2017 Honda Clarity fuel cell vehicle is ready for the mainstream

March 20, 2017 by  
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Fuel-cell vehicles are still pretty foreign to most of us, especially if you live outside of California. Automakers like General Motors, Hyundai , Toyota and Honda have been working on the technology for decades, but we’ve yet to see a model that could bring the technology more mainstream. Toyota got close with the new Mirai , but Honda may be even closer to increasing the public’s acceptance of fuel-cell vehicles with their all-new 2017 Clarity. You’ll recall that this isn’t the first time Honda has released a fuel cell vehicle for public consumption, since in 2008 the first FCX Clarity was leased to a small subset of customers in California. Now almost 10 years later, Honda has made significant improvements to make the Clarity feel even more like a conventional car than any fuel cell vehicle has been able to do before. The styling may still be a bit unconventional, but Honda learned a lot from what customers need with the first FCX Clarity. Related: Honda will offer the Clarity Fuel Cell in electric and plug-in hybrid versions For starters, the new Clarity is now larger with increases to its length and width, which brings its exterior more in-line with the brand’s popular Accord midsize sedan. Honda decided one of the biggest hurdles with the last generation was that its interior also had too many compromises in terms of interior volume and seating capacity. So now the Clarity can fit five passengers, compared to the last model that could only fit four. That’s also a big plus over the Toyota Mirai , which can only fit up to four. How did Honda manage to do this? The FCX Clarity’s fuel cell stack was positioned directly in the middle of the car, which meant that there wasn’t room for a middle passenger in the rear seat. To make room for the fifth passenger in the new Clarity, Honda repositioned the fuel cell stack and powertrain underneath the hood, like a conventional car. Honda couldn’t simply just take the old system and stuff it under the new Clarity’s hood, instead it had to downsize the size of the entire system so that it is now smaller than the brand’s V6 engine. One added benefit is now that the system is so much smaller, that opens the door for more future applications. To make more interior volume and cargo space, Honda also reconfigured the hydrogen storage system, which now consists of two tanks, one under the rear seat and one in the trunk. Having room for five passengers was one of the biggest complaints that buyers had about the last generation, but there was also one other problem – driving range. The last FCX Clarity could only drive up to 240 miles on a tank of hydrogen fuel, but now the new two tank system can hold more hydrogen: 3.93 kg vs 5.46 kg. The nominal pressure of the tanks is also up from 35 MPa to 70 MPa. This also means that the Clarity can now travel further than before with an estimated driving range of 366 miles – which is closer to the driving range of a conventional midsize sedan. Also one of the biggest benefits of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is that it only takes 3-5 minutes to refill its tanks compared to the many hours it takes to recharge an electric vehicle. Now that the Clarity can fit as many passengers as a regular midsize sedan and its driving range is more realistic – there was only one other big hurdle that Honda needed to tackle if it were to achieve its goal of increasing the acceptance of fuel cell vehicles – how it drives. The Clarity’s fuel cell powertrain generates 174 horsepower (up 30%) and 221 lb-ft. of torque (up 17 percent). For comparison, the Honda Accord’s four-cylinder engine generates 185 horsepower and 181 lb-ft. of torque. The upgraded powertrain now has a quicker response and is smoother than before. A new Sport mode also makes it a bit “sportier” when you need it. How did it drive in the real world? Honda achieved its goal of making it feel more like a regular midsize sedan. Around the back country roads of Santa Barbara, the 2017 Clarity drove just as we would expect from the Accord. It wasn’t particularly engaging, but it didn’t need to be. The updated powertrain is much quieter than before and accelerating from a stop was easy and effortless. The differences between the Normal and Sport modes is not as big as you would expect, but it does provide a bit more brake regeneration. On the road, the 2017 Clarity feels planted, quiet and comfortable. Most passengers probably won’t even realize they are in a “non-conventional” fuel cell sedan. Which is what Honda was hoping to achieve with the Clarity. The previous compromises to interior volume, comfort and performance are all pretty much gone now. There’s still one last hurdle to greater acceptance of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles: infrastructure. Currently the Clarity is only on sale in California and that’s because of the number of hydrogen re-fueling stations in the state. But even then there are still only 26 stations currently up and running in California . By the end of 2017 there will be another 20 coming online. Honda hopes to have at least 100 stations up by 2020. On the flip side, the automaker promises to cover the costs of the hydrogen fuel for the entire lease – for a cost of up to $15,000. Related: Toyota FCV Plus hydrogen concept car reveals the automaker’s vision of the future Honda won’t actually sell you a Clarity, so the only way you can get one is if you lease it for three years at $369 a month with 2,868 due at signing. If you’re still not quiet ready to make the jump to a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, there’s still good news. Honda is going to offer three versions of the Clarity: the Clarity Fuel Cell, Clarity Electric and Clarity Plug-in Hybrid. The Clarity Electric will be an affordable fully-electric version with a driving range around 80 miles, while the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid will be the volume leader with a 40 mile electric mode and a 300 mile driving range. Both the Clarity Electric and Clarity Plug-in Hybrid will arrive by the end of the year. So there we have it, Honda’s latest attempt at making the fuel cell vehicle more mainstream is the closest one yet that we’ve seen from any automaker. We can expect others to follow suit; Hyundai is already working on its next fuel cell SUV and General Motors recently announced a partnership to work on fuel cell powertrains. + Honda All images @ Inhabitat and Honda

