Saturday, February 27, 2010

Solar Cruising

The goal is to navigate around the world at a speed of 8 knots, and not just in any old boat. A special boat...a big one...a 102 ft solar powered yacht that took 13 months to construct.

PlanetSolar wants to prove that we humans can change, that solutions exist out there, and it is not too late. With that mindset, their vision is to blend technology with renewable sources that make your jaw drop, your wallet glow and your friends' heads turn as they embark on new project challenges with using a minimum amount of energy.

Imagine in 2004, walking up to someone and saying, "I'm going to tour the whole world in a solar boat." It wasn't very fashionable where as today we have tons of eco-friendly gadgets. It took many years to gain sponsorships, investors, and talent. Now, 100 dedicated workers are helping Raphael Domjan, President and Skipper, to turn his dream into a reality. Stay tuned as the solar-powered beast launches in 2011.

Source: PlanetSolar, Huffington Post

Friday, February 26, 2010

Honda, Toyota, Hyundai...the Robots are Drunk.

Toyota recalls for sticky accelerator pedals.

Honda recalls for defective air bags.

Hyundai recalls for front door latches that won't close properly.

Are the robots drinking again? I mean geeeezzzzzz! What is up with the madness? We have automation and no oversight. We have check and double checks, yet simple things go wrong.

We live in the year 2010 and I expected to see flying cars by now. Instead, the latest release is the Honda CR-Z (Compact Renaissance Zero). A hybrid sports car that gets 58.8 mpg under Japanese conditions and 38 mpg (highway) under U.S. conditions. (I never knew we had two sets of driving conditions on a global standard level.) To me that is quite pitiful. Actually quite horrible that our MPG standards are lower compared to what a high school kid can create for his go-kart on french fry grease.

To top it off, there was a release of the top 10 cities that continue to bloat with on-going traffic congestion. Don't you know we are in a recession? Millions of folks are out of work and we continue to have driving issues. Wake up Mr. Manufacturer! The country is demanding EV's, Plug-ins, and Hybrids for the modern day man. Not a Mercedes, or Lexus, or Tesla, or BMW. A regular ole practical Honda that won't break the bank or our necks. Write that down and take it to your board members who look at shareholder value. The demand is there and profits will follow. Otherwise, we will see more lemons hitting our markets.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Techy Toilets

I figured since I’ve been blogging about boxes lately specifically, Bloom Box, Kyoto Box…why stop? The Roca Box (above) is an independent modular bathroom with a sexy, clean design. The basic model contains three interchangeable units. One unit houses the toilet, washbasin and water tank; another unit contains the shower, the seat, some shelves and a towel rack; a third unit contains additional shelves. Need more space? Add more units.

Then there is the average construction manhole, but come drinking hours and lunch time, the URILIFT (below) is a public urinal that is lifted hydraulically. There is also the teardrop shower that encompasses your whole body…maybe even your significant other? A 3-D touch screen controls the video, music, showers, jet intensities and temperatures. Wait until you can you hook up an XBOX, right?!
Source: Huffington Post, February 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Bloom Box

The Bloom Box? The Magic Box? The New Modern Day Energy Box? This little company suddenly is getting big attention from Google, eBay, 60 Minutes, and most of Silicon Valley as Bloom Energy is sharing their break through idea on fuel cell technology that generates power without being tied to the grid. These boxes are revolutionary energy miracles for our major dependency on coal, natural gas and oil and best of all are just the size of an average parking space yet still a bit pricy from $700K to $800K per unit.

So where did Bloom Energy come from? They were 1 of 26 companies named in early December by the World Economic Forum as the 2010 Tech Pioneers sharing new technologies or business models that could advance our planet. The Indian-born, co-founder K.R. Sridhar, originally used his visions for outer space experimentation. Soon after, NASA was knocking on his door to explore the probability of making life sustainable on Mars.

Sridhar’s imagination, expertise and well-funded connections (Colin Powell is one of the board directors) allowed the team to test different variations of generating electricity by feeding oxygen and hydrogen fuel. Of course, fuel cell technology comes in different forms such as proton exchange membranes, acid fuel cells, carbonate fuel cells, and the best of all is solid oxide fuel cells that offers the most fuel flexibility, better economics and a more promising technology for commercialization. Fast forward to today, the so-called Bloom boxes are being designed for residential and commercial use. The first generation units to be installed are roughly 100 Kilowatts of power, will probably produce heating, cooling as well as power, making the devices about 85% efficient. The technology easily allows the fuel cells to produce hydrogen, which is attractive for a homeowner to fill up their Honda FCX.

Some of their customers such as Walmart, Staples, FedEx, Bank of America and more, have been testing a new device that can generate power on the spot, without being connected to the electric grid. Will we have one in every home someday?

