Todd McLellan meets Ferris Bueller's friend Cameron? For his contribution to the "exploded object" genre of photography, Fabian Oefner ratchets up the intensity by seemingly having taken a ratchet to exotic cars, disassembling them piece by piece.
The Swiss artist's Disintegrating series features some of the most beloved classic car models--a Ferrari 250 GTO, a Gullwing Benz, a Jag E-type--and shows you what they're made of, deconstructing those beautiful forms to float the mechanicals out into space.
It's digitally manipulated, sure, but each piece is the result of a real photograph. How does he do it? Well, guess:
[image via JBT AeroTech]
Your correspondent managed to travel via subway this Thanksgiving, avoiding the car-clogged roads, the train-jammed tracks and most importantly, the airplane-choked skies. But this past weekend, I departed for Autodesk University on the other side of the country, meaning there's a plane ride in my immediate future.
On the jet bridge, I'll be looking out for that little wheeled thing in the photograph above, which I've not noticed (so much for being an observant industrial designer) on the numerous flights I've taken in my lifetime, probably because during the boarding process I'm more concerned with if there's any overhead bin space left. Slate, however, has been kind enough to point the object out and explain its function. Can any of you guess what it is, and what it does?
Following yesterday's popular discussion on Americans and trucks, we got to wondering: Whatever happened to Via Motors? To refresh your memory, back in January we brought you the story of an American company taking fresh-off-the-assembly-line trucks from Detroit and turning them into E-REVs (Extended Range Electric Vehicles): Powerful yet environmentally-friendly 100-m.p.g. beasts of burden. The company estimated delivery of the first models by mid-2013, but that vague date period has decidedly come and gone.
We looked into it mostly afraid to find they'd gone belly-up, but were pleased to find they're alive and well, and still leaping hurdles on their way to production. Vehicles have to be crash-tested to meet American safety regulations, and even though the trucks Via aims to produce are existing models that have already been crash-tested by their original manufacturer (General Motors), re-rigging them with electric motors requires a whole new crash test. So last month they smashed up a bunch of their cargo van models—and passed with flying colors. "The engineering work done to integrate the VIA's electric technology has been exceptional and the vehicles have exceeded our expectations in all tests that were performed," says Alan Perriton, president of VIA Motors. "We are now moving on to complete certification and begin mass production."
To that end, just weeks ago Via brought their factory online in Mexico, near the GM factory that cranks out Silverados, one of the vehicles Via hacks up. Here's a look at the facility:
In earlier days I drove an ambulance, and had to qualify for it by performing a litany of predetermined driving feats. Doing backwards figure-8's around lampposts in a parking lot and backing it into a precise position in the garage using nothing more than the rearview mirrors (sides only, the center is obviously blocked) are things you can only get good at through constant practice. But the point is, you can practice and can improve, because the mirrors on an ambulance are fixed and the cab does not articulate from the rest of the ambulance. In other words, when you look in the mirror, you always see the exact same space relative to the body of the truck, whether you're driving in a straight line or turning.
This is not true in tractor trailers, which obviously articulate. Drivers of tractor trailers have it far tougher when they take corners, because the articulation of the truck temporarily creates horrendously huge blind spots. This is especially a problem in cities, where an 18-wheeler may have bicyclists riding in close proximity to them. With the intense amount of things occupying a driver's attention in an urban environment, if they have not had their eyes glued to their mirrors directly before making a turn, and then kept their eyes on that same mirror all throughout the turn (as unlikely as it is practically impossible), there can be trouble. Take a look at this video put together by Transport for London, illustrating the blind spot:
The U.S. is presently one of the world's largest manufacturers, and consumers, of automobiles. What percentage of Detroit's profits, would you guess, comes from trucks as opposed to passenger cars? The Big Three aren't saying, but according to a Reuters analysis looking at the EBIT—that's Earnings Before Interest & Taxes—an astonishing 71%* comes from trucks and SUVs.
"There is no doubt that full-size trucks are still the single largest component" of pre-tax profits at General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler Group LLC, a unit of Italy's Fiat SpA, according to Sterne Agee auto analyst Michael Ward.
Even more surprising is that sales of full-size pickups grew 20% from last year.