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2017 Honda Clarity fuel cell vehicle is ready for the mainstream

Google Street View takes you inside the fiery depths of an active volcano

March 20, 2017 by  
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Have you ever seen an active volcano up close? Most of us haven’t had the opportunity, but now thanks to Google Street View , you can glimpse the fiery depths of one the world’s largest boiling lava lakes. Two explorers repelled down into the Marum crater on the island on Ambrym in Vanuatu , a country of islands around 1000 miles away from Australia, to collect images of the lava lake for Google (and all of us). Forget the relatively tame imagery of city streets. Google went to new extremes to collect dramatic images of Ambrym, from volcanic beaches to a volcano itself. Explorers Geoff Mackley and Chris Horsley helped out by repelling around 1,312 feet down into the Marum crater to gather 360-degree imagery of the massive lava lake, which is about as big as two football fields, according to Google. Mackley said, “You only realize how insignificant humans are when you’re standing next to a giant lake of fiery boiling rock .” Related: Sheep enlisted to bring ‘Google Street View’ to remote Faroe Islands After repelling into the crater, Horsley said, “I hope that by putting this place on the map people will realize what a beautiful world we live in.” Over 7,000 people live on Ambrym. Chief Moses of Endu, a local village, welcomed Google in to share the incredible beauty of the area. Locals have been rebuilding after Cyclone Pam hit a few years past, and are ready to greet travelers again. According to Google, Chief Moses feels welcoming visitors to the region will help the island recover, help set up a sustainable economy, and preserve the island’s culture . Along with the volcano, Google Street View offers images of his village, a primary school, and a craft workshop on the island. Can’t hop on the next plane to trek to Vanuatu? You can also check out a jungle on Ambrym, more images of the Marum crater, and villagers harvesting coconuts on Google Street View. Via Google Images via screenshot ( 1 , 2 )

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Google Street View takes you inside the fiery depths of an active volcano

San Diego brewery unveils beer made from 100% recycled wastewater

March 20, 2017 by  
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San Diego is aiming to to become the most environmentally sustainable city in the United States. As part of its ambitious Climate Action Plan , last year the city council unanimously approved a $3 billion initiative to recycle wastewater for drinking. Now the city is demonstrating that the pure water program can be used for just about anything, even a cold beer, by partnering with Encinitas-based craft beer maker Stone Brewery to unveil Stone Full Circle Pale Ale — a beer made with 100 percent recycled wastewater from the city’s pure water program. “Just a great example of what this is gonna be like in terms of the future and Stone who’s a huge driver of not just the craft beer industry but sustainability, that’s what our pure water program is all about,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said at Stone’s Point Loma location last week, where city leaders gathered to sample the beer and talk up the pure water program. Related: San Diego to become largest U.S. city to run on 100% renewable energy The wastewater recycling plan puts purified water treated at the Point Loma Water Treatment Plant back into the freshwater system rather than the ocean — providing a steady source of potable water to protect the water supply from drought and disruptions to water imports. The pure water program is expected to deliver 30 million gallons of recycled water a day within five years and 83 million gallons of drinking water per day when fully implemented in 2035 — providing one-third of the city’s freshwater supply. Stone, the largest brewery in San Diego and ninth largest in the country, produced five barrels of the beer using water trucked in from the city’s pure water demonstration plant in Miramar. “We like trial and we like testing and if we can help others jump on the same bandwagon, we would love to do that because it’s a great thing for the City of San Diego,” said Stone Chief Operating Officer Pat Tiernan. + Stone Brewery + San Diego Water Sustainability Program Via UPI Images via Wikimedia  and Twitter

