Wright Electric unveils revolutionary plan for 150-seat electric passenger plane

March 22, 2017 by  
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The electric car market just keeps growing, but electric planes aren’t yet a common sight. Wright Electric plans to change that with a 150-seat commercial passenger airplane powered by batteries . They presented their idea in Silicon Valley at renowned startup accelerator Y Combinator’s Demo Day yesterday – can they usher in a new era of cleaner flight? After quietly running in stealth mode, Wright Electric unveiled their business idea to a group of investors in Mountain View, California. Their plan? To disrupt the 737 market with an environmentally friendly alternative. Even though the company is just a year old, they’re well on their way to success: they hired a team NASA funded in the past to explore electric planes, and have partnered with EasyJet , a low-cost British airline, to help propel their vision. It appears Wright Electric captured the attention of the Y Combinator team; CEO Michael Seibel said, “This is one of the best hard tech teams I’ve seen.” Related: Meet Maxwell, NASA’s zero-emission 14-motor electric airplane Wright Electric’s battery-powered planes are targeted for short-haul trips, or flights with a duration of less than 300 miles: New York to Boston or London to Paris. 30 percent of existing flights are currently short-haul. How the planes are precisely powered will depend on how far battery technology advances; Wright Electric’s planes could either be all-electric or run on a hybrid system much like a Chevy Volt . There’s already interest for such airplanes: earlier in March in a blog post the company said a “high-net-worth individual wants our electric 150-seater as his fifth private jet.” Last year Airbus and Boeing sold 737-style 967 planes for around $90 million apiece, so Wright Electric has the potential to be profitable once their planes are ready. That date could still be several years away, but the company has still set an ambitious goal: make every short-haul flight electric in just two decades. Via TechCrunch Images via Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

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Wright Electric unveils revolutionary plan for 150-seat electric passenger plane

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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Trump orders review of Obama-era fuel economy standards

March 16, 2017 by  
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In another move aimed at dismantling former President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, President Donald Trump on Wednesday told car executives and auto workers gathered near Detroit that he would order a review of the fuel economy standards for cars and trucks that were put in place by the Obama Administration in 2012. The rules would have raised average fleetwide fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 — well above the current 35.5 mpg requirement that has been credited with decreasing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that climate scientists say are the primary drivers of global warming. Trump spoke at a former WWII bomber factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan that is being repurposed to test autonomous vehicles. The president said that he would “ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs, your factories,” adding that the White House is “setting up a task force in every federal agency to identify and remove any regulation that undermines American auto production.” Related: US vehicle emissions hit record low as fuel economy climbs to record high While Trump talked of ending the “assault” on the US auto industry, it is unclear exactly what he is referring to. Despite carmakers complaining about the EPA’s fuel economy standards, a recent report from the regulatory agency found that Detroit was actually outperforming the GHG emission standards while at the same time selling a record number of new cars and trucks. Last year automakers sold a record 17.55 million vehicles  in the US — the seventh straight year of rising sales. Also, Trump didn’t mention that Obama has been credited with helping to save the domestic auto industry. A bipartisan congressional oversight panel concluded that the government intervention resulted in the industry becoming more efficient, allowing automakers “to become more flexible and better able to meet changing consumer demands, while still remaining profitable.” Via The Christian Science Monitor Image 1 , 2 via Wikimedia

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Couple converts 16-year-old van into a compact solar home on wheels

February 24, 2017 by  
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An increasing number of digital nomads are replacing their conventional houses with practical, mobile homes powered by renewable energy technologies . Freelancer photographer Norbert Juhász and his fiancée Dora, a writer, have joined the fray with a 16-year-old van they transformed into a solar-powered home on wheels, and they’re driving it from Budapest to Morocco. While the exterior of the van is unremarkable, its interior packs all the amenities the couple needs on their journey. A multifunctional seat turns into a bed for two and includes a storage space and electrical system underneath. Opposite the bed is a small kitchen unit with a gas cooktop, gas cylinder, sink and a large water tank with a pressure-sensing pump. The tank is connected to an extra hook-up that leads to the rear of the van, where the water is used for quick showers. An L-shaped cabinet accommodates a refrigerator and more storage spaces, and features another section that doubles as a seating structure. Related: How this photographer escaped the grid with her tiny Teardrop Trailer The vehicle is powered by a 12-volt electrical system charged by either the 250-watt solar panels mounted on the roof, or the engine’s generator. Excess energy can be stored in 200-Ah batteries attached to an inverter. The couple spent around $7,200 for the van’s transformation, including its custom-made furniture. They will travel through Southern Europe all the way to Morocco, and document their journey on the Rundabella website and Facebook page . + Norbert Juhász + Rundabella Via Treehugger Photos by Norbert Juhász

