The Future is Here… and Badass: The Electric Harley

harley_livewireThe Harley Davidson enjoys a rather unique place in American culture, one that is characterized by images of the open road, a sense of freedom, and the sound of a deep, earthy growl. Which is why, when the company released a teaser video earlier this month showcasing Project Livewire, many people were understandably nervous. After all, electronic vehicles seem just fine when it comes to the Toyota Prius, the Nissan Leaf, or anything in the Tesla catalog. But this is Harley Davidson, right?

In this case, the challenge arises from the fact that electric engines are usually silent. In the case of a Harley Hog or a Chopper – or any other classic brand names that scream Hell’s Angels, leather jackets and anarchy – the engine is an iconic part of the brand. They also didn’t want to fake the roar of the engine. Instead, the engineers carefully tweaked the arrangement of the motor and the gear box until it created a sound that’s a little like a jet flying by.

harley_livewire1Jeff Richlen, the chief engineer for the new prototype bike, explained:

When we went into this, we had to consider all of our products are grounded in three things–look, sound, and feel. The sound is the most important, and we didn’t want to lose that. We didn’t want a silent product… The first time we spun up the gears and ran the motorcycle we knew we had something special. It really was defining another sound of Harley Davidson. We’re certainly not forgetting our past and what is our product legacy, it’s just something brand new. And it kind of sounds like the future.

When addressing the reason for the project, Richlen admitted that the company’s main motivation wasn’t trying to improve the sustainability of their bikes, even though motorcycles produce more tailpipe emissions than cars. In the end, he claims that the company is looking to the possibilities of the future, and electronic engines are at the forefront of that. And while cars are well represented, the potential for motorbikes remains largely unexplored. Going green was merely a biproduct of that.

harleyIn the teaser video, things open up on historic route 66. A Harley drives by, only it doesn’t sound like a Harley. It’s quieter, more like the jet engine of a very small plane. Over the summer, Harley-Davidson will take the new LiveWire bike on a 30-city tour of the U.S. to get customer feedback. Richlen has extended an invite to anyone who doubts the power of the bike to come on out try the bike for themselves. The real test, he says, is in the twist of the throttle:

There are some limitations of the EV space right now, and we understand that, and that’s why we’re looking for feedback–what do customers expect out of the product, what would their tradeoff points be? There may be people who get on this thinking ‘golf cart’ and get off it thinking rocket ship.

So if you happen to live in a city where the Harley tour is stopping, and have a love of bikes that borders on the erotic, go check it out. And be sure to check out the teaser video below:


Source:
fastcoexist.com, cnet.com

Build Your Own Electric Car

https://i0.wp.com/f.fastcompany.net/multisite_files/fastcompany/imagecache/1280/poster/2014/06/3031851-poster-model-s-photo-gallery-01.jpgIt’s official: all of Tesla’s electric car technology is now available for anyone to use. Yes, after hinting that he might be willing to do so last weekend, Musk announced this week that his companies patents are now open source. In a blog post on the Tesla website, Musk explained his reasoning. Initially, Musk wrote, Tesla created patents because of a concern that large car companies would copy the company’s electric vehicle technology and squash the smaller start-up.

This was certainly reasonable, as auto giants like General Motors, Toyota, and Volkswagon have far more capital and a much larger share of the market than his start-up did. But in time, Musk demonstrated that there was a viable market for affortable, clean-running vehicles. This arsenal of patents appeared to many to be the only barrier between the larger companies crushing his start-up before it became a viable competitor.

electric_carBut that turned out to be an unnecessary worry, as carmakers have by and large decided to downplay the viability and relevance of EV technology while continuing to focus on gasoline-powered vehicles. At this point, he thinks that opening things up to other developers will speed up electric car development. And after all, there’s something to be said about competition driving innovation.

