Business & Technology

Circuit breakers

Four obstacles facing electric bike popularity

In part 3, I promised to describe the obstacles that are keeping electric bikes from taking hold in the Pacific Northwest in the way they have in China. Here are four. 1. Immature technology As BikeHugger’s master blogger (and e-biker) DL Byron points out, electric bikes may be past the garage-tinkerer phase of development, but they’re still complicated, imperfect devices, plagued with breakdowns and performance issues. Battery care, for example, is still challenging, though it’s vastly simpler than it used to be. 2. Bike culture Photo courtesy Looking Glass via FlickrIn Asian and northern Europe cycling cities, bicycles are ubiquitous …

brain drain

Racing for cleantech jobs: Why America needs an energy education strategy

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the United States faces serious questions about the future of its economy and jobs market. Where will the good jobs of the future come from, how do we prepare the American workforce, and what is our strategy to maintain economic leadership in an increasingly competitive world? A growing consensus suggests that cleantech will be one of our generation’s largest growth sectors. The global cleantech market is expected to surpass $1 trillion in value within the next few years, and a perfect storm of factors — from the inevitability of a carbon-constrained world, to …

Flipping the Switch?

Should electric bike sales be subsidized?

Photo: Flickr via Imnop88aAs I argued in part 2, electric bikes could be forerunners for electrifying the whole transportation sector. They’re sweeping into urban areas in China by the tens of millions. New technologies are improving e-bike performance. And powerful institutions are aligning to speed battery innovations. Many observers now believe e-bikes will grow rapidly in North America, including in the Pacific Northwest. Colorado-based market analysts Pike Research, for example, predict that U.S. sales will quadruple from 250,000 e-bikes in 2010 to more than 1 million in 2016, as shown in the chart below. (Asia is left off the chart, …

Meet me at the food court

The secret mall gardens of Cleveland

Photo: Gardens Under GlassThe shopping mall is not dead. In Cleveland, in fact, it’s growing green: cucumbers, lettuce, herbs and even flowers.   In the former Galleria at Erieview mall, a project called Gardens Under Glass is taking root, part of a grand plan to transform malls into greenhouses. It’s just one of many Cleveland-based projects, suggesting that this rust belt city might have a few sustainabilty tricks to teach urban centers everywhere. Vicky Poole, who heads up marketing for the Galleria, conceived this project after looking at a photograph of plants growing in a cafe window. Hmmm, she thought, imagining …

Fashion faux pas

Chanel gives global warming the cold shoulder in Paris fashion show

Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld made a clothes call about his thoughts on global warming during Paris Fashion Week. Unlike those other designers who prefer diamonds, Karl flooded the runway with real ice: a 240 metric ton iceberg sculpture in a room that was chilly in temperature, but not in reception to his global cooling theme. Karl may make fake fur mod, but he’ll only appease the polar bears until they start sweating out of their skin. Personally, we’re not convinced Karl’s wooly wardrobe and climatic condescension are quite yeti ready-to-wear. —————————————————————————————————————————————————– Like what you see? Sign up to receive our …

HOUSE RULES

For green homes, should energy trump everything else?

Pam Worner runs a business near Seattle helping home builders adopt “green” building practices. She’s fond of the phrases “tangled up in green” and “I don’t care what your countertop is made out of.” There’s a lot packed into those sayings—the first pinpoints a classic problem with green building, while the second suggests a solution.  “Tangled up in green” gets at the overwhelming array of eco-friendly building options.  A given structure might have high-efficiency appliances, state-of-the-art insulation, a solar water heater, eco-certified hardwood floors, a permeable driveway, indigenous plants in its landscaping, easy access to a light-rail station and grocery …

charging up

Three trends that favor electric bikes

Photo: Sightline DailyIn part 1, I described the appeal of and demand for electric bikes, and mentioned that three trends bode well for them in the Pacific Northwest and the rest of North America. Battery-juiced two-wheelers could finally break out of their current status as transportation novelties, helping us rise to challenges as great as climate change, oil addiction, and recession. In this post, I detail these trends. Technology, overseas markets, and political trends all bring good portents for e-bikes. Trend 1. Technical innovation keeps improving electric bikes. The latest Giant, with lithium ion batteries, reportedly has a real-life battery …

Juice Hawgs

The parable of the electric bike

Brynnen Ford carpools kids to school in her Madsen electric bike.Photo: Brynnen FordMmmm. An electric bike. Zipping through the city. Surging up hills without gasping for breath. Riding in business dress and arriving fresh and dry. Healthy, moderate exercise. No traffic jams. Free parking. Huge load-hauling potential. Near-free fueling. Zero emissions. Breeze in your face. Appealing! So why haven’t e-bikes caught on (yet)? Especially in the Pacific Northwest, which is brimming with well-heeled tech enthusiasts? What’s stopping electric bikes from devouring automotive market share the way DVDs killed VHS? At least in good weather? Why aren’t they as commonplace on …

potty pooper

Urine-separating NoMix toilet gets thumbs-up in European countries

NoMix toilet.Photo courtesy Sustainable sanitation via Flickr Being green is all about solving problems and grabbing overlooked opportunities. It turns out that there’s such a double-win in most bathrooms around the world; if we had “NoMix” toilets that separate urine from solid waste, municipal wastewater plants would have a significantly easier task (and produce more methane to generate electricity), and we could much more easily extract precious nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen for use as fertilizer (instead of using fossil fuels). So what’s stopping us from going NoMix? According to a pretty extensive review based on surveys from 7 European …