Business & Technology

No joke: This is the biggest battery breakthrough ever

A pioneer in battery research who already successfully launched a $350 million company to supply batteries to the likes of GE and Chrysler has done it again — only this time, "it" represents the complete reinvention of battery technology as we know it. This technology is in the research phase, but if it can be cost-effectively brought to market — and there's every reason to believe that it could be — it could revolutionize the way we store and transport energy, in the process fully replacing fossil fuels and especially oil. The key to this new technology is that the …

GM’s CEO says a gas tax hike would help the auto industry

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson doesn't want tougher fuel efficiency standards. That's no surprise. Here's the surprise: What he wants instead is a $1-per-gallon gas tax increase. If given a choice between a gas surcharge and the increasing fuel efficiency standards that are set to phase in over the next 15 years or so, Akerson says, he'd choose the tax. The overall efficiency of cars on the road would still increase, because buyers would opt for more efficient and thus more cost-effective cars. But the tax would be a better deal for the auto industry. As it turns out, high …

Double standard for fuel efficiency is literally killing Americans

An economist at UC San Diego has made a startling finding: The peculiarly American system of having one fuel efficiency standard for cars and a different, less stringent one for SUVs and trucks is increasing highway fatalities. The problem is that under the existing, two-tiered system, increases in fuel efficiency standards force car makers to shrink cars even faster than they shrink trucks and SUVs (which by law have to remain above a certain weight, anyway). This means a greater disparity in the size of cars and trucks/SUVs, which leads to more fatalities as giant tanks kick efficient little hatchbacks …

Why buy an electric car? National security, says Iraq vet

Tim Goodrich has served three tours of duty in a support role in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he loves his all-electric Nissan Leaf. His basic message, for all the Vince Vaughan types out there, is that if Americans think electric cars are “gay,” maybe it's because we aren’t as in touch with what it takes to get the oil required to make a conventional vehicle go. "How much sense does it make," he asks, "to send money to countries that don't like us, don't share our values, and sometimes find ways to get that money into the hands of terrorist …

Food

Contaminated compost? Toxins might be lurking in that bag you’re about to buy

Do you know what’s in your compost?The growing number of municipal and commercial composting operations has been one of the few bright spots in the environmental landscape, from San Francisco’s curbside composting service to this industrial-scale composting facility in Delaware. But Josh Harkinson in Mother Jones has harshed our green-tinged buzz. Thanks to fractured or lax regulations as well as the ubiquitous contamination of our environment by industrial chemicals (particularly heavy metals and pesticides), there’s a distressingly real risk of toxic chemicals making it into commercial and municipal compost. And it’s a particular problem for organic growers: Pesticide-laced compost has …

Solar Power

Making my first clean kilowatt

On May 25, my husband and I generated our first kilowatt of clean, solar electricity from the rooftop of our home here in West Virginia. It was AMAZING — as in, your-first-paper-mache-baking-soda-volcano amazing. As soon as we turned on the system, I kept running back outside to check out the new meter that measures our total solar output. On our very first day, our net meter showed we were making more energy on our rooftop than we were using, pushing that extra energy back out onto the grid and powering the homes of our neighbors. As the week wore on, …

Ken is leaving Barbie over her deforestation habit

Barbie's got a dangerous addiction to endangered Indonesian hardwood, and Ken isn't putting up with it anymore. Once he found out Mattel packaging uses wood from the fragile Indonesian rainforest, at least some of which is from evil conglomerate Asia Pulp & Paper, he was out of there, girl.  This video leans a little hard on the "Ken is gay or at least metrosexual" trope, which is dumb because a) yeah, like we need more entrenched gender roles ("OMG, boy + doll must = stereotypical swishy gay guy!") and also b) Ken has no genitals, so can he really have …

Secret electric supercar to be unveiled in Korea by end of year

If you thought the all-electric Tesla Roadster was fast — it can go from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds — wait until you get a load of the forthcoming electric supercar from little-known Leo Motors of South Korea. Details are sketchy, but the company claims that within six months, it will show off a vehicle that goes from zero to 60 in 2.9 seconds. That level of acceleration would make it the second fastest electric vehicle in the world, after the all-electric Shelby SuperCars Aero EV. (The Areo EV is no slouch when compared to conventional vehicles, by the …

Solar-powered bikini lets you charge gadgets with your boobs

Everybody knows you're not supposed to get a tan anymore. So what's the point of lying out on the beach, if you're just going to wear SPF 800 sunscreen? Well, if you're sporting designer Andrew Schneider's solar bikini, you can at least be charging your iPod while you nurse your pale yet cancer-free flesh. The bikini is covered in photovoltaic film strips terminating in a USB connector. You can get five volts out of it, which is standard maximum voltage for a USB, which means you can plug in your phone or your music player, or your external keyboard if …

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