As Musk stated on his blog:

Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day…

We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.

https://i1.wp.com/media.treehugger.com/assets/images/2011/10/tesla-roadster-ev-rendering01.jpgAnd the move should come as no surprise. As the Hyperloop demonstrated, Musk is not above making grandiose gestures and allowing others to run with ideas he knows will be profitable. And as Musk himself pointed in a webcast made after the announcement, his sister-company SpaceX – which deals with the development of reusable space transports – has virtually no patents.

In addition, Musk stated that he thinks patents are a “weak thing” for companies. He also suggested that opening up patents for Tesla’s supercharging technology (which essentially allows for super-fast EV charging) could help create a common industry platform. But regardless of Musk’s own take on things, one thing remains clear: Tesla Motors needs competitors, and it needs them now.

https://i1.wp.com/www.greenoptimistic.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Siemens-electric-car-charging-stations.jpgAs it stands, auto emissions account for a large and growing share of greenhouse gas emissions. For decades now, the technology has been in development and the principles have all been known. However, whether it has been due to denial, intransigence, complacency, or all of the above, no major moves have been made to effect a transition in the auto industry towards non-fossil fuel-using cars.

Many would cite the lack of infrastructure that is in place to support the wide scale use of electronic cars. But major cities and even entire nations are making changes in that direction with the adoption of electric vehicle networks. These include regular stations along the Trans Canada Highway, the Chargepoint grid in Melbourne to Brisbane, Germany’s many major city networks, and the US’s city and statewide EV charging stations.

Also, as the technology is adopted and developed further, the incentive to expand electric vehicle networks farther will be a no brainer. And given the fact that we no longer live in a peak oil economy, any moves towards fossil fuel-free transportation should be seen as an absolutely necessary one.

Sourees: fastcoexist.com, fool.com

The Future of Transit: Parking Chargers and Charging Ramps

electric-highway-mainWhen it comes to the future of transportation and urban planning, some rather interesting proposals have been tabled in the past few years. In all cases, the challenge for researchers and scientists is to find ways to address future population and urban growth – ensuring that people can get about quickly and efficiently – while also finding cleaner and more efficient ways to power it all.

As it stands, the developed and developing world’s system of highways, mass transit, and emission-producing vehicles is unsustainable. And the global population projected to reach 9 billion by 2050, with just over 6 billion living in major cities, more of the same is just not feasible. As a result, any ideas for future transit and urban living need to find that crucial balance between meeting our basic needs and doing so in a way that will diminish our carbon footprint.

hevo_powerOne such idea comes to us from New York City, where a small company known as HEVO Power has gotten the greenlight to study the possibility of charging parked electric vehicles through the street. Based on the vision of Jeremy McCool, a veteran who pledged to reduce the US’s reliance on foreign fuel while fighting in Iraq, the long-term aim of his plan calls for roadways that charge electric cars as they drive.

Development began after McCool received a $25,000 grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs and put it towards the creation of an EV charging prototype that could be embedded in city streets. Designed to looked like a manhole cover, this charging device runs a type of electromagnetic wireless charging technology proposed by researchers Marian Kazimierczuk of Wright State University and professor Dariusz Czarkowski of NYU’s Polytechnic Institute.

hevo_manholeThe charge consists of two coils – one connected to the grid in the manhole cover, and the other on the electric vehicle. When the car runs over the manhole, the coils conduct a “handshake,” and the manhole delivers a charge on that frequency to the car. Though HEVO has yet to test the device in the real world, they are teamed up with NYU-Poly to develop the technology, and have already proven that it is safe for living things with the help of NYU’s medical labs.

So far, McCool says his company has commitments from seven different companies to develop a series of delivery fleets that run on this technology. These include PepsiCo, Walgreens, and City Harvest, who have signed on to develop a pilot program in New York. By creating regular pick-up and drop-off points (“green loading zones”) in front of stores, these fleets would be able to travel greater distances without having to go out of their way to reach a charging station.

electric_carIn order to test the chargers in New York City in early 2014, HEVO has applied for a $250,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. The organization has already granted a feasibility study for the green loading zones. According to McCool, Glasgow’s Economic Development Corps is also exploring the idea of the technology in Scotland.