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San Diego brewery unveils beer made from 100% recycled wastewater

Artisanal clay pots from Egypt can water your plants for up to a month

March 20, 2017 by  
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Gardeners who travel will love these absorbent clay pots from Egypt. Modeled after the Olla, an ancient ceramic pot prevalent throughout North Africa, the small vessels are designed to water plants for weeks at a time–using nothing but gravity. Clayola founder Rami Halim says 20 liters (5 gallons) of water can sustain six to eight plants for up to a month. The Clayola pots, connected via a pipe to a water source placed at a slightly higher elevation, are pushed into the soil until the colorful tops are flush with the surface. A small siphoning pump gets the water flow going and then gravity takes over from there. The porous clay vessel acts like a sponge that slowly releases a small amount of water into the soil – just when it starts to become thirsty. “As water evaporates from a plant’s leaves, it draws water from the soil and as the soil dries up water is drawn from the Clayola to the soil,” Rami said. “In effect the plant extracts the water it needs from each clay pot.” “After a while,” he added, “a plant’s root system will find the source of water and literally hug the Clayola, allowing for maximum water use.” Related: Solar terracotta water filter distills 5 liters of water a day Rami says Clayolas are ideal for travelers. Unlike those of us who tend to either starve or drown plants, this system guarantees “each plant gets the exact amount of water it needs at no risk of over or under irrigation.” And it is said to be 80 percent more efficient than conventional irrigation techniques. Just 3 x 5 inches, the Crayola has a tapered shape that serves multiple functions. Not only does it maximize watering surface at the top, but it also makes it easier to penetrate the surface of the soil. The colorful glazed tops prevent evaporation and enhance the design’s playful aesthetic. There are two reasons Clayola favors employing skilled artisans in Cairo to make their products, according to Rami. “The handmade imperfections are absolutely beautiful,” he said, “and this old world craft is efficient, elegant and produces a surprisingly durable product.” A box of six costs less than $30, plus shipping. For more information, check out Clayola’s Facebook page . + Clayola Egypt

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Artisanal clay pots from Egypt can water your plants for up to a month

Solar Team Great Britain designs the UK’s first family-sized solar-powered car

January 24, 2017 by  
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Solar Team Great Britain has created the UK’s first family-sized solar-powered car . The newly formed team has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help them build what it hopes will win the title as the world’s fastest solar-powered car at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia, later this year. The challenge covers 3,022 km from Darwin to Adelaide and is labeled as the world’s toughest and longest competition for solar cars. Solar Team Great Britain is hoping to raise at least $25,000 via the Kickstarter campaign, which will help cover part of the costs to build the unique solar-powered vehicle. While the Kickstarter campaign will only raise about five percent of the funds the team needs, the campaign is also being run to raise public awareness of both the race and the need for more clean transportation . The team is also backed by over a dozen sponsors, which will help raise the additional money required to bring the four-passenger vehicle to life. Related: Sono Motors crowdfunds groundbreaking solar-powered car “We’ve been keen since the project’s inception to get more people on board with its goals. While only forming a small part of the total we need, we felt this could help highlight the work being done and get the public backing and awareness for solar cars … and joins initiatives like working with schools.” At the race in October, the team will compete in the Cruiser Class category, where the winner must balance not just speed but practicality and energy efficiency . In the 2013 race, a four-seater family car traveled the route with an external energy consumption of only 64 kWh. To compare, a typical family car traveling the same route would have an energy consumption of approximately 5,000 kWh. + Solar Team Great Britain

