In a 2016 broadcast of NPR’s Fresh Air, author and cultural anthropologist Gretchen Bakke characterized America’s energy grid as “increasingly unstable, underfunded, and incapable of taking us to a new energy future.” Nevertheless, the steady march toward progress continues, and the threat of obsolescence is driving many cities, urban planners, developers, and businesses to invest in the future. “We happen to be at a moment in time where people are starting to fear that technological obsolescence in the workplace and in cities is a pretty tough place to be and has some real consequences economically for the buildings and the cities that don’t have high-speed networking or don’t have modern energy,” observed Brian Lakamp, founder and CEO of Totem Power. “That’s why you’re seeing city planners, mayors, and businesses get more aggressive about deploying built environment technology than they ever have been, as far as I can tell.” (Note: Some states, such as California, have already passed legislation requiring new buildings to be outfitted with electric vehicle charging ports.) Identifying significant shifts in transportation, communication, and energy, Lakamp saw an opportunity to solve a problem that innovation imposes on our aging buildings. For example, as millions of electric vehicles begin to flood the market in the years ahead, a major investment in infrastructure will be required to support them. Similarly, as buildings are rewired with higher-gauge electrical cabling to accommodate new energy and communications networks, it’s clear that smarter, more flexible solutions are required to meet these ever-increasing demands. “With the coming of 5G and some of the IoT technologies, electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles, there’s a lot that is emerging that needs to change in terms of the way communications networks work and new technology is presented that gets really exciting,” Lakamp said. “We’re here as a way to deploy that infrastructure in the built environment in a way that can be made beautiful and impactful.” To that end, Lakamp launched Totem, a groundbreaking energy solution that reimagines and redesigns smart utility. The Totem platform combines solar energy and energy storage, WiFi and 4G communications, electric vehicle charging, and smart lighting into a single, powerful product that weaves these capabilities directly into the built environment.
Posts tagged with "electric cars":
Thirty cities—including New York, L.A., and Chicago—are investing billions in electric vehicles to show doubters (like, uh, our president) that there is indeed a market for fuel-efficient cars and trucks. The $10 billion investment, still in its negotiation stage, is a clear message to the auto industry that there's growing demand for low-emission vehicles, even as President Trump moves to relax pollution standards opposed by the auto industry. The cities reached out to car manufacturers to provide feasibility report on 114,000 electric vehicles, a fleet which, Bloomberg News reports, could include garbage trucks, street sweepers, and police cars. “No matter what President Trump does or what happens in Washington, cities will continue leading the way on tackling climate change,” Matt Petersen, the chief sustainability officer for Los Angeles, told the paper. During a meeting with Big Three executives on Wednesday, the President announced plans to review Obama-era fuel efficiency standards. The heads of General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford all say that the fuel-saving innovations are too expensive to implement and that drivers aren't interested in the technology. A spokesman for an industry trade group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told Bloomberg News that carmakers offer 95 different electric and hybrid vehicles but all those sales are eclipsed by one popular gasoline-powered pickup truck. Despite the industry's claims, the city-led inquiry could boost the electric vehicle market substantially, potentially accounting for almost three-quarters of the electric vehicle sales in the United States. So far, there's interest on the supply side: Almost 40 manufacturers have responded to the request, which is being led by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Four cities—Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and L.A.—ordered about 24,000 electric vehicles earlier this year, and since then an additional 26 cities have signed onto the initiative. “Now more than ever there is a need for cities’ leadership on climate,” said Daniel Zarrilli, New York City’s senior director of climate policy and programs. “We really want to send a message that there is a growing market for electric vehicles—regardless of what is happening in D.C.”
