Sep 7, 2008 | 6
In advance of the Paris International Auto Show in early October, Honda has released photos of its new entry-level hybrid car, which the press has (naturally) labeled the “Prius-fighter.” Reports indicate the Insight, a five-door family hatchback that is scheduled to hit dealership floors worldwide next year, is to be priced around $18,000, some $3,000 less than Toyota’s vaunted Prius gasoline-electric hybrid.
The new Insight will be powered by the latest iteration of Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid technology, which will be significantly cheaper than its current systems, according to press reports. The IMA is a parallel hybrid system with an electric motor mounted between the engine and transmission to act as a starter motor, engine balancer and traction motor assist. The new, more cost-efficient powertrain accounts for the low price tag, making it potentially the most affordable hybrid model on the 2009 market.
Aug 14, 2008 | 9
The world’s major auto companies have yet to bring an electric vehicle (EV) to market and keep it there for long. Some drivers, however, taunted by stratospheric gasoline prices, have taken matters into their own hands.
They are retrofitting their gas-guzzlers into their own DIY EVs.
A company catering to these gas-averse early adopters is Electric Vehicles of America, a New Hampshire-based company that sells you the parts in a kit and gives instructions to convert a fuel-dependent vehicle—from a pick-up truck to a boat—into an EV.
Unfortunately, the electric-conversion enthusiasts are banging up against the same technological ceiling that the big boys have yet to shatter: limited range. One vehicle mentioned in a recent CNN report, a 1995 Chevy S-10 pickup, runs on 20 six-volt, lead-acid batteries and got only 40 miles between charges. Bob Batson, the founder of Electric Vehicles of America, notes, however, that the average driver only logs 20 miles per day, so such an EV could work for some people.
Aug 13, 2008 | 3
It seems the pilot of a Titan Tornado (their site was down as of late this afternoon) ultralight aircraft—a single-seat, homebuilt hot-rod capable of hitting 90 mph—had some trouble on Tuesday morning when cruising over San Bernardino County’s Mojave Valley, which straddles the California-Arizona border. According to the Associated Press, the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing on the westbound lanes of the Interstate 40 connector road to Interstate 95.
The so-called experimental aircraft made a successful touchdown, but that’s when things evidently went wrong. Problem solved, the pilot apparently decided to take off again from the freeway. Thinking the coast was clear, the pilot, Gene Allen Sheets, 65, revved up the Tornado’s Rotax two-stroke engine, trundled down the eastbound roadway and rose up to about three feet off the ground, say witnesses, who spoke to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Jul 18, 2008 | 11
I have a biking nemesis: During my regular rides around the six-mile outer loop of New York’s Central Park, the big hill at the north (uptown) end of the park invariably sucks the very life out of my aging legs. Yesterday, however, pedaling up the big incline was another story altogether. It was as easy as climbing a small rise. My new-found prowess had nothing to do with any improved fitness, of course; it was the bike I was riding, the Twist Freedom DX from Taiwan’s Giant Bicycle, Inc., which augments every pedal stroke with a finely timed electric boost.
The Twist Freedom DX incorporates a battery-powered electric motor in the front wheel that relatively seamlessly supplements your leg muscles to “smooth out” your ride. This means you can maintain a nearly steady pace no matter what road you take. The overall effect is to give you “light feet,” as if you set a stationary gym bike to a low resistance level--one that enables you to just pedal away with abandon. The power boost is especially noticeable when you start out; the electric-assist makes it effortless.
Jun 25, 2008
As car racing developed as a sport, competition classes emerged with sanctioning bodies issuing more or less well-defined specifications regarding what technologies and structural types would be allowed to run in each particular category. Hence, the current plethora of different racing formatsâ€”Formula 1, Indy Car, NASCAR and so forthâ€”eventually emerged. Nowadays, as concerns mount over the well-being of Earthâ€™s environment, some critics have called for the end of car racing as a profligate waste of dwindling resources and an unnecessary drag on our future prospects. Others have meanwhile advocated ending the use of automobiles altogether.
