Aug 192014
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Maybe a little, but this private jet has an incredible view. When I first saw a picture of the windowless airplane. It looked almost like it was equipped with enormous windows. It actually uses cameras to provide a high-resolution 360° view of your environment via screens.

Windowless airplane.

A windowless airplane.
Image obtained with thanks from Technicon Design.

That isn’t the only option, though. The screens can display any image if the airline sees fit. I would prefer if they stuck to the environment outside, though. Whether it is a cloudy winter day or a sunny one, the bird’s-eye view from an airplane is still interesting.

Other Possibilities

Video conferencing on planes: There are multiple screens in this windowless airplane. Due to its somewhat business class seating arrangement, one passenger can have a screen to themselves and use it for whatever they want (if the airline permits that).

Watching movies and TV: These screens are much larger than the traditional ones in 737 jets. They could actually be enjoyable.

Why Not Use Bigger Windows Instead Of Mounting Costly Cameras And Screens On The Airplane?

There is a major benefit to larger windows: They will be clearer (if maintained) than cameras. Cameras have limitations and will always distort images to some extent. To get that distortion down to a level comparable to windows, high-end cameras costing thousands of US dollars each would be required. Then again, how much would it cost to make such a large percentage of a plane’s body out of glass or plastic? That could be costly as well.

Glass and plastic usually have a very poor strength-to-weight ratio, so making an airplane out of this material would probably weaken its body or add to its weight. However, Airbus mimicked the bone structure of birds and designed a partially transparent airplane. The reason for this is the light weight and strength of the design. The Airbus design has windows with adjustable opacity to maximize passivity, energy-efficiency, and comfort.

Main Source: Mashable.

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Jul 282014
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Brainstorm Project

The operation and maintenance (O&M) cost of solar-power plants is very low compared to that of fossil-fuelled power plants in general, and this has had a significant impact on the energy market in some regions (such as Texas, United States). The article pertains to that effect and how it could apply to solar-powered planes (especially passenger jets).

Solar-powered planes (which are electric) don’t require fuel (unless they’re hybrids), therefore, the only other recurrent cost incurred by the planes is maintenance (apart from employee wages and salaries). Longer trips increase fuel consumption as well as wear-and-tear on traditional fossil-fuelled jets, so longer trips tend to attract a higher fee.

My Theory

The distance of a given flight in a solar-powered plane could affect the cost of travel far less than it would in a fossil-fuelled one due to the lack of a fuel cost. Only the maintenance cost, as well as the working hours of flight attendants and pilots would be increased.

I should note that airlines might still set airfare based on distance.

Potential Implications

The cost of fuel affects our decisions profoundly in multiple ways. We can’t work too far away from home, or regularly shop at distant malls/plazas. We can’t just casually fly to Australia or Europe for a meeting, as that wouldn’t be feasible for most people.

This means that if the non-existent fuel cost of solar-powered planes influenced airfares as much as it could, the cost gap between long and short-distance trips would shrink substantially. If airfares aren’t too high, people could end up making far more trips around the world to countries that they would otherwise have never seen in their lifetime (for example: More Americans may visit Australia, Korea, New Zealand, and other geographically distant countries), increasing the likelihood of international business ventures, tourism, greater family unit, and even the creation of new families internationally.

This is a purely theoretical article forecasting what the future of aviation may have in store for us. This article is apart of Kompulsa’s Brainstorm Project, which aims to spark discussions on important issues we all face today. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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Jul 112014
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This year, Nissan will use an outstandingly powerful engine to propel their ZEOD RC car at the 24 Hours Of LeMans. It weighs a measly 88 pounds, is equipped with only 3 cylinders, and it produces a whopping 400 HP. Shown below is a man holding the engine up with his bare hands, just to show you how incredibly lightweight and compact it is (minus the turbocharger).

Nissan ZEO 88-pound, 400 HP engine. Image obtained with thanks from NIssan.

Nissan ZEO 88-pound, 400 HP engine.
Image obtained with thanks from Nissan.

