Bounce Your Way to Work
We’ll start from the ground up, with the perhaps most fun form of transportation: a trampoline road. Estonian architecture studio, Salto, has built an inventive solution to the boredom of the morning commute—a 51 meter (170 foot-long) trampoline, that can be used to bounce to your destination.
The trampoline, dubbed Fast Track, has been built and installed at arts festival Archstoyanie, and has been a hit since it was opened at the end of November in the Nikola-Lenivets forest, in southwest Russia. The creation is made of black rubber, and is more sensitive to its forest environment than a road.
Electric vehicles have many environmentally-friendly benefits compared to their conventional car counterparts. They are energy efficient—they convert about 59–62% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels. Conventional gasoline vehicles only convert about 17–21% of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels. EVs also emit no tailpipe pollutants, although the power plant producing the electricity may emit them. Electricity from nuclear-, hydro-, solar-, or wind-powered plants causes no air pollutants. EVs provide quiet, smooth operation and stronger acceleration and require less maintenance than gasoline vehicles. Many parking garages and shopping centers in metropolitan areas offer free “fueling” stations for EVs, sometimes powered by solar. Some examples of EV’s are: the Tesla ModelS, Ford Focus Electric, Nissan Leaf, Honda Fit EV, Chevy Volt, and Mini E, among others.
The first nonstop solar powered flight around the world is being planned for 2015. The plane is called Solar Impulse, and was designed by Bertrand Piccard, who was the first person to travel around the world nonstop in a balloon in 1999.
The Solar Impulse has the capability to fly overnight, thanks to its energy-efficient battery system and its light spartan build. The plane weighs less than an SUV, and powered by 12,000 solar cells covering its very long wings. Because of its build and battery technology, it’s able to fly nonstop through the dark night skies, potentially staying airborne indefinitely, storing power during the day and using some of it at night. The Solar Impulse has about $100 million of investment over the course of about 10 years. Drawbacks—storms are particularly dangerous for it, being so light; and because of its highly efficient use of energy, and the cockpit has no climate control due to its high efficient use of energy.
Sailing the Seas
For 585 days, Swiss adventurer Raphael Domjan circumnavigated the globe on a boat propelled by nothing but sun beams.
The boat, called Turanor, is named after a word meaning “power of the sun” in JRR Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. It is as heavy as a whale and 30 meters long, and has enough photovoltaic panels to cover two tennis courts.
After eight years of fundraising, 64,000 hours of construction, and 19 months at sea, the Turanor made history on May 6 this year, when it cruised into Port Hercules, Monaco, completing the first ever round-the-world journey by a solar-powered vessel.
From the coast of Miami to the shores of Mumbai, Domjan and his four-man crew visited 28 countries on a voyage designed to showcase the practical applications of solar energy.
A two-mile-long Belgian rail tunnel, built to shelter trains from falling trees, also doubles as a solar project. The high-speed line running from Paris to Amsterdam passes Antwerp and a nearby ancient forest. To avoid the need to fell protected trees, a long tunnel was built over the line which has now been topped with 16,000 solar panels. The electricity produced is equivalent to that needed to power all the trains in Belgium for one day per year, and will also help power Antwerp station.
Additionally, the new Blackfriars station in London, which spans over the River Thames, hosts the largest single collection of solar panels in the UK. The roof of the new station has 4,400 panels and a capacity of 1MW, enough to provide 50% of the station’s electricity.