Tag Archives: cars

Close a 10-mile section of highway – air quality immediately improves by 83%

This weekend scientists were able to measure freeway pollution when a 10-mile section was shut down for construction. The results were surprising. Within minutes of the traffic shut-down, air quality for the region improved by 83%. It also improved by 75% in the surrounding cities and 25% for the 30 miles in every direction.

The findings even shocked the scientists, from UCLA News:

“The air was amazingly clean that weekend,” Suzanne Paulson said. “Our measurements in Santa Monica were almost below what our instruments could detect, and the regional effect was significant. It was a really eye-opening glimpse of what the future could be like if we can move away from combustion engines.”

But just as quickly as the clean air came it was gone. Within a week of cars returning the pollution levels were back to normal. Still, it gives a peek into a future with electric vehicles and much cleaner air.

Read the full article - ‘Carmaheaven’: Closure of 405 in 2011 improved air quality up to 83 percent

 

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The EPA is screwing up the discussion on global warming

The EPA is reporting the wrong information on global warming and I want them to get it right. The information they publish becomes the gold standard and is reported in the media, covered on TV, and published all across the web. It reaches the eyes and ears of a majority of Americans, and so why are they screwing it up?

The first problem is in using economic terms over plain language. The average person has a hard time understanding the meaning of ‘by economic sector’ or ‘end user emissions’. And nowhere in their mission statement does it say they should be communicating like college professors:

The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment.

Neither does it say they should communicate clearly, but that’s covered in the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

Another problem they face is choosing what data to report. Again, they seem to be focusing on macroeconomic data sets instead of what will help the average person. Here is the data set spread out across 20 pages on the EPA website and reported many thousand times over in the press:

 

Emissions by Economic Sector

  • Electricity generation – 34%
  • Transportation – 27%
  • Industry – 21%
  • Agriculture – 7%
  • Commercial & Residential – 11%

 

Very helpful for the big picture and if you’re writing policy, but worthy of ignoring by the common person. What are they supposed to do about electricity, buy a wind turbine? For transportation, go out and buy a new car? What does industry even mean?

For those steeped in the economics of global warming this makes total sense. Our energy is slowly moving towards renewables, cars are becoming electric, homes and business can similarly electrify, and that would make 61-90% of our emissions from electricity. Yes, it is vital we pick up renewables.

But that stymies any discussion about what individuals can do. Here is another data set left to gather dust, buried 200 pages deep in the EPA’s most important report:

 

Emissions by End User

  • Manufacturing – 30%
  • Homes – 18%
  • Business – 17%
  • Personal Cars – 17%
  • Farming – 8%
  • Freight Trucks – 6%
  • Airplanes – 2%

 

End user is an economic term for you bought it you own it. Meaning the person who drives the car is responsible for the emissions, not General Motors. From this perspective the story changes entirely. Transportation moves down into a tie for third most important. The three ahead of it – manufacturing, homes, business – all represent places where the average person has a significant impact.

Individuals could buy less or switch to recycled products, in simple ways, like buying recycled toilet paper. At home they could lower the thermostat or send less to the landfill. At work they could accept normal temperatures for the A/C and support any green company policies.

It is strange that this data, which places the responsibility on individuals and can easily encourage a change in behavior, is buried in favor of the economic report. It would seem like the EPA is purposely avoiding the issue of responsibility, or letting the economists control the marketing. Either way it’s unacceptable and screwing up the discussion on global warming.

Come on EPA get your head in the game!

 

 

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Google puts its self-driving cars to use as commuter vehicles

Technology is at its best when it makes people’s lives better, and that’s precisely what we’re going for with our self-driving car project. We’re using advanced computer science to try and make driving safer and more enjoyable.

Our vehicles, of which about a dozen are on the road at any given time, have now completed more than 300,000 miles of testing. They’ve covered a wide range of traffic conditions, and there hasn’t been a single accident under computer control.