Apart from that. The ZEOD RC car is a hybrid-electric one. It will extend the range of the ZEOD RC during the long 24 Hours Of LeMans, and probably make the car outstandingly powerful. Electric motors already have a very high power-to-weight ratio. Imagine combining that with the high power-to-weight ratio of this engine? I don’t know about you, but i’m eager to see how this project performs!

There could be a catch to this design. I know that unusually small and lightweight motor designs often have a partial duty cycle (in other words, they can’t operate 24/7). What do you think it is? Incredible new materials? Maybe it just can’t run for long? Sound off with your opinions in the comment section.

Source: Wired.

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Jun 272014
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Originally published on Cleantechnica By Tina Casey.

Just in time for the 2014 Go Further With Ford auto trend conference in Dearborn, here comes news that Ford’s new super-efficient EcoBoost 1.0-liter engine has just been named International Engine of the Year for the third year in a row, and it also garnered the honor for Best Engine in the under 1.0-liter class. That’s according to a survey of 82 automotive journalists at Engine Expo 2014 in Stuttgart.

We were just talking about a bigger version of the EcoBoost, which is standard on that all new 2015 Ford Edge crossover SUV. The 1.0 version is in the Ford Fiesta available now and it will be available later this year on the 2015 Focus.

The Ford EcoBoost Engine

We happened to be visiting Dearborn (okay, so we were invited by Ford) last December and we caught a hands-on look at the Ford EcoBoost engine, so here are a few more details about the 1.0.

For starters, the three-years-in-a-row achievement is unprecedented. It brings the 1.0 EcoBoost up to 13 awards, including a Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics and a Ward’s 10 Best Engines award in the three-cylinder class, which is a first for any automaker.

Performance-wise, the 1.0 liter EcoBoost has a compact turbocharger that clocks in at a maximum rpm that compares to 2014 Formula 1 engines. We don’t really know what that means in terms of the numbers but we had a chance to experience it on the road when a Ford staffer offered us an “enthusiastic” spin in a Fiesta around the high-speed track at Ford’s Dearborn facility.

For those of you in the know, we’ll admit there’s a 70 mph limit on the high-speed track but hey you can still feel the burn.

Of more interest to the clean tech angle are the efficiency refinements. Some of them relate directly to fuel efficiency, and others help enhance life cycle factors that have more to do with general resource conservation.

As Ford describes it, the 1.0 liter can fit into an airplane overhead luggage compartment, but packed into that space is a system for cooling exhaust temperatures that provides for an optimal fuel-to-air ratio.

Here’s some more green goodies:

An innovative flywheel and front pulley design delivers improved refinement compared with traditional three-cylinder engine designs.

Engine friction is reduced by specially coated pistons, low-tension piston rings, low-friction crank seals and a cam-belt-in-oil design.

A variable-displacement oil pump tailors lubrication to demand and optimizes oil pressure for improved fuel efficiency.

Engines With Benefits

As Ford describes it the 1.0-liter EcoBoost delivers “big-car benefits from a small engine.”

That goes to the heart of a conversation we’ve been having about the future of liquid fuel. While first-generation biofuel has some serious ball-and-chain issues in terms of sustainability, the emergence of next-generation sources means that gasmobiles have the potential for a sustainable supply chain far into the future, even as the electric vehicle market grows.

Efficiency enhancements like the EcoBoost series and the advent of new lightweight materials will also contribute to that trend.

Speaking of contributing, the EcoBoost is the result of an intensive collaborative effort involving more than 200 Ford engineers and designers.

Collaboration also emerged as a running theme throughout the Go Further with Ford conference, and we’ll have more details on that in a later post.

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Jun 172014
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Originally published on Cleantechnica By Nicholas Brown.

GMZ has successfully tested a thermoelectric generator (TEG) that converts the heat from automotive engine exhaust systems to electricity. It even exceeded its target generation capacity of 200 watts. This unit can save fuel by reducing the load on vehicle alternators. Reducing the amount of electricity drawn from the alternator actually reduces the mechanical burden on the engine because the alternator becomes easier to turn. This saves fuel and reduces overall emissions.

The 200-watt module is part of a larger 1,000-watt generator set (for diesel engines) that GMZ is developing for the $1.5 million US Army–sponsored TARDEC (Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center) program which is administered by the DOE.

