Friday, September 28, 2007

Aptera Electric Hybrid Car - Revisited


Aptera Electric Hybrid Car - Revisited

Aptera 2

The Aptera as a Concept Car

Aptera 1

Production Apteras Look Like This

The Aptera, previously covered here, is about to go into production. Aptera is taking $500.00 refundable deposits on either their all electric car or their diesel-electric hybrid. Both models are under $30k.

Aptera reports their prototype hybrid car gets 320 miles per gallon while driving at 55 mph. (!!!) When I previously posted about the Aptera I was skeptical of their claim of 330 mpg. now with their prototype getting 320 mpg I admit I am very impressed. I am also impressed at how closely the production model matches the prototype. Changes from concept to working prototype often sacrifice the original vision of a design, but in this case I think the engineers at Aptera have stuck with and improved upon a pretty radical design. One example is the windows which are now larger and more like standard automobile windows.

Well, the question for us all is - do we want to drive a really different looking car that gets incredible mileage?

Via: Gizmodo


Friday, September 21, 2007

Carbon Negative Fuel


Carbon Negative Fuel


This may sound like another of my “Free Energy” posts, but it isn’t.

Liquid fuel, similar to Diesel fuel, and other hydrocarbons can be made by heating up biomass without oxygen. The process, known as pyrolysis, is similar to how charcoal is made. Take a sealed container, fill it with wood (or other biomass), heat it up to 300 - 500 C and condense the gasses that are emitted by the heating biomass. The result is a “BioCrude” oil distilate and charcoal.

Biocrude can be processed just like crude oil is processed to make some lighter distillates and diesel fuel. The remaining charcoal can be burned - in which case this process is not carbon negative but slightly carbon emitting. Or better yet, the charcoal can be buried or used as a soil amendment, in which case the process is carbon negative.

This process is currently being commercialized by a number of companies, Dynamotive looks to be at the head of the pack with a plant in Guelph, Ontario now online processing 200 tonnes of biomass per day.

Link to Scientific American on Biochar (they call it agrichar)


Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Vertical Farm Project Update


Written by A Siegel

EcoGeek's recent coverage of An Off-Grid Vertical Farm for Downtown Seattle garnered some attention and generated discussion. But we should recognize that it is far from the first or only really interesting concept for going vertical in growing food in urban areas.

A Columbia University microbiologist, Dickson Despommier, advocates 30-story skyscrapers that would, each, be able to grow food for 50,000 people, taking up roughly one city block. From Plenty Magazine, The Farmer in the High-Rise

"It's not just a way of generating food," says Despommier. "It's a way of dealing with municipal waste, recycling water, and using methane digestion to help a city be sustainable."

While it is not happening, to me this concept is not "science fiction," but more an innovative concept waiting for the confluence of events that will make it into reality.

In 2001, the Dutch agriculture minister supported building a vertical farm in Rotterdam called Deltapark, in response to flooding farmland, livestock diseases such as swine fever, and growing agricultural pollution. Though the park hasn't been built, the idea of linking several industries together to reduce the environmental burden of agriculture has become increasingly popular, says Jan Broeze, the Wageningen University scientist who dreamed up Deltapark. "If you cluster various activities, like greenhouses, fish farming, and manure processing, then you create a sufficient scale for more sustainable food production," says Broeze, who is working with a group of farmers in Holland to link a chicken farm, a manure processing system, and greenhouses. "The idea is to use wastes from one industry to sustain another.

"What this discussion suggests, however, is potentially one of the serious obstacles before this project would go forward: stove-piping of costs and benefits need to be broken, with a holistic understanding (and accounting) so that payoffs can be fully understood and valued. Producing more food closer to consumers would help the nation reduce oil usage in the face of peak oil. Is there a financial valuing of this additional security that could go to the builder/operator? This type of production potentially would reduce traffic on streets and highways (fewer food delivery trucks from out-of-state). Could the builder/operator be credited with some of the savings on highway maintenance and reduced congestion on the roads? Being able to monetize these "external" costs and benefits would enhance the value of pursuing such projects. Some countries and societies are prepared, it seems, to pursue this system-of-system calculation, with not just the Dutch in active conversation with Despommier.

The Vertical Farm Project has received considerable press attention recently, with articles in Popular Science, US News and World Report, and a great piece in New York Magazine which begins:

Urban farming has always been a slightly quixotic endeavor. From the small animal farm that was perched on the roof of the Upper West Side's Ansonia apartment building in the early 1900s (fresh eggs delivered by bellhop!) to community gardens threatened by real-estate development, the dream of preserving a little of the country in the city is a utopian one. But nobody has ever dreamed as big as Dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor of environmental sciences and microbiology at Columbia University, who believes that "vertical farm" skyscrapers could help fight global warming.