Gas is still expensive (by American standards) and the economy is still pretty lousy, so what's going on? Why do hybrids continue to be money-losers while low-MPG truck sales are soaring? Why has Ford's F-150 been the best-selling automobile for three decades? The old stereotype of soccer moms with misconceptions of safety ensconcing themselves in SUVs doesn't explain the bump in full-size pick-up sales, nor the F-150's success.
Ever since we saw Resilient Technologies' Non-Pneumatic Tires being tested out on Humvees, we wondered if it would ever trickle down to the civilian sector. Well, it has. Off-road vehicle manufacturer Polaris has announced their new Sportsman WV850, a "military-grade" ATV kitted out with the NPTs.
"We have seen great success with NPTs in military and disaster relief scenarios," said Dovid Longren, Vice President of the Off-Road Division, "and are excited to bring this technology to the consumer market for extreme work applications." While it's unlikely your average contractor will need to drive 350 miles after his tires have sustained ".50 caliber ballistic damage," as Polaris has done in testing, it is nice to know that the NPTs have also been tested for 1,000 trouble-free miles of travel with a three-inch railroad spike jammed into the tread and structural webbing. With that kind of durability, you can get away without carrying a spare, meaning there's more room to haul stuff.
It's not clear if Polaris has licensed Resilient Technologies' original design or entered into some kind of partnership; RT's website hasn't been updated since 2011. But Polaris has re-branded the NPTs "Terrain Armor," and as you can see in the promo video, they look pretty bad-ass:
Video is circulating of a rather unusual car stunt pulled in Mexico last week. To promote the grueling SCORE-International Baja 1000 racing event, a stuntman known as Adrian "Wildman" Cenni did this:
It's being billed by Digg as "the first barrel roll ever completed in a four wheel vehicle," and while it's insanely impressive, those of us who grew up in the '70s watching James Bond flicks can't help but do a double-take: The "first?" Haven't we seen this before? In that 007 installment [correction: The Man With the Golden Gun, not Live and Let Die] from 1974? That was way before CG, so that shot had to be real, no?
Thomas Bodmer is doing nothing to ease the stereotype of the Swiss being a precision-minded people. The RC fanatic, who runs the Swiss website RC HeliJet News, has built a 1:15 scale model of the Airbus A380 and kitted it out with four little turbine engines—and the freaking thing works. Bodmer was on hand at a Swiss RC event last year, stunning the crowd with his 4.8-meter long, 5.3-meter wingspan creation.
After watching the video, I don't know what's more amazing: The fact that he got it to take off, the fact that it sounds like a real jetliner, or the fact that he pulled off a ridiculous, butter-smooth landing. (For the impatient among you, the money shots start at 2:26 and 6:40.)
I wonder if he had the thing circling so much simply as a testament to his flying skillz, or if it was in a holding pattern because the runway was clogged, just like in real life.
[Image via Podcars]
Milton Keynes sounds like the name of someone your cousin married for his money, but in fact it's a large town in Buckinghamshire, 50 miles northwest of London. With a population of over 200,000, it can be considered urban, and the area is about to become more well-known, perhaps even famous. Because in 2015 it will start deploying driverless taxis, also called PRTs, for Personal Rapid Transit.
In actuality the electricity-operated PRTs are less like taxis and more like surface-going, two-person subway cars that travel directly from point A to point B, without making undesired stops. Routes, it seems, will be fixed, with the town's central train station serving as a hub, and areas of service expected to include the local shopping mall and particular office buildings.
PRTs are not without precedent in the UK; London Heathrow has been running them since 2011 to ferry passengers between terminals, and the things recharge themselves. Check out how they operate, and don't be put off by this video's silly beginning, as the entire thing is pretty informative:
Being American, I always thought of cars as enabling the ultimate freedom. To be able to drive wherever you want in this huge country, independent of subway schedules, what could be more free than that?
My vision has been dashed by this video clip. Watch as this guy lands his airplane on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere*, no runway. He then pauses and you can hear him get out of the plane (presumably to take an off-camera pee) before he gets back in, points it down the mountain and takes off, in what seems to be mere tens of feet.
Are you kidding me? Did you see how he perfectly slowed his roll just as he reaches the crest, presumably so he could roll down the other side and take off again if something went wrong? Where did this flying ninja come from? What kind of plane is that? Ever since spotting this clip on Kottke I've been trying to find out more.