As the release on BusinessWire said:

The 200W TEG is a modular component of a larger 1,000W TEG that GMZ Energy is developing for the $1.5 million TARDEC program. Combining a module approach with a scalable thermoelectric heat exchanger design, GMZ Energy will integrate multiple 200W blocks into a single 1,000W diesel engine waste heat recovery solution. The TARDEC TEG incorporates GMZ Energy’s TG8-1.0 thermoelectric modules, which are the first commercially available, off-the-shelf modules capable of operating with continuous hot-side temperatures up to 600°C while at power densities greater than one Watt/cm².

This design could help the US Army because the cost of fuel transportation on the battlefield can amount to a startling $40 per gallon. The Army will first test this TEG in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

How It Works

Thermoelectric modules are solid-state semiconductor devices that generate electricity using a temperature difference. Heating one side of a thermoelectric generator while cooling the other creates a temperature difference which results in and drives the flow of heat through the module.

This flow of heat creates a potential difference (voltage). That potential difference causes it to generate electricity. This is called the Seebeck effect (discovered by Thomas Johann Seebeck). The key to operating a thermoelectric module efficiently (relatively speaking) is to maintain the greatest possible temperature difference between the two sides of it.

What Can You Do With 200 Watts?

200 watts can:

  • recharge hybrid-electric vehicle battery packs to extend range;
  • power dashboard fans;
  • power stereo systems;
  • power both tail lamps and headlamps;

This technology has long been criticized (and harshly) due to its poor efficiency, but it has proven itself to be useful due to the fact that engine heat would otherwise go to waste without the unit.

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Jun 092014
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According to Mitsubishi Motors’ website, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is now for sale in Australia. Mitsubishi called it the first plug-in crossover hybrid SUV. The manufacturer’s suggested price for the vehicle is $49,990 to $54,990 AUD. You might wonder why you shouldn’t just purchase a conventional hybrid instead? Aren’t they much cheaper?

Not in the long run. Plug-in hybrids such as this crossover can be recharged using the grid in the comfort of your own home overnight, enabling you to take advantage of the lower cost of electricity, keeping the gasoline engine off for a longer time. Gasoline is far more expensive than electricity, and conventional hybrids rely on gasoline much more often. If you have a solar system at home, that creates even more of an incentive to buy a PHEV!

Apart from that, this spacious 5-seater crossover SUV achieves an impressively low fuel consumption of 1.9 L/100 km (Based on the official ADR 81/02 test cycle).

Other features worth noting include the fact that it can use electric propulsion up to 100 km/h (62 MPH), so you can drive at the speed limit on highways, without burning gasoline.

Other features include:

  • 2.0L DOHC MIVEC engine.
  • 5 seats.
  • HEV & PHEV engine – motor.
  • Front fog lamps.
  • Dusk sensing headlights.
  • Rain sensing wipers.
  • 7 SRS Airbags.

For the Aspire version of this vehicle:

  • Chrome exterior door handles.
  • Leather seats with front seat heaters.
  • Power tailgate.
  • Power sunroof.
  • Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM).
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).
  • EV Remote System.

Source: Mitsubishi Motors Australia.

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Apr 052014
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By Nicholas Brown.

Matt Farah and Zack Klapman of The Smoking Tire went on an electric car test drive to compare the value of the Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR. Zach Klapman drove the Cadillac ELR, and Matt Farah drove the Chevy Volt.

Video Credit: The Smoking Tire on Youtube.

Unsurprisingly, the ELR was found to be more pleasant overall, but the reviewers were disappointed in its value. They agreed that $50,000 would be a much better price for the Cadillac ELR (where value is concerned). There is an enormous price difference of $40,815 between these two electric vehicles. The Chevy Volt MSRP is $34,185, and the Cadillac ELR is $75,000 (as of April 2014 for the base models).

GM-Volt.com asked if this makes me happy I have a Volt, or if I wished for an ELR. If I had a Volt, my answer would be the former.

Source: GM-Volt.com.

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Apr 042014
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By Nicholas Brown.

