Thursday, March 27, 2008

Compressed Air Car #2

We reported earlier this year on a compressed air car being manufactured in India by a French company. Now the New York Daily News reports that the company, with a headquarters in New Paltz, New York, is planning a version for the American market available as early as 2010. The article claims:

"Electricity powers an onboard compressor to compress air to 4,500 pounds per square inch into a pressure tank contained in the vehicle," ZPM communications director Kevin Haydon told the Daily News from New Paltz. "This can be done in a garage overnight and it will take 1-2 hours. The compressed air is then used to power the engine."

Their car will travel about 1,000 miles at up to 96 mph on one fill-up.

Read the story here.

One side note about hype. Having been writing these posts for going on a year, I have discovered that the claims made by companies, and reported in the press, are often greater than the outcomes. Time frames, prices, energy efficiency and other factors, may be exaggerated. The reality is slower, more costly and not quite as efficient as initially projected. Some reports of amazing new inventions and projected market developments never come to pass.

Still, I think it is well worth reporting these developments. For one thing, many of them are actual inventions, and they all point to a trend of more energy efficient and elegant design in response to the changing conditions of contemporary life. Not all these things will work out as hoped, but in general, I have found that reporting these developments has begun to subtly alter my thinking about the technology of the future. My hope is that others will also be stimulated to think along new lines as our society navigates this period of climate change coupled with a need to use resources in a more organic way.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pedal-Powered Wheat Thresher

Here's an interesting and short video made by a Hampshire College student in Amherst, Massachusetts. The link was sent to me by the bicycle maker across the street from me, who is a member of an emerging sustainability group in the rural region in which I live. The student designed this small, pedal powered wheat thresher in the hope that tools like his will make it possible for more people to grow grains at the local level, as they now grow flowers and vegetables, to supplement their own food production.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ooh, That Road Is Hot

Here's an ingenious design that allows roads to double as solar collectors for heating an office building. In summer pipes crossing under the surface of the road heat water from the hot asphalt, which is then piped to an underground aquifer 100 meters below the surface. Heat exchangers there allow the heat to be stored underground until winter, when the circuit is switched. The heated water is then used to heat an office building before passing back under the road where residual heat keeps the road free of ice and snow. When the temperatures approach freezing, the water is pumped back down to the aquifer again. An added benefit is that the system actually helps cool the road in summer, saving wear and tear on the asphalt. The system is was designed by Arian de Bondt, an engineer for the Dutch building firm Ooms, and is functioning at their office in Scharwoude.

Read the full Economist article here.

P.S. It looks like "The Economist" is featuring a small section of green technologies. They also report on an idea, which is in the research stages, for using algae to recapture carbon coming out of smoke stacks. The algae could be dried and then put through the plant again or converted to biodiesel. They also have this article about the quest for a longer-lasting, lower energy light bulb.