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Solar Team Great Britain designs the UK’s first family-sized solar-powered car

Tesla’s Gigafactory is getting a $350 million upgrade to build Model 3 parts

January 19, 2017 by  
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Tesla ‘s massive Gigafactory near Sparks, Nevada is expanding weeks after kicking off production of lithium-ion batteries . The electric carmaker and clean energy storage company is planning to invest $350 million in a project to manufacture electric motors and gearboxes for the Model 3 — Tesla’s first affordable EV, which is priced at $35,000 before tax incentives and is expected to hit the assembly line this year. Tesla will hire an additional 550 people for the project on top of the 6,500 workers the company has already committed to employing at the Gigafactory. The expansion news was revealed by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval during his State of the State address on Tuesday and confirmed by Tesla. Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, told the newspaper the Nevada Appeal that he expects Tesla will eventually have 10,000 workers at the site, which when completed will be the biggest building in the world with a footprint of 10 million square feet. According to Tesla, the Gigafactory will indirectly create another 20,000 to 30,000 jobs in the surrounding area. Related: Tesla to power Gigafactory with world’s largest solar rooftop installation Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s goal is to make 500,000 mostly Model 3 electric cars by the end of 2018 and one million EVs by 2020. The cars are assembled at the company’s Fremont, California factory. The city recently approved a major expansion of the facility that includes 11 new buildings covering 4.6 million square feet of manufacturing space. The city anticipates that the factory expansion will increase employment by 3,100 workers. Tesla is also planning to build a second gigafactory in Europe, with the location still to be announced. Gigafactory 2 will manufacture both lithium-ion batteries and electric cars. + Tesla Via CNBC Images via Tesla , Wikimedia

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Tesla’s Gigafactory is getting a $350 million upgrade to build Model 3 parts

Total sea ice levels on Earth lower than ever before recorded

January 19, 2017 by  
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Arctic sea ice levels have been plummeting, and once again, the total amount of sea ice we have on our planet is currently at a record low. One meteorologist said, based on reconstructions, we probably have the least amount of sea ice Earth has seen in millennia. The area covered by sea ice floating on Earth’s oceans is the smallest we’ve ever recorded since we started monitoring via satellite in the 1970’s. National Snow and Ice Data Center measurements reveal global sea ice levels are low in 2017 after setting similar dubious records in 2016 . Related: Here’s how much Arctic sea ice melt you are personally responsible for Low levels of Arctic sea ice can be connected back to both climate change and strange weather events that were probably impacted by climate change. Sea ice extent should be growing right now, as it’s winter in the Arctic, but warm air incursions have raised temperatures in addition to the effects of climate change. The case is slightly different in the Antarctic ; there, scientists say low levels of seasonal sea ice could have resulted because of natural variability, although sea ice area has been plunging even swifter than expected for summer. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus said on Twitter , we have “the least area of sea ice on our planet that we’ve ever measured – probably the lowest in millennia” and pointed to a PAGES (Past Global Changes) article written by two scientists who reconstructed past sea ice extent for evidence. It’s possible sea ice levels could rise in the near future, but then fall back down to levels even lower than what we’re experiencing today. Climate scientist Ed Hawkins said Arctic sea ice decline is like a ” ball bouncing down a bumpy hill ” – sea ice will continue to decline, but might rise up temporarily before continuing its distressing descent. Via New Scientist Images via Pixabay and National Snow and Ice Data Center

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Total sea ice levels on Earth lower than ever before recorded