Source: Google News, EcoGeek, Business Week

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shining Rays

It would seem fitting that the new KIA Ray Plug-in Hybrid would have some sort of "solar-sun-hot" connection. The rooftop does have some sprinkled PV solar cells which adjusts the indoor AC quality, yet to me it is just another plug-in, excuse me....concept car from the Chicago Autoshow 2010. She is actually a sexy beast with a sustainable focus on maximizing aerodynamics. This notion of aerodynamic efficiency helps them make the promise towards their first EcoDynamics Korean Initiative. To read more about details about the Ray, click here.

Source: Autoblog 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Meatrix

The ethics of large-scale agribusiness has become the center of heated discussions. Part of this rise is the mass awareness from documentaries like Food, Inc., King Corn, and The Meatrix and yet some of the core issues of animal cruelty STILL really aren't shared. The Meatrix has been one of the best social media followings on the topic of factory farming. A clever analogy to the classic sci-fi movie that highlights the key issues of mass pollution, over use of antibiotics, de-beaking of chickens, and more.

Based on my journal reading, discussions with local farmers, environmental researchers and family doctors, let me enlighten you a bit as you burn your coupons at your local super markets. If you are not aware of that male (beef cattle) are dehorned and castrated without any anesthesia, then listen up! Pigs have a far keener smell than dogs and so living in their own shit makes one to be quite aggressive and mean, thus resulting in major tail-biting a common animalistic behavior. Problem solved when farmers chop off pigs tails. Meat chickens (not egg laying) are electronically stunned before their throats are mechanically sliced and are hung upside down while left to bleed to death. This is what our family farms have turned into - big agricultural business with the corn and pharma industries right there behind them. Get the real inside look by educating yourself, go and visit a factory farm, talk to farmers about their economic realities, read as much as possible and learn to choose wisely with your food.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Corn is not Love

Over consumption is the new age Valentine's weekend. It's like super-sizing our butts and mouths with high fructose corn syrup (chocolate) and corn-fed cow with extra antibiotics (meat). Don't let me forget we drive our SUVs and other non-efficient cars to a restaurant filled with volatile organic compounds or wait in line to see a movie in a germ-infested, bathroom bio hazard theater. That's how we show love in 2010? I'm not the hunter of Cupid. I'm the new arrow maker and would like you to see my Valentine's Day from a different perspective.

I've managed to loose more friends and family members than some of my closest young-aged friends today. I don't have enough fingers and toes to add them up, and yet I'm only 30, not 50, not 60 or 70. I haven't even been associated with any wars (maybe indirectly), hospitals, or churches. Yet, everyone that I use to know and now come into contact with either has depression, thyroid disruption, cancer, AIDs, liver damage, or diabetes.

I see fat people continuing to eat on their third round. I see alcoholics overdosing to no end. I see diabetics injecting before their own birthday cake. I see school lunches serve ketchup as a vegetable. The only thing that we American's love more than the American dream is our addiction to sugar. Wake up!

It's all processed sugar from corn in Iowa. It's not cheap food - it is simply a factor in our modern day healthcare costs, or that 100% of what farmers grow can't even eat. It's all fed corn, stupid! It's genetically modified from farm to fork.

The answer is in the labels. I bet you can't even pronounce half of the ingredients on the back of your juice bottle (pop doesn't count), spaghetti sauce, fries, bread, cereal, salad dressing, or noodles. But I bet you'll find a common thread of high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated soy. The simple translation is sugar and sludge in our body. Our bodies were not made to process large amounts of sugar, especially our pancreas, which is in overdrive now to produce insulin to regulate our blood sugar. Partially hydrogenated crap is simple clumpy sludge in our body that tries to rid itself anyway possible through our pores, rectum, hair, and skin. We are killing ourselves!

My hope is that we start demanding real food, not just on Valentine's Day, but EVERYDAY. If we say we love this country, that we love our family and that we love thy neighbor, then start to make a better choice and demand nutritious food. When is the last time you went to a farmer's market? Yes, even in the winter? Open your eyes...there are many indoor markets with fresh meats, cheeses, honey, herbs, fruits and vegetables. We don't have to be slaves to a broken food system. We can save money by not eating out at restaurants and bars and making wholesome food with our loved ones. We can read and apply that changing our diets leads to better healthy moods and behaviors. We can switch from a high-fat, high-sugar meals to ones with lean proteins, vegetables and occasional whole grain cookies and treats. Today is your special Valentine's and I suggest starting with a new beat.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Eco-friendly Snowboards

I'm back my fellow readers from a long break, and today is the opening ceremony for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. So much has already started with the Russian hockey team and potential doping violation, big search engines are sporting their Olympic logos, and bets are already being doubled on who will take home the most medals. One of the sports I'll be keeping an eye on is snowboarding as I use to own a Burton, and now finding specific "green" toys that we can now enjoy that help the environment and help you get your game on.

For starters, can a snowboard be green?


Of course, snow boarding rocks (just like kiteboarding and rock climbing). Yet, first you often have to drive or fly to the mountains, which is CO2 overload. Two, you take a lift up that is supplied by electric power (probably coal based). Three, you might even board down artificially-made snow. Then you repeat (questionable).

