Meriem Chabani and colleagues won first prize in the latest Jacques Rougerie Competition for their Arctic Harvester, which is designed to support 800 people. The idea is to float this donut-shaped facility off the coast of Greenland, where workers would collect small bergs from the surrounding area and move them into a central bay where they'd melt. The freshwater would be used to feed plants grown in a hydroponic greenhouse. The fruits and vegetables produced could be sold to people living near the coast of the mainland.
At Tesla, Popple could rely on early adopters eager to pay a premium for an electric car. As the new chief executive officer of Proterra, which makes an $850,000 electric bus, he’s got a tougher audience: municipal governments that are used to paying as little as $300,000 for a diesel-guzzler. They’re reluctant to invest so much in the promise of energy savings down the line. Proterra argues that the wait isn’t long. “We’ve seen paybacks against diesel and hybrids in as little as two years and as long as six years,” says Popple. He’s persuaded some powerful backers. On June 18 he announced a $40 million round of investment led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (where he remains a partner), GM Ventures (GM), and the Pritzker family’s Tao Invest, bringing Proterra’s total outside funding to $100 million.
Twice is one of many startups attempting to make the environmentally sound choice preferable and easy for consumers while making a profit in the process. The statistics driving these efforts are shocking: In the U.S., 90% of mobile devices are thrown away rather than recycled. Up to 40% of the food produced gets trashed. Americans junk some 12 million tons of textiles each year. “There’s no way we can continue to produce waste at the level that we are and survive on this planet,” says Adam Werbach, a co-founder of Yerdle, a site where people trade things they might otherwise throw out. “It really is much easier to click a button than it is to knock on your neighbor’s door.” And that is the convenience gap these enviro-preneurs hope to close.
Which brings us to another number: €2 billion ($2.77 billion). That is a conservative estimate of how much BMW has spent to create, from scratch, the "i" brand devoted to building sustainable electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. The program has its own carbon-neutral supply chain, starting with the hydroelectrically powered facility in Moses Lake, Wash., that makes the carbon-fiber thread from which lightweight vehicles are built. The i cars are assembled at a Zaha Hadid-designed facility in Leipzig, Germany.
The i3 brought to market the program's signature LifeDrive technology: All the car's moving parts, the machinery, is packed into a lightweight aluminum Drive chassis, like a roller-skate truck. The body of the car, the passenger safety cell, is spun out of a light, strong carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). And the two modules, Life and Drive, are essentially glued together, meshing on the assembly line like two sides of a zipper. The resulting car is 2,860 pounds.
The winglet you see on most new 737s has evolved and some of the newest United and Southwest 737-800 and 900 planes are sporting what Aviation Partners calls a Scimitar winglet.
It replaces the “aluminum winglet tip cap with a new aerodynamically shaped “Scimitar” TM winglet tip cap and by adding a new Scimitar tipped Ventral Strake. This revolutionary design was flight tested by Aviation Partners, Inc. in 2012 and demonstrated significant aircraft drag reduction over the basic Blended Winglet configuration”
The storage system, looking something like a refrigerator with the Tesla logo emblazoned on it, contains hundreds of the same lithium ion batteries that go into Tesla’s Model S sedan. “If you go to the end of the manufacturing line at the Tesla factory where they put the battery pack on, you will see these storage systems being assembled,” says Peter Rive, SolarCity’s co-founder and chief technology officer. SolarCity now sells the industrial version alongside a smaller, wall-mounted system that’s been installed in about 500 homes so far. The commercial unit has been in beta tests for months and is selling in limited quantities so far.
SolarCity's innovation wasn't technological but financial. Instead of selling solar systems outright, which can cost $20,000 or more, SolarCity would install them for free and then sell the electricity the panels generated to customers at a fixed rate over the life of a 20-year contract.
Given that utility rates are expected to rise, customers taking advantage of so-called power-purchase-agreement contracts are able to avoid the prohibitive up-front cost of solar and save money over the life of their contract. SolarCity also offered solar leases, not unlike car leases, in which customers pay a fixed monthly price for their systems. "With a lease, you immediately start saving, and from Day One you pay less for electricity than you were before," says Shayle Kann, vice president for research at Greentech Media. The model--now used by most solar installers--opened a huge new market.
Of course, subsidies help. The federal government offers a 30% tax credit on solar systems, and states provide additional incentives. Some states also have net-metering laws, which require utilities to pay solar-system owners for any excess electricity they feed back into the grid. That's what has some utilities concerned about distributed solar. If solar can keep growing, a significant percentage of utility customers will begin producing more and more of their own energy--and paying less to utilities. Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, argues that if utilities don't evolve, SolarCity will become a threat.
As opposition to genetically modified crops has spread across Europe and the world, leading chemical companies including BASF and DuPont have turned to mutagenesis—a technique that mimics the sun’s irradiation of plants—to create herbicide-resistant crops. The process, which faces almost no regulation, creates opportunities for companies to grab a bigger share of the $34 billion global commercial seed market. But some scientists say mutant crops are more likely to pose health risks than genetically modified ones.
Mutagenesis isn’t new: Breeders have relied on it for decades to produce thousands of varieties of lettuce, oats, rice, and other crops. BASF today licenses its technologies to 40 of the world’s biggest seed companies, including DuPont and Switzerland’s Syngenta (graph has some of its seed brands) which in turn sell high volumes of mutant breeds, ranging from wheat to sunflowers, in markets that reject genetically engineered seeds.
USA Today on technology to improve auto fuel efficiency
“Perhaps the most obvious place to look for efficiency gains is under the hood. That's why Honda, Chrysler, and GM offer engines that shut off cylinders when not in use. At highway speeds, a V8 can turn into a four-cylinder to conserve fuel, but on the on-ramp the whole engine will come to life.
Going a step further, a number of automakers offer engines that shut off entirely when the car isn't moving. Known as Auto Start-Stop, the technology keeps engines from wasting fuel while idling at stoplights. Ford estimates that its Auto Start-Stop feature can boost fuel economy by four to 10%.
There's even efficiency to be gained when slowing for those stoplights. The latest Mazda 6 offers an optional regenerative braking system called i-ELOOP (in graph). It recovers energy from braking that otherwise would've been wasted as heat, and stores it to power other vehicle functions.”