Icon 4x4 showed up at this year's SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show, and Icon founder Jonathan Ward pulled the sheets off of their new Ultimate Thriftmaster, based on the classic Chevy pickup truck of the 1940s and '50s. As always, Icon's mission is to combine the absolute best of old and new, so while the truck appears to be fresh off of the '50s assembly line, it's kitted out with modern touches like GPS, a backup camera and high-output LED backup lights. Self-described detail nut Ward injected his signature fanaticism to the project, from the sustainably-managed bison hide seats that come from a Native American reservation, the American ashwood bed lining done up in marine finishes for durability, and the clever way the power windows are operated via an old-school-looking handcrank.
In the video below, you'll see all of these details and more, broken into sections. The first half of the vid is for you gearheads; in the third quarter Ward covers the interior features; in the final quarter, the exterior design.
Sketchmaster and Core77 contributor Mike DiTullo is too modest to toot his own horn here, but we knew from previous experience that he's an Icon collaborator. Sure enough, a search of DiTullo's Facebook reveals his involvement with the project:
Over the years I've had the pleasure to collaborate with some amazing friends [like] Jonathan Ward at Icon. For the 2013 SEMA show, Jonathn wanted to recreate the classic Chevy Thriftmaster pickup. He asked me to design the hood badge, side badges, the gauges and gauge graphics as well as the IP deco plates that house the HVAC vents and cover all of the modern bits. Super fun project.
It's the cargo you can't see that's the problem
Ships need what's called ballast, a certain amount of weight in their holds to provide stability. In a fully laden cargo ship, the cargo itself can serve as the ballast; but it can't make its return journey empty, or something like what you see in the photo below would happen:
As we saw in an earlier post, this is why many New England cities that served as early trade ports with Europe are paved with cobblestones; ships traveling from the Old World were loaded up with the stuff, to be dumped on American shores to make room for New World goods. Enterprising city officials turned the otherwise uselss rocks into roads.
Over a century ago, some ingenious, unknown ship designer(s) came up with the idea of using seawater itself as the ballast. On its surface this is a brilliant idea. Valves allow seawater to fill compartments in the bottom of the ship as it is unloaded with cargo, enabling the ship to maintain perfect equilibrium. And when the ship gets into its next port and needs to load up, the seawater is simply evacuated.
Posted by erika rae
| 7 Nov 2013
If you think about it, motorists are limited to a very perfunctory and at-times ambiguous vocabulary when it comes to signaling to cars behind them: You have your turn signals and brake lights, but really that's about it... short of sticking your hand out the window for certain choice gestures, or attempting to make dubious eye contact in the mirror. Enter Drivemotion, an LED sign that you can attach to your back window that will let you show your appreciation, anger and even flirt with fellow drivers—if you're into that kind of thing.
The newest installment in this potentially creepy innovation is a programmable version called "Animator" that allows drivers to customize the message they're sending on the road through text and smilies.
In what can only be considered a blow to the field of automotive design, yesterday Ford announced the pending retirement of J Mays amidst a management shake-up (our words, not theirs) at the company. Group Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of Design Mays will place his pencils in the can for the last time on January 1st, the last day of his 33-year career. (Interestingly enough, it was also revealed yesterday—this time by Reuters—that Ford CEO Alan Mulally is on the shortlist at Microsoft to replace Steve Ballmer as CEO. Whether these two things are linked will presumably become the source of much speculation.)
J Mays is a man we've covered plenty of times before, going all the way back to the inception of this blog, when he was fresh off of VW and Audi and a relatively recent addition to Ford. In the '90s and early 2000s the Art Center alumnus revitalized the VW Bug and brought back the Ford T-Bird at a time when retro seemed like something interesting to try, rather than returning to the well after the taps had been depleted. Most recently he's had his fingerprints on Ford's F-150, Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, forthcoming Falcon, and even two cars that don't begin with "F," the Mustang and the Taurus.
Ford cannot help but miss him; never mind his production work—during his 16-year tenure, his concept work alone shows a man who never settled into a staid bag of tricks, but instead continued to innovate and jump between different styles as it pertained to each project. And while we'll continue to see roadgoing cars that he's worked on long after he's retired, we thought we'd take a look at the awesome-looking never-rans, our favorite J Mays concepts from his time at Dearborn:
Posted by Ray
| 5 Nov 2013
Shortly after midnight, I opened up a new tab in Chrome and started punching in a search term when I noticed what I unmistakably recognized as a faux early-to-mid 20th century sketch of a streamlined locomotive. My untrained eye guessed Loewy, and one click later, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it's his 120th birthday today.