Audi debuts Q8 plug-in hybrid SUV concept

January 16, 2017 by  
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Audi has ambitious plans to expand its electric car lineup beyond today’s A3 e-tron hatchback. While Audi has announced plans to release a fully electric SUV that will rival the Tesla Model X , Audi is also giving the world a preview of a new hybrid flagship SUV with the debut of the Q8 concept. The Audi Q8 concept made its debut last week at the Detroit Auto Show and is a preview of the production version that is expected to debut sometime within the next year. While the Q7 is designed to seat up to seven passengers and their cargo, the flagship Q8 is a different take with its more coupe-like roofline. At 16.5 feet long, the Q8 concept is about the same length as the Q7, but since it only has four seats, the amount of space for the four passengers is ample. Related: Audi’s all-electric e-tron quattro SUV takes on Tesla’s Model X The Q8 concept is powered by a plug-in hybrid system that combines a 3.0L V6 engine with an electric motor that generate a combined 442 horsepower and 516 lb-ft. of torque. The system also uses an eight-speed tiptronic transmission to send the power to the ground. The Audi Q8 concept accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in 5.4 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph. It can also travel up to 37 miles in electric mode. Audi hasn’t announced if the production version of the Q8 will be offered with the plug-in hybrid powertrain from the concept, but lets hope so. + Audi All images @Audi

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Audi debuts Q8 plug-in hybrid SUV concept

Faraday Future’s FF91 smashes speed record of Tesla Model S in ludicrous mode

January 4, 2017 by  
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Faraday Future made a bold claim Tuesday when the California-based automotive startup unveiled its 1,050-horsepower FF91, which they say will be the world’s fastest electric car . The production model was featured in a video at CES in Las Vegas, where it can be seen besting a Tesla Model S . Since its inception in 2014, Faraday Future has chased Tesla’s shadow—consistently promising to release a better electric car with a better battery—and the company has even started building a $1 billion factory near Las Vegas. While Faraday Future is already taking pre-orders for the supposedly lightning fast FF91 model, the company can’t pay for production without hefty support from investors, which have yet to be found. Does Faraday really have a future? While Faraday Future is an American company, it is backed in large part by Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting. Since 2014, the company has been teasing the automotive world with promises of bigger, better, faster electric cars, and the unveiling of the FF91, which Faraday calls “the first of the species”, marks the first time we’ve seen an actual car to back up the wild ambition, as the previous teasers have all been mere concepts. Faraday Future’s FF91 can reportedly accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.39 seconds, shaving precious time off the record 2.5 seconds for a Tesla Model S P100D with “Ludicrous Mode” engaged . Related: Faraday Future breaks ground on $1B electric car factory outside Las Vegas In addition to its speed, the FF91 (that’s FF “nine-one,” the company clarifies in its press release) also boasts a longer range than any other commercially available electric car , with an estimated 378 miles of travel on a single charge of its 130 kWh battery. Faraday Future also claims to have achieved the fastest charging time with a home battery charger capable of juicing from 50 percent to full charge in under 4.5 hours. Faraday says deliveries of its super fast FF91 will begin in 2018, but there are a lot of “ifs” involved. The company is still working hard to raise capital for production of the FF91 (which is strikingly similar to where Faraday was a year ago at this time, with a different concept car) but they are already taking reservations toward purchases (much like Tesla) at $5,000 (which is refundable). There’s no word on what the FF91’s final price tag will look like, and Faraday Future’s reputation for big ideas without the actual technology to back them up may prevent the speedy electric car from ever hitting the road. Via Bloomberg Images via Faraday Future

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Faraday Future’s FF91 smashes speed record of Tesla Model S in ludicrous mode

Modern Brazilian home treats neighboring mountain as an extension of its green patio

January 4, 2017 by  
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When designing a home in a country as verdant as Brazil , it’s important to retain a strong connection to nature. Obra Arquitetos does just that with LEnS House by creating an open design, unobstructed views of the beautiful Mantiqueira mountain range, and planting a suite of lush green plants throughout. The house provides a contemplative and reflective space for a couple. Organized around a small patio , it unfolds across different levels providing views of the central open space through curved glass . The building’s dialogue with nature intensifies with height. The outdoor experience starts with the views of the patio, which features a host of plant species. Related: Brazilian House Harnesses Natural Materials and Smart Design A staircase leads to a green roof , gradually opening up more expansive views of the surrounding landscape. + Obra Arquitetos Via Archdaily Photos by Nelson Kon

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Modern Brazilian home treats neighboring mountain as an extension of its green patio

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