We’re encouraged by this progress, but there’s still a long road ahead. To provide the best experience we can, we’ll need to master snow-covered roadways, interpret temporary construction signals and handle other tricky situations that many drivers encounter. As a next step, members of the self-driving car team will soon start using the cars solo (rather than in pairs), for things like commuting to work. This is an important milestone, as it brings this technology one step closer to every commuter. One day we hope this capability will enable people to be more productive in their cars. For now, our team members will remain in the driver’s seats and will take back control if needed.

With each breakthrough we feel more optimistic about delivering this technology to people and dramatically improving their driving experience. We’ll see you on the road!

 

Source: Google - The self-driving car logs more miles on new wheels

 

 

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Is there prize money given with olympic medals?

There’s no pay from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) when they win a medal. But many countries Olympic committees pay their athletes for winning medals. Among them, The U.S., Russia, Canada, China & Italy and many more countries.

$20K-$50K per gold medal is typical in bigger countries. The smaller countries actually tend to pay more, $50K-$100K, since a single gold is more important to their country. Some athletes receive cars, houses and promise of jobs when they retire.

 

Source: Yahoo! Answers

 

In the U.S., our athletes receive, from the U.S. Olympic Committee, $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze.

Swimmers, receive even more thanks to an organization called USA Swimming, who chips in an additional $75,000 for gold, as has been highly publicized for Missy Franklin.

 

 

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The most common ways a dog will get injured – while adventuring with you

Ski edges (11%): Avoid slicing your dog by bringing it only when you cross-country or skate-ski. (Most nordic skis don’t have edges.)

Poisonous plants (11%): Dogs that forage aren’t getting a proper diet. Feed your dog grain-free dog food (no corn or gluten). It’s more expensive but healthier.

Cars (18%): Use rewards to train Fido to do two things—to come when called and to heel on command, especially at trailheads and intersections. If your dog is at heel and you stop, it should stop, too.

Exercise injury (29%): To avoid ACL tears and other mishaps, feed puppies food with a protein-to-fat ratio of about two to one, for bone and joint development, and keep hikes longer than two miles to a minimum.

Dogfights (19%): Get your puppy used to unfamiliar dogs. Talk to and shake hands with another dog’s owner, demonstrating that the two of you are in charge, then tell your dog, “Go say hello.”

 

Source: Outside Magazine - The Ultimate Outdoor Companion (w/ adventure training, adventure breeds, and more)

 

 

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Soon cars will be ultra-light-weight and made out of carbon-fibre composites

The race is on to replace steel cars with carbon-fibre cars. All of the major automakers have inked deals to make the switch. The reason being that carbon-fibre is:

Interior view of a production line for carbon fiber heavy tow.

“10 times stronger than regular-grade steel and one-quarter of steel’s weight.”

“Using carbon fiber in lieu of conventional steel can lower the weight of a vehicle component by up to 50 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Cutting a car’s weight by 10 percent can improve fuel economy by as much as 8 percent.”

via Reuters

Weight is a big deal in cars. The heavier the car, the bigger the engine and, typically, the lower the fuel economy. This is especially true for electric cars who face limited mileage on one charge, reduce that weight by 10% and you can go an extra 50 miles.

Currently, carbon-fibre is expensive to make and only really used in racing cars. BMW, the first company to invest heavily in carbon, has already found ways to cut production costs.

“The carbon fiber fabric is placed in a mold, and resin is injected under high pressure and temperature. The process, which once took 20 minutes per part, now requires less than 10 minutes. Robots cut and handle the material and components, which previously were made by hand.

The robots will help BMW achieved big savings. A pound of carbon fiber now costs only a third as much as a pound used in the M3 CSL coupe’s roof when the limited-edition car was introduced in the 2004 model year.”

via c|net

50K carbon fibers can be shaped and cured to produce spars for wind energy blades, golf shafts, compressed natural gas tanks, and pultruded beams.

 

Much of this production will happen in Germany or China, with both Volkswagon and BMW working with Germany’s SGL Carbon and General Motors signing with Teijin Ltd. But, just last month, Dow Chemicals signed a deal with Ford to begin research and production.

It’s exciting to think what this technology can do, not only for cars, but trucks, planes, boats, etc.

Energy researcher Amory Lovins, in this TED talk, thinks that when we fully start using carbon-fibre vehicles fuel economy in cars will shoot up to 200 miles/gallon. He says that halving the weight of the car creates compound effects: lighter car, requires a lighter engine, which makes the car even lighter.

