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Friday, August 15, 2014

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The Future of Green Vehicles


electric car charging Some look back at car history with rose-colored glasses, but looking forward offers a greener perspective. Without doubt, the future of cars comes framed with a more environmental conscience. Here’s a glimpse into what the future of fuel-efficient, energy-saving cars has in store.

One out of Two Cars Will Be a Hybrid by 2040
According to Exxon Mobile, by 2040 one out of every two cars will likely fall under the hybrid or alternative fuel category. That’s a startling contrast compared to today’s estimated one percent hybrid ownership.

Since the automobile world agreed to upping gas mileage requirements in 2011, predictions lean toward increased hybrid sales. That’s not to say oil won’t stay the top supplier, but certainly many buyers will consider the savings as those mileage standards increase. President Obama’s administration set off to double average fuel efficiency by 2025, translating to around 54 miles per gallon (MPG). As natural gas, wind, nuclear power, and battery technologies improve and become more popular, you can certainly expect more green cars on the streets.

Expect Good Looks and Good Gas Mileage

honda hybrid

Hybrid and green vehicles often earn a bad reputation for neglecting style. However, many of the top brands in cars, from the commercial, affordable brands to luxury and sports names, already create models that bridge the gap between pedestrian and sophisticated. Not surprisingly, many families benefit from these widened hybrid choices, since initial models neglected storage and family transporting capabilities. Now, among the top twelve KBB family cars listed, many offer a hybrid version, such as the roomy and classic 2014 Honda Accord, priced just below $30,000.

Still, people with all lifestyles and car preferences look at a future of green options. Concept electrical cars for possible future release include BMW’s Concept ActiveE, which runs on battery-power and essentially mimics the BMW 1 Series Coupe in styling, and Audi’s sleek, fast, battery-powered coupe, the e-tron for luxury lovers. On the other hand, more practical models include the Hyundai’s plug-in Blue-Will Concept vehicle, which largely inspired the Sonata hybrid and offers aerodynamics, original stylistic choices, and solar panels. Another, the Volkswagen New Compact Coupe Concept model offers European appeal and sporty performance for a hybrid engine. As hybrids gain favor on the market, prices will decline, but even now models offer a reasonable MSRP with savings in the long-run.

The Rise of Supercapacitors

supercapacitor Toyota graphic
While new, spiffy, green brand Tesla operates with the lithium-ion battery and major brands opt for the NiMH battery, they don’t completely solve the environmental impact issue. Yet, lithium-ion definitely offers a major improvement over NiMH, with zero heavy metals or metal toxins and huge potential in capacity and costs.

But supercapacitors, or hypercapacitors, truly have developers’ attention. These electricity storers do not have memory like batteries, meaning unlimited charging without any degradation. Plus, they charge and discharge far quicker than batteries, offering benefits for drivers at charging stations. The current issue lies in power. But certainly universities like MIT and the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ team believe their Electrical Energy Storage Units (EESU) approach the solution. Once power storage reaches that of chemical batteries, and the cost comes down to a realistic consumer range, these supercapacitors will likely takeover the green car movement.

Introducing Energy Storing Panels
One special advancement occurring in the green world is energy storing vehicle body panels. These panels store energy and charge faster than the aforementioned alternative car batteries. In addition, they take much of the heavy battery weight out of the equation, possibly reducing a car’s weight by fifteen percent. Volvo, the leader of this body panel research, is looking into polymer fiber and carbon resin panels that regenerate energy through braking or overnight plugging-in. Meanwhile, Toyota also started panel research, but geared toward capturing solar energy and storing it in a lightweight panel.

With powerful and attractive electric and hybrid models available already, the future of green vehicles is fast-approaching, with only more innovative and exciting ideas to come. Expect your family, friends, and co-workers to ditch the gas-guzzlers for an eco-friendly ride.

