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Revival of the electric car: against industry’s gloomy forecast, hybrid & electric cars light up Paris Auto Show

Paris motor show 2008

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Against a backdrop of generally gloomy sales forecasts and belt-tightening, a chorus of optimism rose from automakers at the Paris show as the technical hurdles of hybrids, plug-ins and electric vehicle development -- primarily involving the cost and capacity of advanced-chemistry batteries -- are gradually being overcome. "Two years ago nobody said an electric vehicle was even possible," said Pitt Moos, marketing manager for Smart USA. "Today everybody is saying, 'We're going to make one.' "

Smart speaks publicly for the first time about ED: Electric Drive - a first for the quirky microcar

At the show, Smart -- the maker of those tiny two-seat city cars -- announced plans to build all-electric vehicles for Europe by the end of the decade. But it hasn't said what its intentions are for the U.S. market. "The challenge has always been the battery," Moos said. Compact, energy-dense lithium chemistry batteries for automotive applications are expensive and can be hazardous. "We have just in the past couple of months become comfortable about a method of making lithium batteries for cars," Moos said. "Now some people are starting to quote Obama: Yes, we can."

Peugeot's RC HYmotion4 concept car at 2008 Paris Auto Show  read more »

Queen Elizabeth II buys world largest wind turbine - towers over Big Ben, to light up thousands of British homes

Elizabeth II, The Queen of England

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It's been a century or so since Britain ruled the waves, but Queen Elizabeth II will soon reign over the wind. Earlier this year the Crown Estate, which manages royal property worth $14 billion and controls the seas up to 14 miles off the British coast, agreed to purchase - for an undisclosed sum - the world's largest wind turbine.

the Queen of England is buying the world's largest wind turbine, which towers over Big Ben and will light up thousands of British homes

It's a 7.5-megawatt monster to be built by Clipper Windpower of Carpinteria, Calif. Now the Royal Turbine is getting even bigger: Clipper has revealed to Fortune that Her Majesty's windmill has been super-sized to ten megawatts, producing five times the power generated by typical big turbines currently in commercial operation. The giant's wingspan stretches the length of two soccer fields. At 574 feet, the turbine soars over Big Ben and roughly equals 111 Queen Elizabeths (the actual queen) plus one corgi stacked on top of one another.

Her Majesty The Queen at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants with ACCA President John Brace  read more »

All-electric car, 240+ miles per charge, 0 to 60 mph in under six seconds, to be built in San Jose Tesla factory

Tesla Roadster

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The specs for Tesla Motor's new car are in: an all-electric, four-door, five-seat sedan that gets in excess of 240 miles per charge and accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in under six seconds. It will be built in what the company is calling the "greenest auto manufacturing plant in the world" on the outskirts of San Jose, Calif., the self-proclaimed world headquarters of clean technology. In other words, the car of the future is on its way here. Eventually.

Tesla Motors Product Architect and Engineer Elon Musk with high-performance Tesla Roadster

Winning a $250m (£139m) deal with electric car maker Tesla to base its new factory there, the city beat other contenders to secure a project that will bring more than 1,000 jobs to the area. "This is a big step toward being the center of world cleantech innovation," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. Tesla boss Ze'ev Drori said that "this is proof the time has come for the electric car."

Tesla Roadster Convertible

The company plans to produce an all-electric luxury sedan, called the Model S, at the plant with a retail price of around $60,000 (£33,000.) It already manufactures a two seater zero emission Roadster which sells for $109,000 (£61,000) and is built by Lotus in England.  read more »

Electric tank-car of the future? The Hinterland 1 Concept Car - an electric minivan with Prius-like aerodynamics

Hinterland concept art by The Creative Unit

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It has the profile of a Toyota Prius interpreted by the late Maxime Faget, designer of the Space Shuttle. It's the Hinterland 1, a conceptual all-electric minivan with a drag coefficient of less than 0.25 (the Prius's is 0.26). And if its designers get their way, it'll become a Canadian icon on par with the CN Tower, Geddy Lee and Poutine. Existing purely as sketches, renderings, and specs at this point, the Hinterland 1 electric car looks like one part tank, one part VW bus with a pinch of bullet train added for flavor.

