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The electric wheel – a breakthrough in car efficiency

Rembrandt, The Oil Drum: Europe
…The increasing fuel costs and pressure from lobby groups, civilians and politicians that care about the environment of the earth are changing the fundamental basis of the car. Super efficient new technologies have been developed which will soon arrive at a home near you.

The future of the car is based on direct power in the wheels. By transferring power without any gearing but by using an electromotor that spins itself inside the wheel, huge energy losses are averted, leading to a super efficient car. Link the four electric wheels to an embedded software and hardware system and optimum force control and traction is obtained without heavy mechanical solutions.

Another beauty of the system is braking. By reversing the magnets in the wheel in the opposite direction, the forward motion of the car is converted back into electrical power. The advantage of this system is that it reduces the power necessary to propel the car by half compared by a geared traction motor thanks to the reduction of friction losses/mechanical efficiency.
(28 Jan 2007)

The Soul of a Pedicab Chauffeur

Carl Etnier, Sheldon Brown’s Bicycle Info
Pedicabbing doesn’t make me a better person. By trying to become a better person, however, I am becoming a better pedicab chauffeur. This is the story of a little spiritual journey I’ve taken over the last year, stimulated in part by my pedicabbing.

I am by hobby a pedicab chauffeur in Oslo. Last year I drove a Chinese cycle rickshaw with 7 gears, while dressed in a tuxedo top and black cycling shorts or tights. This year I bought a Quadracycle (from Indiana, USA), a bright red four-wheeled vehicle that looks a lot like a pedal-powered dune buggy or Model-T, depending on whether the roof canopy is on or not. Though I’m originally from the U.S., I put on a pseudo-British accent when I cycle and go by the nom de velocipede “Charles Armstrong.”

When I started pedicabbing, I found it both lucrative and personally rewarding. My friends characterize me as a happy, cheerful person. When I drive a pedicab, that attitude becomes quite infectious. The experience of riding in a pedicab is so exotic and fun that passengers often start laughing the moment we start moving, and sometimes laugh all the way to the destination. Passersby share in the pleasure, smiling with amusement at the sight of a tuxedoed man furiously pedalling a human-powered “car.” Even car and bus drivers grin and yell encouraging remarks. Friends who I have taken on pleasure rides comment on how happy everyone in Oslo seems, when seen from the seat of a pedicab.

At the same time, I found that pedicabbing could be very stressful. Dressed in a funny costume, driving a funny vehicle, I am vulnerable…
EB contributor Carl Etnier writes: “Please note for your readers that the essay was written in 1997, and that I now live in Vermont, USA and ride only one- or two-person bicycles.”

Trams Across America
Get ready, tram haters: Some locals want more-lots more.

Kyle Cassidy, Willamette Week Online
In a seemingly sterile office building on Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard, tram fever has broken free of its South Waterfront petri dish and entered the fertile mind of ex-Boeing engineer Ben Missler.

While Portlanders await their chance this week to ride the tram to and from Oregon Health & Science University, Missler is brewing plans for more trams all across America.

Missler, a self-described 15-year veteran of the alternative energy movement, last year established a company designed to achieve his aims. Mass Tram America Inc. has three employees but is looking to hire grant writers and visionary engineers.

At 66, Missler aims to implement a revolutionary new transportation system across America by-you guessed it-hanging trams to create a highway in the sky. Among Missler’s candidates for a new tram link: using it on the congested I-5 bridge between Washington and Oregon instead of building a costly new bridge.
(24 Jan 2007)

Such Great Heights
Portland’s New Tram Could Be Just What Portland Needs to Grow Up

Amy Jenniges, Portland Mercury
“This is huge for Portland,” says Bobby Scarbrough, standing on the lower aerial tram platform in the South Waterfront District, and gesturing at the shiny silver bubble of a car gliding down the hill toward us.

Scarbrough is the tram “concierge”-he greets passengers at the station, answers tourists’ questions, and has already witnessed first hand the impact it could have on the city. It opens to the public this weekend, but already “people love it,” he says, beaming.

Indeed, as Scarbrough describes what the sunrise looks like from mid-air (“there’s nothing more beautiful”), two women- possibly tourists, already making a pilgrimage to the tram-coo over how the curvy car “looks like a little character.” They take turns posing for pictures in front of it.

The twin cars will have to endure plenty of flashbulbs this weekend: It only took two hours for every free ride slot-5,000 of them-to book up. The tram, Portland’s newest mode of transportation, is certainly popular, and it’ll definitely give visitors another stop on their tour of our city.
(25 Jan 2007)

10 wonders of the vanishing world

Robin McKie, Observer
From the Caribbean coral reef to the snows of Kilimanjaro, many of the world’s best-loved natural icons are threatened by global warming. Observer Science Editor Robin McKie outlines the wonders we can no longer take for granted

…’Isn’t it hypocritical to tell us these places are threatened by global warming and then tell us to fly there, by doing so increasing carbon emissions and making the problem worse?’

It’s a question that will inevitably be raised by this feature. We recognise the paradox, but while those of us fortunate enough to be able to afford the luxury of foreign travel agonise over our carbon footprints, the livelihoods of people in developing countries where tourism is often the backbone of the economy are also hanging in the balance.

In the rush to condemn the aviation industry for its contribution to global warming (in the UK aviation accounts for less than 3 per cent of national carbon emissions compared with 20 per cent for road transport), the very real benefits of tourism often get overlooked.

Tourism has proved itself to be a powerful tool for encouraging local populations to protect their natural resources, whether it be persuading fishermen in Honduras that running diveboats is more lucrative than dynamite fishing on the coral reef, or persuading villagers in Rwanda that a live gorilla is worth far more in the long-term than a few kilos of bushmeat.

Ripping up our passports and vowing never to fly again will not solve the problem of global warming. But if raising the issue makes us question how and why we travel, then that is surely no bad thing.
(28 Jan 2007)
If there is one thing an individuals can do about global warming, it is to forego air travel. The CBC had interviews with two viewpoints on this issue: George Monbiot and Justin Francis. See The Current (about 3/4 down the page, under “Part 3”); ) -BA