But looking ahead, McCool and his company have more ambitious plans than just a series of green loading zones. Already, HEVO is developing a proof of concept to place these kinds of chargers along major highways:

The concept is simple. There is a way to provide wireless charging in an HOV lane. That’s a small strip at every yard or so that has another wireless charging plate, so as you go down the street you’re collecting a charge. One wireless charging highway.

However, this is just a first step, and a major infrastructure project will still be needed to demonstrate that the technology truly does have what it takes to offset fossil fuel burning cars and hybrids. However, the technology has proven promising and with further development and investment, a larger-scale of adoption and testing is likely to take place.

roadelectricityAnother interesting idea comes to us from Mexico, where a developer has come up with a rather ingenious idea that could turn mass transit into a source of electricity. The developer’s name is Héctor Ricardo Macías Hernández, and his proposal for a piezoelectric highway could be just the thing to compliment and augment an electric highway that keeps cars charged as they drive.

For years, researchers and developers have been looking for ways to turn kinetic energy – such as foot traffic or car traffic – into electricity. However, these efforts have been marred by the costs associated with the technology, which are simply too high for many developing nations to implement. That is what makes Hernández concept so ingenious, in that it is both affordable and effective.

roadelectricity-0In Macías Hernández’ system, small ramps made from a tough, tire-like polymer are embedded in the road, protruding 5 cm (2 inches) above the surface. When cars drive over them, the ramps are temporarily pushed down. When this happens, air is forced through a bellows that’s attached to the underside of the ramp, travels through a hose, and then is compressed in a storage tank. The stored compressed air is ultimately fed into a turbine, generating electricity.

In this respect, Hernández’s concept does not rely on piezoelectric materials that are expensive to manufacture and hence, not cost effective when dealing with long stretches of road. By relying on simple materials and good old fashioned ingenuity, his design could provide cheap electricity for the developing world by simply turning automobile traffic – something very plentiful in places like Mexico City – into cheap power.

piezoelectric_nanogeneratorMacías Hernández points out, however, that in lower-traffic areas, multiple ramps placed along the length of the road could be used to generate more electricity from each individual vehicle. He adds that the technology could also be used with pedestrian foot-traffic. The system is currently still in development, with the support of the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property, and will likely take several years before becoming a reality.

Exciting times these are, when the possibility of running an advanced, industrial economy cleanly may actually be feasible, and affordable. But such is the promise of the 21st century, a time when the dreams of the past several decades may finally be coming to fruition. And just in time to avert some of our more dystopian, apocalyptic scenarios!

Well, one can always hope, can’t one?

Sources: fastcoexist.com, gizmag.com

The Future is Here: The Copenhagen Wheel

copenhagen_wheelFans of the cable show Weeds ought to instantly recognize this invention. It was featured as a product invented by one of the characters while living (predictably) in Copenhagen. In addition, it was the subject of news stories, articles, design awards, and a whole lot of public interest. People wanted to get their hands on it, and for obvious reasons.

It’s known as the Copenhagen Wheel, a device invented by MIT SENSEable City Lab back in 2009 to electrify the bicycle. Since that time, engineers at MIT have been working to refine it in preparation for the day when it would be commercially available. And that time has come, as a new company called Superpedestrian announced that it has invested $2.1 million in venture capital to make the device available to the public.

copenhagen_wheel1Superpedestrian founder Assaf Biderman, who is also the SENSEable City lab associate director and one of the creators of the wheel, along with lab director Carlo Ratti, had this to say:

The project touched an exposed nerve somehow. Aside from news coverage and design awards, people were wanting it. Over 14,000 people emailed saying ‘I want to buy it, sell it, make it for you.