Yet we as engineers and those that appreciate the outdoors have become open and receptive to new technology and standards. The new Burton, known as Eco Nico, has a Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood core, a lacquer-free top sheet, 90-percent recycled steel edges, 100-percent recycled sidewalls and a 50-percent recycled base. The Eco Nico is the greenest of the green, the most sustainable board that has ever made. And that my friends is a good start to future alley oop practices. Every little bit helps!


Source: Picture: Treehugger and Domingo Gomez

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Eat-onomics

Fast Company recently interviewed Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm. This interview uncovers his passion towards sustainable practices, humane animal treatment, and touches more importantly on the new age term of eat-onomics. Coming strong out of the gate, Fast Company asks the hard questions first.

Fast Company: If you could only make one recommendation to consumers regarding sustainable food, what would it be?

Gary: When you shop, you're really voting for the kind of world you want. What we should understand is, whether you're in the airport, in a supermarket, in a convenient store or a restaurant, every time you select one item, it has a ripple effect far, far, far beyond that momentary product. It is power. We should use that power for good. I'm living proof of that. We started with seven cows. And millions and millions of people have voted with their dollars for Stonyfield, and now it's a $340 million company. We are what we eat, but more importantly, we are what we buy.

See the full interview here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

No to Landfills

EcoCradle from Ecovative Design says no to landfills and yes to your packaging. A 100% recyclable, compostable and biodegradable product.

While providing the same amount of cushioning, strength and protection as Styrofoam, EcoCradle is officially not categorized as litter. I was surprised to learn that it is grown using agricultural byproducts (e.g mushrooms and corn husks) through a low-energy process, which helps them to not be tied to the volatile prices of oil.

It is a bio-based revolution to shipping that helps the environment, uses renewable resources, and an effective way to ship food, perishable and of course those upcoming Valentine's gifts. See all of their products specs here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Audi Launches Green Police

Audi has created a unique social media campaign highlighting their excellence in design and innovation. The purpose of these unique YouTube clips features the "Green Police" showcasing the Audi A3 Turbo Diesel, while flexing their muscles and keeping true to the mission of "protecting and serving the Earth". A clever approach to raise awareness and conveniently completed in time for Superbowl airing time on February 7th.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tesla Goes Public

It happened! Tesla Motors filed its IPO with the SEC. It is an exciting move for the popular automaker of EVs. Yet, a small twist to the deal - Tesla Motors has decided to stop selling the current generation Roadster in 2011, which is one year before it starts selling the Model S sedan. How does a company not sell any for one year? According to Tesla, the “Roadster needs to be retooled”.

Now, I’m a big fan of Elon Musk, a brilliant South African born man, who our family has met on a special tour of SpaceX. A humble man with a clear vision, balls of steel, and contagious attitude that doesn’t necessarily categorize him as a jack-ass, but more of a modern day Howard Hughes minus the craziness.


So, the plan now is to develop either a four or seven passenger sedan? There is chatter that it will fail given our economy and the lack of private funding, but that is utterly and completely false!


Investors have doubled down already such as Germany's Daimler AG who acquired an equity stake of less than 10% ($50 million last year). Plus, Tesla has raised over $200 million from private investors! Some are saying that if Tesla fails, the U.S. government will look “fairly ridiculous” because Tesla is slated to receive $465 million in loans from the DoE for the production of the Model S.

Are
you kidding me? Fail. It’s not in his vocabulary or his wallet! It won’t fail because Elon Musk is a billionaire. He can inject more money if need be since he is the C-level guy of not 1, but 3 companies. PayPal (or as some know it as X.com) was sold to eBay helping to fund and explode his career as Product Architect at Tesla, CTO of SpaceX, and Chairman of SolarCity. The guy is unstoppable, engaged, and cooking up some exciting things with commercial cargo deliveries to the International Space Station. Stay tuned...

Image Source: Fast Company, Feb. 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010

Modern Magnifying Glass or Turbine

Wind chimes, windmills, and wind turbines. Boy, we have come a long way in helping to make wind energy a popular renewable for rural and urban areas. Placed now at the top of the wind list are micro wind turbines that are taking on new shapes, sizes and materials that get your heads turning and flipping. As is the case with the blades of Phillipe Starck micro wind turbines, which are made of transparent plastic. The turbines were officially debuted after a lengthy 2 years of research in collaboration with the Italian company Pramac.

This quadrangular model ($4,500 Euros includes installation) with a power output of 400W and the helicoidal shaped form can generate power of 1 KW (with wind blowing at 14 m per second). The energy can be stored in a battery that is passed through inverters to make the proper voltage of electricity commonly used for home appliances, computers and general consumption. As for next steps with innovation and design, take it from Starck who says, “E
nergy should not be a punishment, we should create a desire among people to produce it. I would love to see them on sale in supermarkets."

Image Source: Design Boom