When Alvin Huang and his colleagues at Synthesis Design + Architecture (SDA) saw the brief for Volvo’s “Switch to Pure Volvo” competition, they decided to give the auto manufacturer more than it had asked for. The competition, which was organized by The Plan magazine, asked architects to design an iconic, yet portable, pavilion for the new Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid electric car. SDA came up with the Pure Tension pavilion, a steel-frame structure that not only assembles in an hour, but is small enough to fit in the trunk of the car. And the pavilion doesn’t just showcase the car: it also charges it, thanks to 252 lightweight flexible photovoltaic panels incorporated into the structure’s mesh fabric surface. “[We were] really thinking about the potential for this to be more of an application than an object,” Huang said. SDA’s Pure Tension pavilion beat out 150 other entries to win the competition last spring, and has since begun a 9-month promotional tour with the car brand, to culminate in an appearance at The Plan’s annual Perspective event next summer. A product of SDA’s ongoing research into dynamic mesh relaxation, the Pure Tension pavilion comprises a CNC bent aluminum frame with a two-piece vinyl encapsulated polyester mesh membrane. The photovoltaic panels are arrayed within an applied black-on-white graphic that accentuates the pavilion’s curves. SDA utilized intensive solar incidence analysis to place the panels for maximum exposure to sunlight, while an integrated Maximum Power Point Tracking controller automatically disables underperforming cells to optimize power collection. The power from the panels goes to an attached battery pack, which in turn delivers a steady charge to the car. The entire system weighs only 150 pounds and fits into two 65-inch-by-15-inch-by-15-inch rifle cases. Huang sees the Pure Tension pavilion as a meditation on how the move away from fossil fuels might transform car culture. “It’s more a vision of the future, much the way a concept car is,” he said. “It’s not meant to be a production item, more like an attitude being taken, where we want to explore.” Huang highlighted two features of the pavilion in particular. First, there’s the fact that the pavilion simultaneously charges and shades the care. “One of the problems with charging electric cars is that charging generates heat,” he explained. “You have to put them in the sun.” The Pure Tension pavilion protects the Volvo V60 hybrid from overheating while harnessing solar energy for later use. In addition, because the pavilion sends energy from the photovoltaic panels to a battery pack, it doesn’t need to be attached to the car in order to do its work. “In theory,” Huang said, “you can set up the pavilion, drive away, come back, and charge [your car]...as opposed to setting it up and getting three minutes of charge because you’re stopped for three minutes.” The pavilion was designed by SDA with structural engineering help from Buro Happold Los Angeles. It was fabricated by Fabric Images in Chicago, with custom photovoltaic panels by Texas company Ascent Solar.
In Palo Alto, California, the city council recently approved a proposal (9-0) to alter the city's building code, requiring new homes to install wiring for electric car charging stations. Pre-wiring for the 240-Volt Level 2 charging stations costs about $200, while many homes in the city sell for over $1 million. The proposal would also make it easier for homeowners to get permits to retrofit their homes for the charging stations. (Photo: Steve Jurvetson / Flickr)While some fear the city is overstepping its boundaries, and that electric cars may not be the way of the future, supporters see this as a viable step closer toward more sustainable neighborhoods and cities by lowering greenhouse gases, in targeting the infrastructure of where we live first. Last year, Vancouver passed a similar ordinance requiring electric car charging stations in several types of residences. Here's a detailed checklist from the City of Palo Alto with the requirements for installing a home car charging station. And here's a roundup of which cities around the world have the most electric cars.
French automaker Renault has launched a new line of electric cars, their Z.E. line, and as part of its marketing promotions asks why we're still using gas to power autos if we don't for other everyday objects. Imagine a world where all your electric gadgets released a steady stream of exhaust. The result is surreal and at times hilarious. Take a look for yourself after the jump. (Via PSFK.)
As automakers vie to release the next generation of plug-in electric cars, many eco-conscious drivers have wondered about the lack of charging infrastructure in dense urban environments. Unlike in, say, London, where charging points are being planned within one mile of every citizen by 2015, New Yorkers have heard little about curbside electric pumps. Well, if you’re looking for a place to plug in your GM Volt, one company’s vision of the future has arrived. This week, Brooklyn-based sustainable energy company Beautiful Earth (BE) unveiled their new solar-powered electric vehicle charging station, the first in New York and one of just a few in the world. Designed and built by BE from recycled steel shipping containers, the off-grid station sits on a lot near the company headquarters in Red Hook, collecting the sun’s rays with a roof of Sharp 235-watt photovoltaic panels. With a battery bank that stores electricity around the clock, the 6-kilowatt station can charge a car even at night, and could potentially feed unused electricity back into the grid. For now, the new station’s larger impact is more symbolic than practical: It’s only being used to charge BE’s company electric sports car, a BMW Group Mini E (though it would work just as well with any electric vehicle). A full charge gives the Mini E a little over a 100-mile range and takes about three hours, but shorter charging times are well within reach. “As the technology advances, easy charging stations will become increasingly realistic,” said Amanda Cleary, BE’s manager of sustainability.