Electric car charging symbol via shutterstock.com

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

rustic modern: reclaimed wood chandeliers


reclaimed wood and edison bulb chandelier

Is your lair in need of a style statement? Need to shed a little light on the subject? Rustic modern? Vintage retro? Country chic? Perhaps a handcrafted chandelier is what you need. A little family business called, Born Again Wood Works – the brainchild of designers, craftspeople and married couple, Dustin and Amber Schumacher – has created a line of handcrafted chandeliers and lighting fixtures designed to transcend styles from retro to modern and back again. 

mason jar and reclaimed wood chandelier

The couple creates handmade chandeliers that are a compelling combination woodworking craftsmanship, reclaimed wood and an array of vintage and industrial lighting components. Many of Born Again’s designs feature wooden canopies, Edison bulbs and (more…)

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gidgi solar charging smartphone case – a green Kickstarter project


gidgi smartphone solar charger

Why not tap into solar energy to keep your ravenous iPhone charged at all times? Smartphones are constantly in use, guzzling energy and demanding more juice. Many companies have tried and few (if any) have succeeded, in creating a one-size-fits-all solar charging case for the ubiquitous smartphone.

gidgi solar charging phone case

A little Minneapolis start-up, Solar Surge, has designed a solution, a versatile smartphone solar charging case – the Gidgi – that can accommodate a wide variety smartphones – keeping your phone charged via free solar energy – indoors or out. The idea of a group of young college grads who are seeking crowdfunding via their recently launched Kickstarter project.

iphone gidgi solar charger

The Gidgi features a case made out of durable, good looking components that are intended to have a long lifespan. The life cycle of the Gidgi is further extended by its ability to charge (more…)

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kickstarter Project: ProGo propane powered motor scooter


progo 3000 propane powered scooter

Have a short commute? Like to zip around city streets and sidewalks like a motorized 10-year old? Zev Charles Ellenberg and his company, ProGo Recreation, are trying to revitalize the motorized scooter market by going green. The ProGo 3000 propane-powered scooter has an on-going Kickstarter project with the modest goal of raising $18,000 for the production and marketing of their low-emissions scooter. Propane’s high octane and low-carbon and oil-contamination characteristics have resulted in greater engine life and significantly lower carbon emissions than conventional gasoline engines.

progo folded

The small, 16.4 oz., propane canister used to power the ProGo 3000 is readily available and easy to change. You can even pack an extra canister in your backpack to insure you don’t run out of fuel while you’re bopping around campus or running errands. Unlike electric scooters that need to be recharged for up to 4 to 8 hours to provide an hour or so of ride time – a single propane canister is estimated to keep you zipping around for 2 to 3 hours at speeds up to 20mph – without the smell, mess and emissions associated with a similar gasoline powered engine. progo engine and tank

Some features:

  • EPA AND CAPB Approved / California Legal
  • Easy pull start
  • 25cc 4 stroke propane engine
  • Lightweight, durable steel frame
  • 20 mph top speed – 2-3 hours run time per 16.4oz propane canister
  • Folds for convenient carrying and storage
  • No Choke, no priming, and no carburetor gum-up, no need for winterizing

Propane pluses:
Utilizing propane as a vehicle fuel source instead of gasoline reduces U.S. dependence on foreign oil and increases energy security.  Propane’s fuel mixture is completely gaseous and doesn’t suffer from the cold start problems associated with liquid fuel. Propane is nontoxic, nonpoisonous, and insoluble in water. Compared with vehicles fueled by conventional diesel and gasoline, propane vehicles can produce lower amounts of many harmful air pollutants and greenhouse gases, depending on vehicle type, drive cycle, and engine calibration. source: The Alternative Fuels Data Center

The GoPro 3000 will retail for around $449 when it ships in October, 2014. If you pledge $399 you can get one at a reduced price.

Check out the ProGo Kickstarter project which runs through August 24th.

related: more alternative scooters featured on The Alternative Consumer

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

handmade decoupaged botanical necklace


handmade botanical wood necklace

Art meets commerce … Husband and wife, Margaux and Walter Kent are the owners of Peg and Awl, a Philadelphia-based design shop offering a mixed bag of finely crafted fashion accessories and items for the home, both inside and out. A collective of artisans, they feature funky finds, often olde, forgotten, tossed materials and transform these remains into useful and decorative objects.

peg and awl owners

The attractive Botanical Wood and Leather Necklace, 7 Blocks above, is carefully created from scraps of antique wood, reclaimed leather and paper, pieced together with ph neutral adhesive, covered with matte sealer and a dose of love. The decoupaged botanical images were lifted from a medical journal from the 1800s. All made in the USA.

find @ PegandAwl ($96)

related: more eco-fashion finds from The Alternative C0nsumer

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