Hinterland 1 Concept Car: electric minivan with Prius-like aerodynamics

Chief designer of the Hinterland 1 is Matin Aube of Creative Unit, a veteran of Québec- based Bombardier Recreational Products, maker of the Sea-Doo watercraft, who says the project "combines sources of artistic, technical and scientific expertise" from recreational vehicles, electric motors and batteries, aeronautics, aluminium, plastics processing and video games. In theory, the sculpted body would comprise an aeronautical-style aluminum monocoque, fashioned by the same hydroforming process GM uses to create body panels for its curvy Pontiac Solstice roadster. A drive system proposed by electric-car startup Higgins-Aubé would involve a 43 kW-max motor (14kW continuous) powered by Li-ion or Zebra (Sodium Nickel Chloride) batteries with a maximum power of 37,000 kilowatts. Designers envision two models built on the same platform, a two-seater "Mini" and the six-person "Van."  read more »

Towers of food, farms in the sky: self-sustaining skyscrapers in the city, vertical farming gains new interest

'You could develop a community surrounding each of these vertical farms,' said Dr. Despommier, who believes that striking designs like this pyramid are key to the concept's success. 'You want people to say, 'I want that in my backyard.'

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What if “eating local” in Shanghai or New York meant getting your fresh produce from five blocks away? And what if skyscrapers grew off the grid, as verdant, self-sustaining towers where city slickers cultivated their own food?

vertical farm design modeled after the Capitol Records building in Los Angeles features a prominent renewable energy source: a rotating solar panel that, like a sunflower, gyrates to face the sun

Dickson Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University, hopes to make these zucchini-in-the-sky visions a reality. Dr. Despommier’s pet project is the “vertical farm,” a concept he created in 1999 with graduate students in his class on medical ecology, the study of how the environment and human health interact.  read more »

Breakthrough: MIT researchers turn windows into solar panels, 10 times more effective solar power may be available in 3 years

Marc Baldo and Shalom Goffri, researchers with MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics, show off organic solar concentrators that Covalent Solar hopes to bring to market

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Researchers at MIT have created a new way to harness the sun's energy - by turning windows in big buildings into solar panels. The new technology, dubbed solar concentrators, harvests light over a wide area such as a window pane and then concentrates or gathers it at the window's edges, said Marc Baldo, a professor at MIT and head of the effort. Three members of the research team, which is publishing its findings in Friday's edition of Science, are in the process of incorporating a startup called Covalent Solar to develop the technology. The team has spent two years identifying organic dyes, painted onto glass or plastic, that can effectively concentrate the sun’s light onto solar cells, enabling them to produce more electricity from fewer cells.

The dyes basically reflect the light (technically, it’s actually absorbed and then sent back out), so that some of it is trapped inside the plane of glass, said Jon Mapel, a member of the research team. With the help of a scientific principal called "internal refraction," which is the same principal that keeps light trapped in optical fibers, the light bounces to the edges of the glass, which have been equipped with strips of solar cells that convert it into electricity.  read more »

Fuel change breakthrough: biodiesel-powered speedboat Earthrace, around world in 60 days, beats record set in 1998 by 14 days

bio-diesel powered Earthrace

*Update Jan 6 2010* - Blue Roses to Earthrace Ady Gil: 100% biofuel, spirit of ocean, stands for life, saves crew, sunk by whaler, rests in sea...

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Team Earthrace, led by New Zealand Skipper Pete Bethune, has smashed the world circumnavigation record for a speedboat by almost 14 days. Almost five years of preparation, planning and two record attempts have paid off leaving the bio-diesel powered Earthrace team to claim the round the world speedboat record.

Possibly the coolest powerboat on the planet, the space age, wave piercing trimaran Earthrace took bio-fuel into history as the 78 foot, (24 metre) boat crossed the 'Round the World' finish line in Sagunto, Spain. In just 60 days Earthrace has powered almost 24,000 nautical miles around the world. Earthrace left Spain on Sunday April 27th at 14:35 local time (1325 GMT) and headed west on the long voyage around the world. The previous record for a powerboat to circumnavigate the globe was 74 days 20 hours 58 minutes 30 seconds, set by the UK boat ‘Cable & Wireless Adventurer’ in 1998.

Team Earthrace is led by New Zealand Skipper Pete Bethune  read more »

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