Cities

Protesters demonstrate against British eco-towns

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Britain’s Parliament Monday to protest the government’s plan to build 15 eco-towns. The government is proposing communities characterized by sustainable construction, public transportation, green space, and walkability. It hopes to have five eco-towns built by 2016, and five more by 2020. Monday marks the last day of the government’s first phase of consultation with local folks, who have largely shown little enthusiasm for the plan. Critics say new towns will burden existing infrastructure, be built on land that should remain undeveloped, and don’t take into account the desires of local communities. The plan is “a …

Oh lord, won't you clean up my Mercedes-Benz?

Mercedes to offer a petroleum-free lineup by 2015

In the next seven years, Mercedes-Benz wants to eliminate petroleum-powered vehicles from its lineup. According to AutoblogGreen, "The German giant is working on a variety of technologies that will help provide crude oil free transport such as battery electrics, fuel cells and highly efficient internal combustion engines that can operate on biofuels." The automaker already has two new powertrains in either the concept or trial stages of development. The concept F700, which debuted in Frankfurt in fall 2007, is powered by a DiesOtto engine that combines Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition with spark ignition to get nearly the same efficiency as a diesel engine. According to the EcoGeek post, "The engine can run on biofuels, and we may have a purchasable vehicle by 2010." Last week, Phil Lanning of the Sun (U.K.) gleefully reviewed the F700 on the track in Seville, Spain. Of more interest to auto consumers on the left side of the pond: Mercedes also intends to offer an electric Smart ForTwo. Currently, one hundred of these adorable multi-colored vehicles scampering around London are already electric (and getting free parking -- but not for long!). Yet the official market release will not occur until 2010. Mercedes intends to offer an electric version of another model but has been tight-lipped about which one. Rumors, however, abound.

As gas prices rise, Americans move back to the urbs

For decades, Americans have trickled steadily out of cities into suburbia — and then into exurbia. But with gas prices high and likely to stay there, the wallet-conscious are now poised to trickle back in. In 2003, the average suburban household spent $1,422 on gasoline annually; in April 2008, that had leaped to $3,196 per year. “Before it was ‘we spend too much time driving,'” says Phil Boyle, who commutes nearly an hour into Denver, Colo. “Now, it’s ‘we spend too much time and money driving.'” A recent survey of 903 real estate agents found that 78 percent of prospective …

French capital will implement electric-car-sharing program

Having successfully implemented a bike-sharing program, Paris is revving up plans to provide electric cars that residents can pick up and drop off anywhere in the city. Mayor Bertrand Delanoë announced that 4,000 electric cars will be made available by the end of the next year at 700 pickup points. “There will be a computerized system which allows you as soon as you collect the car to announce where you’ll drop it off, so there will be a parking space available,” the mayor explains, noting that recharging stations will also be built throughout the city. Drivers could pay an annual …

Making cities less dumb

Select Committee examines the benefits of smarter urban planning

The House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing on Thursday about the opportunities for better urban planning to reduce energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions. “Planning Communities for a Changing Climate” brought together a panel of experts on “smart growth,” clean air policy, and transit. Witnesses included Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, who works in smart growth in Abu Dhabi; Steve Hewitt, administrator of Greensburg, Kan., the town that’s rebuilding green after a tornado leveled it last year; Gregory Cohen, President and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance; David Goldberg, director of communications for Smart Growth …

Some clarity on the Clarity

Honda fuel-cell vehicle: Not marketable, practical, or environmental

Technology Review asked me to comment about the hype over the new Honda fuel-cell car, which the company optimistically calls "the world's first hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle intended for mass production." The key word here is "intended." Here it is: ----- Would you buy a car that costs 10 times as much as a hybrid gasoline-electric, like the Prius? What if I told you it had half the range of the hybrid? What if I told you most cities didn't have a single hydrogen fueling station? Not interested yet? This should be the deal closer: what if I told you it wouldn't have lower greenhouse-gas emissions than the hybrid? Other than the traditional media, which is as distracted by shiny new objects as my 16-month-old daughter, nobody should get terribly excited when a car company rolls out its wildly impractical next-generation hydrogen car. Too many miracles are required for it to be a marketplace winner.

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