L: PRR K4S; R: Loewy with the S1
First of all, I'm glad that Google (at some point over the past few months, IIRC) decided to include the whimsical art logos above the search field in new tabs: Since they've enabled searching through the navigation bar, I rarely if ever go to google.com any more—I've probably missed out on a couple years' worth of Google Doodles before they saw fit to add it to 'blank' tabs in Chrome. Upon clicking on the image, I was also interested to see that the Google News results for "Raymond Loewy" listed a few hits down, included several stories about the Google Doodle itself. The Guardian suggests that it resembles the S1 steam locomotive, while the Independent elaborates:
Among his main clients was the Pennsylvania Railroad, for whom he designed passenger locomotives, developing a distinctive shroud design for K4s Pacific #3768 to haul his newly redesigned 1938 Broadway Limited... Today's doodle shows a locomotive bearing a resemblance to the K4s Pacific #3768 shroud design.
Insofar as Google has taken some creative liberties with the streamline form factor, they're both right: The Pennsylvania Railroad commissioned S1 to be a next-generation K4S—which was exhibited with a "one-off streamlined casing" as the World's Fair in 1939—but, as "the longest and heaviest rigid frame reciprocating steam locomotive ever built," the S1 never took off. (A quick Google search for further info turned up a few discursive notes on both engines here and the image below.)
Autoline TV is an online network dedicated to covering all aspects of the auto industry, and a recent, welcome addition to their YouTube channel is a segment called "Design Handbook." In it, industry analyst (and Art Center Transportation Design alumnus) Jim Hall discusses the nuts and bolts of car design, like why the gas tank is on the left or right, the "secrets" of sports car proportions, and definitions of industry terms ("bone line," anyone?).
In the video below, Hall breaks down the difference between car styling and car design, a distinction that's often as lost by those not in the know as it is hotly debated by those who are in the know. We think not all of you will agree with his assertions, and it is of course difficult to draw that line (so to speak) between the two verbs, so we're curious to hear what you think.
Given Hall's definitions, would you consider, say, Dieter Rams' stuff to be styled or designed?
When last we checked in with chemical giant BASF, they'd developed injection-molded plastic automotive rims, looking firmly towards the future. Now the materials company is looking back to the past, and asking an interesting question: What would a certain primitive product design have looked like, had its inventor had access to modern-day materials? BASF's resultant "Concept 1865 - Rethinking Materials" project seeks to answer that by looking at a vehicle that predates the automobile, and even the modern-day bicycle: the Penny Farthing.
As for the project's title, 1865 was the year BASF was founded, and the velocipede would go into mass production just two years later.
As a tribute to this era of enthusiasm for technology and invention, BASF and the DING3000 design studio have developed a velocipede with today's state-of-the-art technology—including 24 high-performance plastics, specialty foams, epoxy resin and polyurethane materials from BASF.
And this e-velocipede of the 21st century runs! Concept 1865, a ready-to-ride prototype with an electric drive, is made almost entirely of modern plastics from BASF. Only its brakes, axles, and motor are still made of metal. Everything else is lightweight construction.
Posted by Ray
| 28 Oct 2013
Last we heard from People People, we took a look at their 'invisible' speaker; the Stockholm-based design studio has since come out with several modern, minimal variations in highly competitive product categories, including headphones and a pocket watch. Their latest project is an update to yet another widely-used but largely undifferentiated product, the bicycle, and once again, People People strip the product to its essence and proceed to improve it with just a few signature details.
Taking inspiration from the iconic Kronan city bike—a workhorse despite its weight—the "Spiran" is "the sleeker and younger sibling of Kronan that moved into the city," and its name is a reference to that of its beloved predecessor: "Kronan is Swedish for 'Crown,' and Spiran means 'Scepter.'" Besides its clean lines and slim form factor, we were impressed with the integrated lock (sketch below; GIF after the jump); the premium materials and belt drive are also intended to maximize its utility with minimal maintenance.
We had the chance to talk to designer / People People co-founder Per Brickstad about the "Spiran":
To what degree is the Spiran is a successor to the Kronan, and to what degree is it a departure?
