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.

Ginetta G50: All New 300Hp Sports Car Coming In 2008

After several managerial and owner changes the past two decades which nearly lead the British sports car and kit manufacturer to extinction, Ginetta’s current owner, LNT Automotive (they bought the company in 2005) has announced its plans for an all-new model, designated the Ginetta G50. The sports coupe, that celebrates the company’s 50th birthday, has been designed in-house at LNT Automotive’s

Car Blog News: Birthdays & Facelifts

Cars, cars, cars and… scoops. Don’t you think it’s about time we made a little a break from all that metal and see what’s going around the automotive blogsphere? Thought so. First up we saw that our Autoblog friends (the dot com ones) performed their own… facelift by redesigning their site -nice job John. To celebrate it, they’re giving away a brand new, 2008 Dodge Nitro. Believe you’re the

Motorola’s Solar / Wind Powered Cell Phone Network

The developing world is leapfrogging us again! First they skipped the land-line step, opting for inexpensive and less infrastructure-dependent mobile phones, now it looks like they’re eschewing cables completely and opting for distributed sources of electricity.

Motorola has created a pilot project in Nambia that will power cell towers using solar and wind energy. This, the first project of it’s kind, could be the start of a system that would bring global communications to small and rural communities.

This independence from the electric grid could become a significant empowering force for rural communities across the world. While we don’t have technical details on the project (kilowatts generated, battery backup systems, etc,) we have confidence in Motorola’s ability to create this kind of distributed power and communications network. The question is, can they make it financially viable.

Via TreeHugger

120 mpg Motorbike: Made in Kenya

This $100 Kenyan bike engine quickly converts any bicycle to a 100 mpg motorbike. It might not be the most efficient engine, or the cleanest. But as the world develops, simple solutions like these are necessary to make the world a better place for people, without upsetting the balance of the environment.

Via Afrigadget

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