Panasonic, a major manufacturer of batteries, is hesitant to join Tesla Motors’ ‘Gigafactory’ project, because it would raise investment risks, according to Panasonic’s CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain. Image Credit: Kompulsa.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain.
Image Credit: Kompulsa.

“Our approach is to make investments step by step,” Tsuga said yesterday. “Elon plans to produce more affordable models besides Model S, and I understand his thinking and would like to cooperate as much as we can. But the investment risk is definitely larger.”

I don’t blame them for being cautious, as this is a very large project. It costs $5 billion! (Tesla already raised $2 billion). On the other hand, sometimes big risks result in big rewards.

If this project succeeds as Elon Musk hopes it will, it could reduce lithium-ion battery manufacturing costs, making them more feasible for electric vehicles and home energy storage. It would also enable Tesla to manufacture hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles annually. To top it off, the success of this project could provide peace-of-mind to others who are interested in pursuing similar projects, leading to more large-scale factories that produce low-cost lithium-ion batteries.

Those are big rewards!

Source: Bloomberg.

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Apr 022014
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The title may appear a bit simplistic, or even ridiculous. After all, more speed causes more accidents, doesn’t it? If using cars, it does. If using trains, not so much (train accidents are rare, car accidents are a much more prevalent issue).

Electric trains powered by overhead power lines.  Image obtained from Vagabond Shutterbug on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/waikikiweekly/

Electric trains powered by overhead power lines.
Image obtained from Vagabond Shutterbug on Flickr.

I’m not referring to an increase in the speed of road-based transit, which is inherently limited by braking and tyre technology. I’m referring to public transit (excluding buses). High-speed public transit (especially high-speed rail) has the potential to increase throughput, because it can transport many people in little time. At the moment, public transit systems around the world are outdated and slow.

For example: Modern high-speed trains can carry hundreds of passengers at over 200 MPH. This means that a light rail train carrying 220 passengers could transport them in (theoretically, excluding slowdowns for cornering) 220 miles, in only an hour!

Cars, on the other hand, must not exceed 85 MPH in any case, plus, they have to wait at stop lights. They would likely require more than two hours to transport only 7 people (if an SUV) the same distance. To add insult to injury, cars waste even more gas than they usually do at high speeds. Trains are more energy-efficient than cars.

The moral of the story: Maybe it is time to start looking to high-speed rail as an energy-efficient, punctual solution to the growing problem of congestion, rather than just a way to save a little money on long trips.

Undermentioned Benefits Of Expanded High-Speed Rail To Economies

The last time you travelled to another country, what was the first thing you had to do after collecting your baggage? You had to find transportation, or wait for a friend to pick you up. If a country is equipped with a well-developed, ubiquitous public transit system, that could be a motive for frequent travellers. Travellers would appreciate it if they knew that they could simply hop on a train and quickly arrive at their destination (or near to it), rather than walking around and struggling to find transportation options.

Public transit needs to be, and could be an option that people actually want to use, because it is convenient. Feel free to visit the Brainstorm Project page and leave a comment, or send me an e-mail!

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Mar 202014
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Brainstorm Project – Home

Autonomous cars open a window of opportunity for amputees, people who suffer from visual impairment, Parkinson’s disease, and any other condition that could have an effect on their safety, such as severe cases of ADHD.

Ford Fusion Automated Research Vehicle. Image Credit: Kompulsa / Nicholas Brown.

Ford Fusion Automated Research Vehicle at the NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show).
Image Credit: Kompulsa / Nicholas Brown.

It enables them to get around privately without soliciting lifts. That’s a godsend, but how is this related to energy or science?

Autonomous vehicles offer the ability to avoid the consequences of typical driving habits, such as reduced fuel efficiency, which is caused by frequent, sudden acceleration, sudden braking, and speeding.

Implications Of Autonomous Vehicles For Electric Propulsion

The electrification of automobiles is impeded by the short range of electric vehicles. Therefore, the improved efficiency achieved by autonomous vehicles (especially due to the fact that they don’t speed) can help to conserve range. As a matter of fact, it can substantially improve average range, making electric vehicles a far more viable and attractive option than they ever have been.

Autonomous vehicles can also be equipped with smaller battery banks and achieve the same range that today’s electric cars do, reducing their cost.

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