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GreenTech Week in Review
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June 22, 2013

GreenTech Week in Review

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

In green technology developments this week, no matter where your destination might be, soon you won’t be riding on your mother’s form of public transportation.

From hybrid cars to driverless cars, what could possibly be next in the world of transportation? In 2015, Volvo group of Gothenburg, Sweden, plans to launch an ultramodern, noiseless and zero-emissions electric bus service called ElectriCity, powered completely by renewable sources.  Olof Persson, president and CEO of Volvo, said, “This represents an entirely new mode of travel and will allow for the public-transport system to contribute to a more pleasant urban environment…It is immensely satisfying to be able to launch this in our hometown, in cooperation with Region Västra Götaland and the City of Gothenburg.”

Flyers soon may be able to travel in long distances in solar-powered planes, following the record-setting flight of the, Solar Impulse.  Reuters (News - Alert) reports that the aircraft, which runs on 12,000 solar cells installed on its wings, landed in Washington, DC, on June 16—the second-to-last stop in its cross-country U.S. journey. In the beginning of July, the airplane will head for New York after a trip that began in May in San Francisco and included stops in Phoenix, Dallas and St. Louis. Upon reaching The Empire State, Solar Impulse will represent the first solar-powered aircraft able to fly day and night nationwide.

"It proves the reliability and potential of clean technologies," Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard, co-founder of the Solar Impulse project with Andre Borschberg, said in the statement. The Solar Impulse made its first intercontinental flight last June when it traveled from Spain to Morocco, and there are plans to build a more advanced plane based on Impulse that will fly around the world in the year 2015.

The Nice Côte d’Azur region of France will soon be known not just for its beauty—but also for its “brains.”  IBM (News - Alert) and Nice have announced a $5.4 million agreement to build a new information infrastructure that will transform the scenic and sophisticated tourist destination into a Smart City with Smart Mobility. By analyzing massive amounts of transportation-related data and using it to predict and enhanced traffic flow, Nice will improve driving conditions and mobility for local drivers. The data also can be used to develop new transportation-related services and solutions. 

 In 20 or 30 years, when our kids and grandkids go “gas up” their vehicles, they may actually do just that— depending on how well new hydrogen fuel technology catches on. Industrial gas manufacturer The Linde Group is stepping lightly into this new pool of green tech, contracting with Hydrogenics (News - Alert) for three HySTAT-60 hydrogen electrolyzers to be installed at a filling station in Bolzano, Italy. It’s a smart early move for Linde, as the service station will be situated near a busy roadway, where it can supply hydrogen fuel for cars and buses being deployed as part of the Clean Hydrogen In European Cities (CHIC) project.

Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, but doesn’t exist in great quantities in our air. Thus electrolyzers work by pulling hydrogen from water and, since 70 percent of the earth is water, it’s a sustainable fuel source for the foreseeable future. There have been trials to run public transportation buses on hydrogen fuel dating back to 1998, but now that auto companies are moving seriously toward clean fuel technology the EU has stepped up efforts to integrate hydrogen burning transport into bus fleets.

Although our cars cannot exactly “belly up to the bar,” they soon may be swilling down the distilled product of Scotland’s whisky industry as a new type of biofuel, according to a story posted online by National Geographic.  Indeed, a Scottish energy start-up is attempting to prove that cars and booze aren't necessarily a dangerous mix—as long as the hooch is poured into a fuel tank and not down a driver's throat. Edinburgh-based Celtic Renewables is resurrecting a once popular, but almost forgotten, fermentation process that it believes can turn the dregs of the nation’s £4 billion ($6 billion) whisky-making industry into millions of gallons of clean, renewable biofuel.

Finally, every June 21, there's an annual event in the United Kingdom, known as National Ride to Work Day. It doesn't involve hitching a ride with someone else, but rather it means taking advantage of smaller mobile technology—including motorbikes, scooters and mopeds.

This year, National Ride to Work Day is focusing on what are known as “Wheels to Work” schemes, which involve loaning out devices—especially in rural areas that are too big to walk around with any kind of expediency, but also poorly served by bus or light rail lines. In turn, those benefiting from the loans are encouraged to save up paychecks so that they can buy their own wheels instead. Six months ago, when the initiative was launched, there were 24 Wheels to Work schemes. Now there are 29, and reports indicate another seven will come online fairly soon, with 5,000 bikers currently benefiting from the concept.

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