Per Brickstad: Kronan is based on old Swedish military bikes. Its sturdy, simple, rugged, reliable functionality has gone straight into the Swedish customers' hearts since it was introduced back in the 90's. The values listed above would probably in themselves be enough for a successful product, but I'm as a designer very fascinated by the way Kronan as a brand was so easily accepted as an obvious, unobtrusive instant design classic. People actually think it's a 120 year old brand rather than 20 years. In the same way Spiran takes inspiration from old Swedish postal bikes, and old porteur bikes in general, combined with inspiration from the more recent fixed-gear city messenger. These bikes were all made to transport things through a city, and are therefore the obvious inspiration for a modern city version of Kronan.
The phrase goes that one oughtn't reinvent the wheel, yet we've seen countless examples of people trying, from square to hubless to powered. The latest wheel reinvention to make the, er, rounds comes from Ackeem Ngwenya, a student of Innovation Design Engineering at London's RCA. Ngwenya's designed something that looks simultaneously nutty and completely feasible: A shape-shifting wheel he's calling "Roadless."
The "Why" of it is pretty simple. Ngwenya grew up in rural Africa, where "head-loading" remains the most practical way to transport goods, as arduous and inefficient as it is. He reckons that a shape-shifting wheel could adapt to different terrains, thus providing a one-size-fits-all solution for load-carrying carts, bikes or vehicles in areas with no infrastructure.
The "How" of it is both simple and fascinating. By using the principle of a scissor jack, and arraying a series of them around a circle, the wheel would either grow shorter and wider, or taller and more narrow, as the mechanism is manipulated.
Posted by Ray
| 24 Oct 2013
Following its debut at SAE Aerotech about a month ago, the Aeromobil 2.5 has been getting a bit of attention from the likes of Flying and Drive (video report below)... because it's designed to do both. As the story goes, industrial designer and engineer Stefan Klein has been working on the design for some two decades, logging miles while clocking in at Audi, BMW and Volkswagen; co-founder Juraj Vaculík is credited as an "ad man" and "angel investor." Based in Slovakia, Aeromobil's latest working prototype is the proof-of-concept for the third generation of the flying car, and it's a doozy.
Unlike the accordion-style wings of the Terrafugia, the Aeromobil features a kind of 'variable-sweep' design (apologies if my aeronautics terminology is off the mark), where the wings neatly tuck behind the cockpit when not in use; when extended, the wingspan is 8.2m. Meanwhile, the 100hp Rotax 912 engine powers travel speeds of up to 160kph on the road and 200kph in flight, with a takeoff speed of 130kph; the discrepancy is more or less proportional to the ranges of 500km and 700km respectively. All else equal, the fuel consumption is about the same in either mode, and according to Gizmag:
Klein says that in car mode the Aeromobil fits into a standard parking space and can be refueled at the same gas station as all the other cars—in other words, it does not require special aviation fuel like most aircraft. The flying car is extremely lightweight, coming in at less than half the weight of a compact car like the Ford Fiesta, which weighs 1,041 kg (2295 lbs). The structure is a steel tube frame with a carbon fiber composite shell, a configuration familiar to fans of racing cars.
Lisa Dolev has a Ph.D in Biomedical Engineering, not Industrial Design. But that didn't stop her, immediately after the 2004 train bombings happened in Madrid, from producing the sketch you see below:
Dolev, who formerly worked as "an active participant in counter-suicide bomber initiatives led by DARPA," was shaken by the train bombing footage. She realized that train stations, public stadiums, and other areas where masses of citizens converge would become steady terrorist targets, yet these venues would not be able to afford the screening measures that airports can. So she set out to design a more efficient, lower-cost security screening system, combining elements of a grocery store self-checkout set-up with some straightforward, universally-understood design principles (green means go, red means stop, etc.). She then founded California-based Qylur Security Systems, Inc. to develop her invention, dubbed the Qylatron Entry Experience Solution. Here's how it works:
After spending several years in the habitation department at NASA, developing living spaces for the International Space Station as well as multiple off earth exploration vehicles, designer Garrett Finney left in 2009 to launch his dream recreational vehicle, the Cricket trailer. At the recent Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Finney introduced a prototype of the FireFly, an even more compact and utilitarian next-gen trailer, designed to fit in the back of a pickup truck or be towed by a small car.
