The 20 mpg car uses 5: a saving of 5 gallons. The 50 mpg car uses only 2 gallons for 100 miles, so replacing it with a 100mpg car only saves one gallon.

The street-legal hybrid version, probably available in 2009 or 2010, is slated to be even more powerful.

via Wired News

The Aggressor: For a Fuel Efficient Army

Remember when the military was on the fore-front of innovation? When what we did at war pulled the world into the future? I’m not saying that war was ever good…I’m just saying that it used to be a lot smarter.

Which is why it’s nice to see the US Army actually considering energy efficiency when building a vehicle. The Aggressor is a diesel-electric hybrid two seater designed for reconnaissance and light transport. While it can easily hit 80 mph and has a zero to forty time of just four seconds, the coolest feature is probably its stealth mode.

The Aggressor can switch to an all-battery mode that makes the vehicle virtually silent. The military initially looked to fuel cells to provide this feature. But then the impracticality of shipping hydrogen around a battlefield hit them, so they paid some attention to the rest of the world and went with batteries.

The Aggressor could be ready for operations within the next couple years. And while it’s kinda sad that these could be the first hybrids Iraq will ever see, it is at least better than the alternative: More Hummers.

Via Popular Mechanics

Kenyan Wind Turbine: Bike Parts and Roofing Iron

In Eastern Kenya the four Ututu brothers inherited a large area of fertile farmland, which had been terraced by their father in the late 1950s. Despite this resource, they were experiencing problems because they lacked water both for drinking (meaning wasted time, fetching water from 9 miles away in the dry season) and for irrigation.

The Ututu brothers drilled their first successful well in 1997 where water was found at a depth of 30 feet. One of the brothers, Joseph Ututu, designed a working wind-pump to try on one of the wells. He and his brothers constructed the moving parts mainly from spare bicycle tires, and made the sails from corrugated steel roofing sheets. Joseph is particularly proud of the enclosed pulley mechanism, which has so far worked for six years without maintenance. The wind-pump is fixed in position and faces the prevailing wind. At night, when the wind picks up, the sails turn very fast, clanking and creaking as they turn. Every night, the turbine pumps over 1,000 liters of water.

While it may seem extraordinary that wells had not be “discovered” in this part of Kenya until the last decade or so, the Ututu brothers have certainly capitalized on their initiative. There is a good market for water, and from the income earned they have managed to educate all their children. They have also raised vegetables for food and for sale on a small horticultural plot close to the wells. Since they began, more than 30 wells have been dug by neighbors.

Wells and wind-pumps are hardly revolutionary technologies; nevertheless their development by the Ututus has revolutionized the local water supply. With improved technical knowledge, people gain the tools to make the most of their own imaginative design capability to solve local problems in the most relevant way. We should therefore recognize and encourage initiative where it occurs, and support such creativity with “scientific” knowledge.

Via: Afrigadget and Farming Solutions

Giant H2 Bus to Carry 104 Passengers

A 43-foot hydrogen behemoth will take to the streets of Belgium early next month. Rolling in with three axles, a tank of hydrogen and plenty Sodium Nickel Chloride batteries, the new zero-emissions passenger bus will be the largest of its kind. Built as a joint venture between bus manufacturer Van Hool and United Technologies Corp., the mega hybrid will join Europe’s "HyFleet" project. HyFleet is an international panel on a mission to pollinate the European countryside with transit buses powered by H2.

The queen of HyFleet’s fleet will cart over 100 passengers distances of over 217 miles before an H2 fill-up is required. The bus has a 40kg tank on board and the numerous batteries on board can keep 53 kWh of electricity on board to zap the monstrous electric motor. Despite all these impressive techno-stats, the bus’s greatest asset is just being so frikin’ big. The last H2 bus that came along only held 70 riders, so the Van Hool/UTC bus is a money tree in cost-per-rider category.

Via Green Car Congress

I Got Solar in Strange Places

Solar Power is cropping up in some weird places. While it’ll take some time for sunlight to become the fuel of the future, already solar power is being adopted by individuals and communities you might not expect.

The city of Rizhao, for example, is a poor coastal city in China. While the per-capita income is significantly lower than surrounding cities, almost every flat surface is covered in solar panels. Of course, these aren’t the electricity-creating kind, they’re the hot-water-creating kind. 99% of the hot water in the city comes from roof-top solar, and all the streetlights are powered by photovoltaics. Though it’s a poor city, Rizhao has turned solar power into an economic engine while becomming one of the ten cleanest cities in China.

And then there’s the Amish. You wouldn’t think that the Amish would be early adopters of anything (as many of them aren’t ready to embrace innovations such as buttons on pants) but solar seems to be right up their alley. Amish families are the leading per-capita adopters of solar in Pennsylvania. Their values of self-sufficiency and moderation are served perfectly by the panels.

So, as it turns out, poor people in China and the Amish are leading the way into the future. It’s about time we caught up.

Via Green Options
and Wired Blogs

Atlanta’s Solar / Wind Powered Aquarius Tower

OK, I know where I want to live. I’ve been thinking about Georgia for a while, but I dread the labyrinthine freeway system of Atlanta. But the new Aquarius Tower in downtown Atlanta offers more than any other American building I’ve seen yet.