Three years after inventing it, Biderman finally decided that it was time to spin off a company to make it happen. MIT filed all the relevant patents, and Superpedestrian acquired exclusive licenses to the Copenhagen Wheel technology. And by late November, they plan to launch the wheel to the public for the very first time.

copenhagen_wheel2And though the much of the facts are being carefully guarded in preparation for the release, some details are already known. For example, the wheel can be fitted to almost any bike, is controlled by sensors in the peddles, and has a power assist feature that doesn’t require any work on the part of the rider. And according to Biderman, its range “will cover the average suburban commute, about 15 miles to and from work and back home.”

On top of that, a regenerative braking system stores energy for later use in a lithium battery. The wheel also comes with an app that allows users to control special features from their smartphone. These include being able to lock and unlock the bike, select motor assistance, and get real-time data about road conditions. An open-source platform called The Superpedestrian SDK also exists to allow developers to make on their own apps.

smartwheelrotatingInterestingly enough,the Copenhagen Wheel also has a rival, who’s appearance on the market seems nothing short of conspiratorial. Its competitor, the FlyKly Smart Wheel, a device which has raised over $150,000 on Kickstarter so far. It is extremely similar to the Copenhagen Wheel in most respects, from its electrical assistance to the fact that it can be integrated via smartphone.

According to Biderman, the appearance of the Smart Wheel is just a coincidence, though it is similar to their product. And her company really doesn’t have to worry about competition, since the Copenhagen Wheel has years of brand recognition and MIT name behind it. In terms of the the target audience, Biderman says that they are looking at targeting city dwellers as well as cyclists:

If you’re an urbanite, you can use it to move all around, and go as far as the edges of most cities with this quite easily. You overcome topographical challenges like hills. The point is to attract more people to cycling.

Though no indication has been given how much an individual unit will cost, it is expected to have a price point that’s competitive with today’s e-bikes.

copenhagen_wheel3The FlyKly Smart Wheel, by comparison, can be pre-ordered for $550 apiece. In total, that campaign has raised $301,867 (their original goal was $100,000) since opening on Oct. 16th. As a result, they have been able to reach their first “stretch goal” of producing a 20″ wheel. If they can reach $500,000 before the campaign closes on Nov. 25th, they will be able to deliver on their other goals: a motor brake and a glow in the dark casing.

For some time, designers and engineers have been trying to find ways to make alternative transportation both effective and attractive. Between these designs and a slew of others that will undoubtedly follow, it looks like e-bicycling may be set to fill that void. Combined with electric cars, self-driving cars, hydrogen cars, robotaxis, podcars, and high speed trains, we could be looking at the revolution in transit that we’ve been waiting for.

Sources: fastcoexist.com(2), kickstarter.com

The Future is Here: The Electric Highway!

electric_carCharging electronic vehicles while they on the move is not a new idea. In fact, in Vancouver, BC, the entire public transit system runs on a series of electronic lines that power the buses. And in French cities, the entire tram system runs on a wireless system, one which is six million kilometers in length. In the former case, the buses are kept in contact with power lines overhead, while the latter uses metal bars running underneath.

Applying the same concept, Volvo has designed a new highway system in Sweden that will keep electric cars running on long-distance trips. Led by Mats Alaküla, researchers are looking at these types of “conductive charging,” both where vehicles would stay in continuous contact with the power supply. Both methods are being tested on the new system, which consists of a 400-meter track near Gothenburg.

volvo_highwayBehind the research is the assumption that an electric car’s batteries will not provide the required range for long-distance driving, especially where long-haul trucks are concerned. City driving is one thing, but in order for electric vehicles to expand beyond urban centers, bigger and better methods need to be devised.