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Dubai plans to launch autonomous flying drone taxis by mid-2017

February 17, 2017 by  
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Adding to its reputation as a leader in experimental transportation , Dubai is hoping to launch autonomous air taxis capable of transporting people far above the city’s traffic woes as soon as the middle of 2017. According to Auto Blog, the United Arab Emirates Roads and Transportation authority announced the plans earlier this week, after a demonstration of the technology at the three-day World Government Summit . The Chinese-made Ehang 184 drone used in the demonstration can travel at 62 miles per hour at heights up to 984 feet. The drone is powered by an electric motor that can spin its eight propellers for up to 30 minutes at a time, with a two-hour recharge cycle in between. Specially designed to withstand the extreme desert temperatures of the Middle East , the Ehang 184 also comes equipped with a variety of safety features designed to provide peace of mind to those brave souls who choose to fly in it. This includes a program that tells the drone to automatically land at the nearest safe destination if even the most minor thing goes wrong, and secure networks designed to ward off hackers. The fact that its flights are all monitored throughout by ground control should add additional assurance. Related: Meet Gita, an intelligent autonomous cargo robot that can carry your stuff And people could be trusting the Ehang drone with their lives sooner, rather than later, as the head of Dubai’s transportation authority has told the Kuwait Times his ministry is already experimenting with using the autonomous vehicle in-flight. Dubai’s experiments with autonomous drone taxis are just one part of its forward-thinking approach to transport. The country is also the future home of the Elon Musk’s first Hyperloop project , which will connect Abu Dhabi to Dubai, a 100-mile trip that will take just 12 minutes. Via Auto Blog Images via ETC-USC and Sam Valadi , Flickr Creative Commons

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Formula E unveils the next generation of all-electric racing

February 16, 2017 by  
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The all-electric Forumla E racing series is set to get a major update for its fifth season, which kicks off at the end of 2018. Spark Racing Technology won the contract to build the second-generation race car bodies for the series fifth season and has just revealed the initial renderings, and they are simply stunning! Spark Racing Technology currently builds the race car bodies that run now in the competition, but the French company hopes to make some major improvements to its new design, including improved aerodynamics and lighter weight. The improvements will not only improve the efficiency of the race car’s battery , but also make the cars faster. Related: Tiny electric car smashes world record by hitting 0-60 mph in 1.5 seconds The concept that we see in these images will likely go through a few more iterations as its gets closer to the kick off the fifth season. Spark still has to work with chassis manufacturing partner Dallara, which may make the final car look quite different. Either way, unlike road cars , which get toned down from the original concepts, the final version of Spark’s new race car could be even more extreme. Another big update that we’ll see in the fifth season is a new battery that is being developed by McLaren , Sony, and Atieva that will give the race cars a much longer driving range, which will last the entire race. Currently drivers have to swap out the batteries during the race. + Spark Racing Technologies All images @ Spark Racing Technologies

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Tesla to start test-building the Model 3 this month

February 9, 2017 by  
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Now that the Chevy Bolt has officially arrived, the attention is now on Tesla to see if it can meet its production deadlines for the Model 3. According to Reuters, Elon Musk’s company is now one step closer to the start of the official production as the automaker plans to test-build the Model 3 later this month. Tesla hasn’t confirmed how many Model 3 vehicles will be produced this month, but it will likely be a small number. In part this will allow the automaker test the existing assembly system, and quality test the Model 3 . It’s rumored that the pilot production will kick off on February 20, which will also give Tesla the ability to share the news and potentially reveal pre-production models two days later when it shares its four-quarter 2016 results on February 22. Related: Tesla just introduced the world’s longest range electric car Tesla is expected to shut down production at its California plant for a week later this month to prepare for the high-volume Model 3. The brief shutdown will enable Tesla to make some necessary changes to the paint shop and other maintenance upgrades, both prerequisites for kicking off production of the Model 3 later this year. If all goes as planned, this should happen in July, and Tesla hopes to ramp up production significantly by 2018. + Tesla Via Reuters All images © Tesla