Yes, it’s wired for high-speed internet and surround sound. Yes, it has a robotic car parking system that decreases driving time. Yes all 113 units have south-facing windows overlooking Centennial Park. But the building also has integrated wind turbines and solar panels decreasing the amount of power residents pull from the grid.

The wind turbines are specially integrating into the building. In fact, the building acts as kind of a wind-collector, that channels and concentrates winds into the turbines.

Of course, the one bedroom units are $300,000, and the penthouses top out at $2.5 million. But it’s safe to say that it’s a good investment. If all goes well, we can all start moving in at the end of 2009.

Via MetaEfficient and Go Dekalb

Butanol: A Better Biofuel?

Ethanol gets a lot of attention as the biofuel of choice in America. But BP claims that butanol will provide greater benefits than ethanol and is betting at least some of their chips on it as the gasoline-alternative to watch out for.

Butanol’s advantages over ethanol arise from its gasoline-like properties. A criticism of ethanol is the reduction in mileage per gallon because it has 2/3 the energy density of gasoline. Butanol, on the other hand, has more than 80% energy density of gasoline. Also, traditional fuel pipelines can not be used with ethanol since water mixes into it, but Butanol does this to a lesser extent and so could be used with more existing infrastructure. Best of all, butanol can be made from the same feedstocks as ethanol: corn starch, sugar beets, and other sugar starches.

BP currently has partnered with DuPont to find better ways to make butanol. They note that ethanol has taken a long time gain a foothold, and so butanol likely will not be available for quite some time.

Whatever the reason, if butanol really is better than ethanol, there is no reason why there should not be space for it in the world’s search for cleaner energy.

Source: Technology Review

What’s Up with Honda Hybrids

Honda’s Insight was great and all, but nobody wants a two seat car these days. So while the hybrid Accord is certainly an exciting addition, what’s more awesome is Honda competing where we expect them to: with cheap cars for younger people.

Which is why they might be putting the Insight’s engine into the Honda Fit. The Fit is already selling fairly well, as a stylish five door for way under $20k. And it already gets good gas mileage. But with the Insight’s well tested and now fairly inexpensive drive train between its wheels, it could be boosted into the 60 mile per gallon range while staying a very inexpensive car.

But, as we reported earlier this month, Honda is also producing a small, cheap, full hybrid model in 2009. And that car is definitely not the Fit. So, while some executives at Honda have been talking up the Fit hybrid, its future seems unclear. I almost expect the Fit to go hybrid without much fanfare and be sold for around %15k, while the new, all-hybird model will be larger with more bold styling, and sell for slightly more.

But, by this point, it’s all conjecture. In any case, the future of Honda’s hybrids will be exciting, and we’re not-so-patiently awaiting some real, hard news.


NYC: 100% Hybrid Yellow Cabs in 5 Years

Mayor Micheal Bloomberg is about to announce that every Taxi in New York City will be a hybrid in a mere five years.

Holy Moly. I guess these are the kinds of things you have to do quickly if you want your city to produce 30% less carbon in a mere 30 years. Bloombergs plan will see a 20% increase in hybrid taxis every year for the next five years.

The current standard taxi, the Crown Victoria, gets about 14 mpg in the city. It’ll be replaced by a wide variety of new taxis, from the smaller Prius, to the Ford Escape hybrid SUV. 13,000 Taxis is a lot to replace, but apparantly a 20% per year churn is about what taxi companies deal with in New York, so, basically, every new cab they buy will have to be a hybrid.

Looks like those yellow cabs might have to have a splash of green after all.

Via Metaefficient and WNBC

Official: MINI Revises Its Range Adopting BMW’s Efficient Dynamics Technologies On All Versions

Just as we were informed by BMW execs at a previous trip we made in Munich back in March, MINI (officially) announced that all variants will adopt BMW’s Efficient Dynamics Tech goodies, first shown on the recently facelifted 1 & 5 Series. Thus meaning, from August 2007, all MINI versions will be equipped as standard with Brake Energy Regeneration, Auto Start-Stop Function and Switch Point Display

The Corona: Environmetnally Conscious Solar Light

It’s amazing the difference good design can make. Yeah, those stupid little lawn lights we see all around nowadays are solar powered. But they’re not very attractive or versatile.

Which is why we love The Corona. The Corona is very attractive and can do pretty much anything. They can be staked into a lawn, hung from a wall or placed on a table. They’re water-proof, use high-efficiency LEDs and look as if they belong in the natural environment.

The materials, design, and idea of the Corona are all completely conscious of the environment. And that environmental consciousness has resulted in a stunningly attractive design. Solar lighting looks to be ready for the big leagues. Who could argue against these gorgeous little things.

Via NextLust

Sideways Challenge: Tiff Needell Takes A VW Golf GTI For A Spin

As 5th Gear’s presenter proves in this video, you don’t necessary need a rear-wheel drive vehicle to have a little sideways fun. Wait; did I say fun? Well maybe for Tiff, his co-driver and us viewers, but definetely not for the poor guy sitting in the Golf GTI Edition 30’s rear bench. Not the best place on earth to be when a driver like Tiff decides to steer looking out through his side window.