The FireFly's interior is minimal, lined with folding bench tops for the sleeping/living surface with room for storage underneath. Although he initially hopes to attract the eco-campers who require the robustness of a trailer and the serious off-roader, Finney also envisions industrial or disaster-relief applications, such as deploying temporary base camps in remote and disaster stricken areas. Working with the small team of Evan Twyford (recruited from NASA in 2012) and Cricket Lead Designer Brian Black, the FireFly was designed in a three-week blitz after several months of sketching, mockups and CAD modelling.
"We worked with one of our local metal vendors to cut and fabricate the majority of the exo-skeleton," Black says of the development process. "Most of these skeletal components were laser cut and bent sheet aluminum which, when fastened together, create rigid structures."
Combined with the welded square tube sections, this created a rugged yet light weight architecture. We borrowed many construction methods and materials from our NASA/aerospace design experience as well as our experience designing and manufacturing with the Cricket such as the use of light weight yet highly insulative composite panels. These panels are high R-value, inch thick architectural siding with .04inch aluminum skin and an eps foam core. This use of aluminum and composites allowed us to create the rugged volume seen with this prototype while keeping it weight at just over 600lbs.
Evan Twyford sketching
Vehicle profile iterations balance ergonomic sizing and human factors concerns, such as bunk width and ceiling height, with technical sizing constraints such as truck bed dimensions and under-bench stowage.
Early concept sketching depicts multi-mode use on trailers, in a truck bed, and on a notional lander-leg package. Sketches also outline separate habitation module and frame/decking components with modular stowage/water tank compartments.
Firefly with deployable lander leg package. Concept sketch by Evan Twyford.
Earlier I griped about how the act of getting in and out of a car, a very basic automobile experience, is often neglected by designers. With the exception of the Tanto we looked at, there aren't many examples that demonstrate designers are really thinking about the problem and/or have the clout to address it.
Another lame car-based experience is the helicopter effect, a.k.a. "side window buffeting." You know the deal—you're driving at highway speeds when someone in the back cracks their window open, and suddenly your eardrums are assaulted with such a helicopter-rotor-like din that you can practically hear Wagner. Then you must open a window on the other side of the car to try to balance the effect. Or you can do what I do, which is to eject the offending passenger under a strict zero-tolerance policy for disturbing my automotive ecocsystem.
I warned you, dude
Two questions, and the first is: Why does this happen? Jalopnik asked physicist Dr. Stephen Granade to explain:
That "whum whum WHUM WHUM" noise happens because the wind passing over the small window opening... forms tiny tornadoes as it moves past the front edge of that opening. When those tornadoes, or vortices, reach the opening's back edge, they make a wave of pressure that pushes air into and out of the car. Since sound is nothing more than waves of pressure, this makes noise... The vortices keep pressing on the air in your car just at the right time to make big pressure waves that we can feel and hear.
The technical term for this effect is the Helmholtz resonance, though car people call it "side window buffeting"...
...As you drive faster, the rate at which the whums occur speed up and the loudness goes up.
Interestingly enough, Granade goes on to theorize that "It's more noticeable in modern cars because they're more aerodynamic," the thinking being that cracking a window is more disruptive to a smoothly-tuned airflow. If that's true, it would mean cars with boxy shapes would suffer less from Hemholtz resonance. Score another plus for the Tanto.
Second question: Why do you think this problem hasn't been addressed by design? Do you think designers simply don't have the juice to incorporate a manufacturable solution—or that no one cares?
We first looked at the Copenhagen Wheel, a powered bicycle wheel with a self-contained motor and batteries, when it won the James Dyson Award back in 2010. It was developed by a team of students at MIT's SENSEable City Lab, a sort of combination think-tank/skunkworks dedicated to solving urban issues.
A year later, in 2011, NYC-based entrepreneur Niko Klansek introduced a line of electric bicycles called FlyKly to the U.S. market. By 2013 he'd gathered a development team that produced a prototype of a self-powered bike wheel that appears very similar to the Copenhagen Wheel.
It's not clear if Klansek had been developing his idea with parallel timing to the Copenhagen Wheel, or if there was team overlap, or if something less pleasing was afoot; since we don't have the facts we must give him the benefit of the doubt. But what isn't in doubt is that self-powered bicycle wheels are coming. Just yesterday Superpedestrian, a Boston-based company founded by MIT SENSEable City Laboratory Associate Director Assaf Biderman (part of the original Copenhagen Wheel crew), announced they'd landed $2.1 million in funding to commercialize the Copenhagen Wheel. "We're now less than 60 days away from introducing the first-ever commercial model of the Copenhagen Wheel," Biderman reports.