Mar 31, 2008
Thatâ€™s not all that has emerged lately about this new "wonder" material. SciAm author Andre K. Geim and several co-workers report that by looking at the optical reflectivity of graphene they were able to find a way to measure the fine structure constant, alpha, the parameter that describes coupling between light and relativistic electrons. Alpha is traditionally associated with quantum electrodynamics rather than condensed matter physics, which speaks to one of the truly unusual (even bizarre) aspects of graphene. The abstract of the paper was just posted on cond-mat.
Jan 31, 2008
For those journalists who have been monitoring “clean coal” technology over the last few years, it was no surprise to hear that the U.S. Department of Energy has canceled its so-called FutureGen plant, which was to burn coal to produce electricity and then sock away the resulting climate change-causing carbon dioxide emissions underground. (For the news reports, just Google News: clean coal)
Although many experts believe that truly clean coal-fired power plants, coupled with carbon capture and storage systems, offer one of the best hopes of keeping global greenhouse warming at bay during the next few decades (For more information, see two SciAm articles: “What to Do about Coal"; September 2006; by David G. Hawkins, Daniel A. Lashof and Robert H. Williams; and “Can We Bury Global Warming?”; July 2005; by Robert H. Socolow), there was always a sneaking suspicion that the government wasn’t completely serious about making the large investments necessary to make the new concept really work. Environmentalists had meanwhile complained that the estimated $1.8-billion FutureGen effort was a mere payoff for the politically connected coal industry, and one heard rising rumors that the costs of the project were ballooning out of control. Now the DOE says that it will instead fund “multiple” projects aimed at commercializing integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) coal plants by 2015.
You have to wonder whether such a decentralized effort, coming on the heels of the terminated project, will really yield any useful fruit in the long run. For no matter where you stand regarding climate change, the coal industry and our future energy needs, the U.S. must soon make progress on IGCC and carbon sequestration technology to have any chance of successfully meeting the minimum international goals for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. The DOE, the energy industry and the American people have to bite the bullet and spend what’s necessary to make it happen here and, more importantly, in the rest of the world, where coal combustion is spiking.
-- Edited by Christie Nicholson at 02/01/2008 9:13 AM
Jan 31, 2008
Jan 22, 2008
Craig Covault, one of the nation's top aviation/space journalists, recently published a story in Aviation Week and Space Technology that describes a lobbying campaign by influential members of the space community who are pushing for NASA to forgo returning humans to the Moon in favor of traveling to the asteroids or the Lagrangian points, where the Sun's and the Earth's gravity cancel out so that space platforms could park there over the long term. These individuals fear that Moon landings and a moon base would suck so much effort and resources out of America’s space agency that it could delay a crewed trip to Mars for decades. This “alternate vision” for space exploration is bound to create a good deal of controversy in the coming months.
Read the story.
Aug 31, 2007
Ford Motor Company used to tout its innovative ways with the slogan: "Ford has a Better Idea." In recent years, however, the car maker's high-tech star has been anything but ascendant as sales dropped off and some corporate R & D funding had to be siphoned off to save the company. But now with the help of Microsoft, the auto maker has unveiled some clever technology that does seem to be based on a better idea.
Buyers of a dozen 2008 Ford, Mercury and Lincoln models and all the entries in the company's lineup for 2009 will be able to enjoy a new factory-installed, in-car communications and entertainment system that could help change the way drivers use portable digital music players and mobile phones on the road. Called Sync, the fully-integrated, flash memory-based system provides the capability for motorists to bring onboard many popular digital devices and operate them using voice commands or button controls on the steering wheel or radio/navigation console. The exclusive digital pipeline technology, which is based on a Microsoft Auto operating system, includes an ARM 11 processor, 64 MB of DRAM and 256 MB of flash memory.
Deadline: Jul 15 2013
Reward: $5,000 USD
SciBX: Science-Business eXchange, a joint publication from the makers
Deadline: Jul 30 2013
Reward: $100,000 USD
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