Alaküla says the important part of the second system is “the pick-up” – i.e. the connector between the vehicle and the ground. Unlike trams that stay in a fixed position, this line needs to be able to compensate for cars and trucks changing lanes. He describes the set-up as an “industrial robot sitting upside down”, though it more akin to a robotic arm.

volvo_highway1The arm moves a meter each way to compensate for movement within the lane, and retracts when the driver changes lanes, redeploying once they’ve back on the track. As Alaküla describes it:

If you imagine two lanes, the power system would be in the right lane. The pick-up keeps in contact with the supply, until you keep moving sideways. Then, the truck will go to the battery. When you go back, it automatically identifies the track, and reconnects.

And for those who worry that electric tracks are going to make highways unsafe for pedestrians, Alaküla insisted that the system only electrifies sections of the track when vehicles pass at a certain speed. To electrocute yourself, a pedestrian would need to step out in front of a fast-moving vehicle, which would kind of render the whole thing moot!

electric-highwaySo far, trucks have been able to get up to speeds of 80 km/h (50 mph) on the Volvo stretch, and Alaküla expects the work to continue for another year before his team takes the concept to a full road. Eventually, he thinks the concept could be used for anything bigger than a motor-bike – from cars and buses to different types of trucks.

And they not alone in their research efforts. Volvo’s rival Scania are themselves testing technology based on inductive charging where the charge is transferred via an electromagnetic field and does not require physical contact. Between these three methods and other emerging technologies that seek to make highway driving “smart”, the future of long-distant driving is likely to become a much cleaner, more efficient affair.

Source: fastcoexist.com

The Future is Here: Smart Roads for Smart Cars

smart-highwaysWhen it comes to the future of transportation, it is clear that clean energy, automated systems and robot cars will all figure pretty prominently in the mix. But how will this effect our system of roadways and travel infrastructure? This is a question that is often raised whenever futuristic concepts for cars and transportation are showcased. Clearly, they deserve to be modernized as well, with something cleaner and smarter taking their place.

So argues Dutch design firm Studio Roosegaarde, whose ‘smart highway’ concept is set to be unveiled in the Netherlands in 2013. The design involves motion sensors that detect oncoming vehicles and light the way for them, then shut down to reduce energy consumption. Lane markings will use glow-in-the-dark paint to minimize the need for lighting, and another temperature-sensitive paint will be used to show ice warnings when the surface is unusually cold.

smarthighway1The highway also established for priority lanes that will accommodate electrical cars. Studio Roosegard hopes that these will one day l feature induction loops buried beneath the tarmac, which will allow electric car owners to literally charge their cars as they drive. While this concept is not-yet cost effective, the motion sensors and luminescent lane markers will be field tested next year along a 200 meter section of road.

The addition of these features along major highways is expected to reduce incidents of accidents, as well as save energy costs by reducing the reliance on streetlights. In addition, the road markings are expected to have longer-term applications, such as being integrated into a robot vehicle’s intelligent monitoring systems. As automated systems and internal computers become more common, smart highways and smart cars are likely to become integrated through their shared systems.

smarthighwaySustainable architecture advocate Rachel Armstrong sees all this as becoming part of a future where highways are truly multifunctional:

Not only will they light the way, but they will update geo-databases, informing us of traffic accidents, for example.

What’s more, drivers may even have the option of extricating themselves from the driving process and allowing a “self-drive” or autopilot feature to take over, where the vehicle will link up to the highways own navigation charts and find the optimal route to a destination. And, hold on to your hats, this could also become part of a national “drive safe” campaign, where driver’s are required to turn on the autodrive feature if they are past the legal blood-alcohol limit.

robotaxi_sanjoseIn short, smart highways are a proposal that only embraces clean energy and seeks to increase road safety, but seeks to integrate our roadways with emerging transportation technology. It will be very interesting to see what comes of this, especially when you consider the appeal of light rail and self-driving pod cars. For all we know, the future could consist of entirely automated transportation where no one drives anymore and traffic accidents are a thing of the past.

Nice, but think of the damage to the entertainment industry. With driving a thing of the past, what’s to become of car chases? Won’t someone please think of the car chases! Ah well, check out this video of the concept below:


Source:
forumforthefuture.org