Posted by core jr
| 18 Oct 2013
[Editor's Note: This was adapted from a post on Synthesis Design + Architecture's PURETension charging concept for Volvo. It has been updated to include a related news item about HEVO Power's resonance charging system.]
Reporting by Ray Hu and Rain Noe
HEVO Power has been making headlines this week following the announcement not of the product itself but the fact that they've made the semifinalist round for the SAFE (Securing America's Future Energy) Emerging Innovation Award. That and the fact that they'll be launching a pilot program for their flagship wireless electric vehicle charging system in New York City in early 2014. HEVO Power is founder Jeremy McCool's approach to reducing America's dependence on foreign fuel—he served in Iraq before recently completing his Master's in Urban Policy at Columbia—a solution to overcome certain barriers to EV adoption (which we've previously explored in relation to BMW 360° Electric). Wired reports:
McCool and his crew opted for a resonance charging system rather than the traditional inductive charging system used by some smartphones, tablets, and retrofitted EVs like the Nissan Leaf.
Traditionally, inductive charging requires a primary coil to generate an electromagnetic field that is picked up by a second coil mounted underneath the EV to juice up the battery pack. But it's not particularly efficient, with large amounts of energy dissipating through the coil. With a resonance-based system, both coils are connected with capacitors that resonate at a specific frequency. The energy losses are reduced and you can transmit more energy at a faster rate and further apart.
Hevo's system comes in three parts: a power station that can either be bolted to the street or embedded in the pavement, a vehicle receiver that's connected to the battery, and a smartphone app that lets drivers line up their vehicle with the station and keep tabs on charging.
To be honest, I'm not so impressed by the fact that they 'blend in' to extant infrastructure, I see it as a kind of quasi-skeuomorphism: Granted, HEVO is not a vestige of an outdated sanitation system, but the manhole-cover aesthetic is essentially a marketing hook for a subtle, street-based. (Then again, the idea of transposing a charging port onto the traditional gas tank is as good an example of the S-word as anything.)
In any case, the pilot program—HEVO is partnering with NYU to install a pair of stations for electric Smart ForTwo's near Washington Square Park—is widely being hailed as a major step towards greater adoption of electric vehicles... ostensibly because New York City is a tougher crowd than, say, the Greater Bay Area. Yet a far more ambitious plan in Gumi, South Korea, is already underway. Engineers at KAIST have developed what (I assume) is a similar resonance charging system, SMFIR, which boasts a whopping 85% transmission efficiency and will be embedded in bus lanes in Gumi, under certain stretches of road.
The other upshot of KAIST's SMFIR system is that the buses can incorporate smaller batteries, which allows for weight and cost savings, as well as reducing the unquanifiable variable of range anxiety. With a bit of data, I'm sure someone could undertake a cursory CBA of whether installing a widespread induction/resonance charging system—cf. Citibike stations: start dense within a limited area and slowly expand, maintaining the same density—would bring down the cost of (and resistance to) the vehicles themselves, and what the break-even point would be. (It's also worth noting that only certain battery systems will work with these charging systems.)
Overnight delivery is amazing. The thought that I can finish a drawing here in New York, drop it off at a FedEx office at 5pm and have it show up first thing tomorrow in L.A. is pretty neat.
A far superior delivery system is the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. It takes about five minutes to boost itself into suborbital flight, where it then cruises for less than a half-hour, and then spends just two minutes plummeting down to its target more than 7,000 miles away. And even small ICBMs can carry half a ton of cargo. Of course, since that cargo is usually a nuclear device, we think of ICBMs as deliverers of death.
Huai-Chien "Bill" Chang, a doctoral candidate in Space Architecture at the University of Tokyo, however, has a different idea for what ICBMs could be used for: Long-range disaster relief. Should a natural calamity strike in a region of the globe that's difficult to access, Chang posits, an ICBM somehow modified for a soft landing could be loaded up with supplies, and quickly delivered where it is needed. And with the dearmaments following the end of the Cold War, there's no shortage of mothballed missiles.
"These rocket engines are still functioning. If we could use these engines, the cost would be very much reduced," Chang told science and astronomy enthusiast website SPACE.com, following a recent presentation of his idea at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Space 2013 conference. "I'd like to see something like this happen before the next big disaster hits."
Here's Chang himself explaining the concept at a TEDxTokyo "audition:"