Imagine a cluster of 30-story towers on Governors Island or in Hudson Yards producing fruit, vegetables, and grains while also generating clean energy and purifying wastewater. Roughly 150 such buildings, Despommier estimates, could feed the entire city of New York for a year. Using current green building systems, a vertical farm could be self-sustaining and even produce a net output of clean water and energy.

150 buildings? Feed all of New York City? Perhaps, it is time to consider this seriously. Consider the physical footprint for this. And, well, consider the 3 billion additional people to be living on the planet by 2050.

By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth's population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 109 hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming practices continue as they are practiced today. At present, throughout the world, over 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use (sources: FAO and NASA). Historically, some 15% of that has been laid waste by poor management practices. What can be done to avoid this impending disaster?

Could the Vertical Farm Project offer a real window on how not just to feed 9.2 billion people, but to feed them well while reducing everyone's "footprint" on the Earth?

The Vertical Farm Project is the home site for this concept and offers a very robust and sophisticated look at the opportunities and options for going vertical with food production. There is a lot of tremendously interesting material there, with serious looks at challenges and benefits.
If you are at all tempted by the discussion, the Vertical Farm Project site is recommended for a look.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New Lasers Make Radioactive Waste Safe


Radioactive waste is only a problem when it remains radioactive for vast amounts of time. Unfortunately, many of the byproducts of nuclear fission have half-lives of millions of years. Right now, we have no idea what to do with this stuff. It's hard to imagine next century, let alone 15 million years from now. Do we really want to leave this stuff lying around? It will almost certainly escape from anywhere we put it.

Luckily, scientists are working on ways to avoid these long-term problems. British scientists have "transmuted" iodine-129 into iodine-128 with a high-powered laser. Now, dropping one neutron might not seem like a big deal, but the half-life of iodine-129 is 15 million years while the half-life of iodine 128 is 25 minutes.

They've done it by focusing a high-powered laser on a pellet of gold for an extremely brief amount of time. The gold ionizes, becomes plasma, and emits gamma rays. The gamma rays then smash into the iodine, forcing out a neutron and making the material safe.

Now, scientists just have to figure out how to scale the process up to levels necessary in disposing of nuclear wastes, while keeping costs lower than the planned facility at Yucca Mountain. I wish them luck.



More Free Energy!!


More Free Energy!!

Paul Calver of Ecowatts Holds Free Energy Device

Just days after posting Free Energy!, another free energy machine has been discovered. This time it is a water heater that is 150 - 200% efficient. Just plug it in and a “secret catalyst” adds energy to the flow of water. According to Ecowatts, the company promoting this wonder, a professor at the University of York has measured the output and determined that it was indeed producing more energy than was put into it. Please check out our previous post on Free Energy! and how to spot an energy hoax.

I’m afraid even professors at universities can be deceived or they can deceive themselves, remember Cold Fusion?

From The Mail:

The system - developed by scientists at a firm called Ecowatts in a nondescript laboratory on an industrial estate at Lancing, West Sussex - involves passing an electrical current through a mixture of water, potassium carbonate (otherwise known as potash) and a secret liquid catalyst, based on chrome.

This creates a reaction that releases an incredible amount of energy compared to that put in. If the reaction takes place in a unit surrounded by water, the liquid heats up, which could form the basis for a household heating system.

If the technology can be developed on a domestic scale, it means consumers will need much less energy for heating and hot water - creating smaller bills and fewer greenhouse gases.

Jim Lyons, of the University of York, independently evaluated the system. He said: ‘Let’s be honest, people are generally pretty sceptical about this kind of thing. Our team was happy to take on the evaluation, even if to prove it didn’t work.

‘But this is a very efficient replacement for the traditional immersion heater. We have examined this interesting technology and when we got the rig operating, we were getting 150 to 200 per cent more energy out than we put in, without trying too hard.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hey There: Here Comes the Solar Fish


IBM has teamed up with a non-profit organization that studies the health of estuaries and rivers to create several solar-powered, high-tech, autonomous vehicles for keeping tabs on the health of the Hudson River.

A 315 mile stretch of the river would be constantly monitored by solar-powered submersibles that would then beam data back to a central location for processing by IBM's special software. It's the first system of it's kind, but I've long expected to see this kind of monitoring in all our waterways.

Solar power allows the vehicles to be completely autonomous (as long as their programming is good enough) and they will basically be able to operate on their own for the life of their batteries. The submersible craft was actually built by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Don't be surprised if, in the next fifty years, you start running accross these things in rivers, estuaries, reservoirs, lakes and oceans near you.

Via TreeHugger