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Transport - July 9

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Why fly when you can float?
(airships)
John Tagliabue, New York Times
... As the cost of fuel soars and the pressure mounts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, several schemes for a new generation of airship are being considered by governments and private companies. “It’s a romantic project,” said Mr. Massaud, 45, sitting amid furniture designs in his Paris studio, “but then look at Jules Verne.”

It has been more than 70 years since the giant Hindenburg zeppelin exploded in a spectacular fireball over Lakehurst, N.J., killing 36 crew members and passengers, abruptly ending an earlier age of airships. But because of new materials and sophisticated means of propulsion, a diverse cast of entrepreneurs is taking another look at the behemoths of the air.
(5 July 2008)



Boeing, SkyHook team up to launch heavy-lift blimp

Frank Pingue, Reuters
After years of hovering high above sports stadiums to provide aerial shots to TV audiences, blimps may soon take on a new role in carrying heavy cargo to remote regions like northern Canada's oil sands.

Chicago-based Boeing Co said on Tuesday it has teamed with a privately owned Canadian company to build a blimp it says will be able to carry a 40 ton load 200 miles (320 km) without refueling.
(8 July 2008)



In San Francisco, mapping out a trail on the water

Paul McHugh, New York Times
No one can leave a handprint on the water - as a hoary old saw declares. So, the idea of establishing a path on water may seem odd. But it has not stopped the states of Washington and Maine, among other entities, from building extensive water trail systems that include shoreline launch sites, camping spots and parks for recreational use.

A water trail is a frame for travel, more than an actual pathway. When a system is created, paddlers, rowers or sailors can connect its dots in any manner or order they like. Or, in whatever way wind and tide demand.

The nation’s inventory of recreational water trails is about to expand. In 2005, the California State Legislature sanctioned a plan for San Francisco Bay that was proposed by boating enthusiasts
(8 July 2008)



Rising fuel prices hit transit riders

Alexander Lew, Wired
As more Americans ditch their cars in favor of mass transit, many find they're still affected by the pump, because the transit systems carrying them are feeling the pain of rising fuel costs.

People who thought they could avoid the gas squeeze are encountering fare hikes. Transit agencies face budget deficits and the choice of cutting service or increasing fares to balance their finances.

For example, the cost of diesel for Portland's TriMet has risen $1.69, up to $4 a gallon, in the last year. The system has announced a 25-cent fare hike for September to cover inflation and rising fuel prices. King County Metro Transit of Seattle saw a similar increase, with diesel climbing $1.26, up to $3.86 a gallon. The system predicts a $14 million deficit in 2008 and has proposed raising fares for a second time this year.

The United States is not alone in facing this.
(8 July 2008)



General Motors plans US overhaul amid bankruptcy talk

Christine Buckley, The Independent

General Motors, the world's biggest carmaker, is considering thousands of job cuts in a radical restructuring of its North American business as it struggles with a dire domestic market.

It is facing increased fears over its financial stability, with Merrill Lynch warning that bankruptcy was “not impossible” if the company did not secure a cash injection of $15 billion (£7.6 billion) and if the home market weakened further.

GM responded by saying that it had enough capital for this year but that it would have to reconsider its position if sales worsened.

(8 July 2008)


Designing cars for low-carbon chic

Simon Marks, New York Times
As governments seek to cut carbon emissions through regulation and consumers react to rising fuel prices, automakers and designers are mapping out a new generation of lighter, sleeker vehicles that could give a radical new look to urban streets.

...Guy Negre, a motor engineer and founder of MDI Enterprises, a company that studies new technologies and production concepts to reduce the environmental impact of carbon dioxide, invented a compressed-air engine in 1996. The engine emits one-third the carbon dioxide of conventional motors of the same size. Cold air, compressed in tanks to 300 times atmospheric pressure, is heated and fed into the cylinders of a piston engine. No combustion takes place, meaning there is no pollution, although the energy needed to compress the air may still come from polluting oil- or coal-burning power stations.

Mr. Negre’s engine will be offered as an option in Tata Motor’s new production model, the Nano, next year. The Nano, a minicar with an ultralow price tag, was introduced in January and is primarily aimed at the Indian market. Mr. Negre said a full tank of compressed air would cost about $3 and provide about 200 kilometers, or 125 miles, of driving. The tank could be filled by gas station compressors used for inflating tires, or a built-in compressor powered by plugging in to an electrical outlet, he said.

...Mr. Moran, the Créapôle student, has designed a car that addresses two main issues: the escalation of oil prices and the need to minimize environmental impacts. His car runs on an electric motor using a lithium-ion battery, substantially lighter than traditional lead-acid batteries. It has a chassis made of bamboo, reinforced with spiders’ silk and plant resin.
(8 July 2008)

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