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Tiny TigerMoth Camper generates power while being towed

February 7, 2017 by  
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Taxa Outdoors’ tow camper, the TigerMoth , is a compact home on wheels geared towards traveling adventurers. The lightweight camper sleeps two, has LED lights, and even better, comes with a built-in electrical system that generates energy while being towed. The camper’s battery can store energy for at least seven days, making off-grid living easier than ever before. Although certainly compact, the camper sleeps two comfortably and thanks to its lightweight size of just 900 pounds, can be towed virtually anywhere. The unique side latch allows for easy access and the large window allows for amazing views and air circulation. Built with adventurers in mind, the small structure has a roof rack system for bikes or kayaks, a tongue-mounted toolbox, and a roof cargo deck for additional gear storage. Related: Traveling family renovates old school bus as both solar-powered home and hostel The camper’s tow vehicle connection recharges the battery while on the road, providing enough electricity for at least seven days of off-grid living . Although solar panels have to be ordered, the camper roof is pre-wired for installation. As far as the basic amenities go, the tiny camper can sleep two people comfortably and comes with LED lighting installed in the kitchen area and sleeping area. There is 5.5 square feet of countertop for food preparation or work space. Along with various hooks and bungees, two large cubbies provide extra storage space. + Taca Outdoors

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Bill Gates warns against climate-change denial

February 7, 2017 by  
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Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently spoke out against denying climate change during a student question-and-answer session at Columbia University in New York City earlier this month. Joined by voluntary tax-information sharer and fellow monied person Warren Buffett , the Microsoft founder also called for greater innovation in clean energy. He said, “Certain topics are so complicated like climate change that to really get a broad understanding is a bit difficult and particularly when people take that complexity and create uncertainty about it”. And Gates is more than happy to put his money where his mouth is. In December, he and a team of investors said they would pump more than $1 billion into Breakthrough Energy Ventures , a fund that invests in technologies that will curtail the planet’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Related: Bill Gates pledges $2 billion to renewable energy research We need to find energy that’s “reliable, cheap, and clean,” he said, before promising that “the innovations there will be profound.” He added, “There are many paths to get to where we need to go”. Perhaps another billionaire we know should pay attention? Photo by DFID Via U.S.A. Today

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Bill Gates warns against climate-change denial

Hawaii bill calls for 100% green transportation by 2045

January 20, 2017 by  
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Hawaii lawmakers want the state’s ground transportation to run entirely on renewables by 2045. As a majority of their imported fossil fuels go towards transportation, if every car on the road was instead powered by clean electricity , it could make a huge difference for the state’s emissions. But there’s still a long way to go. Not only does the bill need to be passed, but just around 5,000 of the one million cars in Hawaii are currently electric . Hawaii already leads the United States in renewable energy goals, with a target of utilities sourcing 100 percent of electricity from clean sources by 2045. But they want to go a step further, now calling for 100 percent renewable ground transportation. Related: 45-ton Azura generator harvests energy from Hawaii’s waves The 2045 clean ground transportation goal wouldn’t be a mandate, unlike the 2045 electricity goal under which utilities will be fined if they do not source all their electricity from renewable sources by the deadline. If you live in Hawaii, you won’t have to turn in your gas-guzzling car; state representative Chris Lee, who’s the Energy and Environment committee chairman, said, “Nobody wants to step in and force people to get rid of cars that they might love now.” The Hawaii Legislature began Wednesday, and there the bill will be introduced. Lawmakers are unsure if funding will be part of the bill. But it is clear that it will focus only on ground transportation and not air transportation, a sector where it’s more difficult to power crafts renewably. For Hawaii to achieve its goals, other states and countries will have to pitch in. Energy consulting company HD Baker & Co. managing director Hugh Baker said, “Our ability to achieve it is really going to be dependent on what happens throughout the entire automotive industry. We can say we want 100 percent clean transportation technology, but the market in Hawaii is not nearly big enough by itself to move the whole global automotive industry. It will really take more than just Hawaii.” Via Phys.org Images via Good Free Photos and Ken Lund on Flickr

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