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    Exploring all aspects of mapping and geography, from field data collection, to mapping and analysis, to integration, applications development, enterprise architecture and policy

Sustainable Transportation

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/14/2008 07:24:00 PM 0 comments

Seems cars and transportation have been a hot topic this week... Some big items in the news were the Tata Motors Nano car, targeted to make family transportation affordable in India at $2,500, and the AFS Trinity, a hybrid SUV capable of 150 miles per gallon.

The first of these, the Tata Nano, notable as it was cited as bridging the affordability gap between a motorcycle and an automobile. For families, passenger capability on a motorcycle is an issue... However, while a boon, this is bound to increase petro demand, emissions impact, and come bundled with a host of other environmental tradeoffs in India and other parts of the world with similar economies. It would be interesting to see development of affordable, yet safe and efficient mass transit to go concurrent with this, however tradeoffs between urban and regional transportation demand create other wrinkles. Hopefully the developing world does not fall into the trap of pedestrian-unfriendly, mass-transit-unfriendly, highway-oriented development models, as the United States has.

The second of these, the AFS Trinity is announced as an "extreme hybrid" - it essentially gets much of its power via overnight charging, while also having gasoline-powered hybrid capability. It tremendously reduces dependency on gasoline, and also allows alternative electric sources to be utilized via the grid - whether solar, wind, hydro or more conventional power sources. The size (similar to a smaller SUV), range (400 miles), acceleration (0-60 in 6.9 secs in full hybrid mode), top speed (87 MPH) and low operating cost ($15.49 for combined electric and gasoline cost for 340 miles a week, vs. $47.60 for comparable vehicles in gasoline cost) make it quite respectable on the road. The company also suggested they are planning to target a 250MPG sedan in the future.

Finally, some interesting approaches toward sustainability and transportation have been featured on the Science Channel's Invention Nation series. Here, the show's three young hosts travel cross-country in a bus, which they initially powered with processed biodiesel, then converted it over to a dual-fuel system which also accomodates scavenged vegetable oil from restaurants via a heated tank and fuel line, along with a filtration bank to capture impurities. They also installed a solar panel and a garden on the roof of the bus. In the show, the team visit various inventors, including an individual making house-scale wind generators, a guy building human-powered cars, as well as company making bicycle frames from bamboo and hemp fiber as an alternative to high-tech carbon fiber. Truly, a great series showing innovative approaches toward conservation, stewardship and sustainability.

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