 

Carbon aircraft brake disc.

 

// Photos – SGL Carbon

Why Amsterdam, Copenhagen are bike friendly cities

“The bicycle was regarded, more than most places in the world — as ‘good for society,’” he writes in an email. “After the bicycle boom in the late 1800s, many cycling clubs merged and then many of them merged again, morphing into cyclist ‘unions’, with political goals. What happened in most countries in the early 20th century was that sports cycling organizations were formed to further cycling as sport…. Not so in Denmark and the Netherlands. The cyclist unions — meaning organizations for promoting cycling as transport, etc. — stayed strong and separate and they gained political influence.”

Still, that didn’t stop planners from ripping out cycle tracks and starting to design streets for cars as Europe modernized in the wake of World War II. By the early 1960s, much of the cycling infrastructure that had existed in the pre-war era was gone, and the percentage of the population using bicycles for transportation fell to an all-time low of 10 percent.

Then history intervened. “The energy crisis in 1973 hit Denmark hard. Very hard,” writes Colville-Andersen. “Car-free Sundays were introduced in order to save fuel. Every second streetlight was turned off in order to save energy. A groundswell of public discontent started to form. People wanted to be able to ride their bicycles again — safely. Protests took place…. The energy crisis faded, but then returned in 1979. More protests. One form of protest/awareness was painting white crosses on the asphalt where cyclists had been killed. This time, things happened. We started to rebuild our cycle track network in the early 1980s. Fatalities and injuries started falling. The network was expanded.

learn more about bikes in each city, and a video, atThe Atlantic Cities

 

// Photo – Moyan_brenn

Toronto – “a strong latent demand for more walkable neighborhoods”

The map above shows Toronto’s walkability, with the lighter portions indicating greater walkability (‘utilitarian walkability” being how easy it is to walk to do utilitarian things — get to work, shop — as opposed to for pure recreation).

It’s striking how much high walkability follows the boundaries of the old City of Toronto. There are a couple of additional areas of high walkability in two of the areas designated by the official plan as “centres”, in North York and Etobicoke, which reinforces the finding of a recent study that the “centres” concept is working to some extent.

“People who live in highly walkable areas walk more and are less likely to be in danger of obesity than those in car-oriented areas.”

“There is a strong latent demand among Toronto residents for more walkable features in their neighbourhoods.”

The report finds that even people who are car-oriented will walk more if they live in a walkable neighbourhood — and people who are walking-oriented will walk less if they live in a car-oriented neighbourhood. So urban design does play a role in shaping people’s behaviours, whatever their preferences are.

via Spacing Toronto

Gasoline use drops to 2001 levels – recent data shows

The following chart shows U.S. petroleum and gasoline usage for the same three-month period (Dec-Feb) going back to 1992.

Note that petroleum usage is back to 1995 levels, and gasoline usage is back to 2001.

Chart via Global Economic Analysis - (thx to Steven Witt for the tip)

 

This graph highlights a continuing U.S. trend where oil imports have also dropped to 13 year lows, and we are importing less than half of our oil.

Visit an amazing new piece at LACMA, Metropolis II, a sculpture of a modern city

“It wasn’t about creating a scale model of the city it was about creating the noise of city” – artist, Chris Burden

Metropolis II is an intense and complex kinetic sculpture, modeled after a fast paced, frenetic modern city.

Steel beams form an eclectic grid interwoven with an elaborate system of 18 roadways, including one 6 lane freeway, and HO scale train tracks.

Miniature cars speed through the city at 240 scale miles per hour; every hour, the equivalent of approximately 100,000 cars circulate through the dense network of buildings. According to Burden, “The noise, the continuous flow of the trains, and the speeding toy cars, produces in the viewer the stress of living in a dynamic, active and bustling 21st Century city.”

via LACMA

 

A short doc about a kinetic sculpture that took four years to build. We had the honor of spending three days in Chris Burden’s studio filming this sculpture before it was moved to the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art (LACMA) where it is being reinstalled.

- Directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman