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Plug-in Play

Enterprising hybrid owners tinker to get better mileage Hybrid vehicles have been touted as the Next Big Thing in efficient transportation. So what's the Next Next Big Thing? Maybe hybrids with a twist. A handful of engineering students at the University of California at Davis and other mechanically inclined greens have been tinkering with existing hybrids to boost their mileage by giving them increased battery capacity and a plug. The result is cars and SUVs that are still powered by a gasoline/electricity mix but whose internal-combustion engines switch on later and less often than those of unmodified hybrids -- and …

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Vancouver wants to improve public spaces

Good job them.

Via Worldchanging, where they are quite enamored of Vancouver, I see the city's 21 Places for the 21st Century contest. Participants are encouraged to choose a favourite public place or site, and then propose a change or improvement to it. Changes can be abstract or concrete; permanent, temporary, or seasonal. Your chosen public space may be large or small, as may your change. Ideas for activities or programmes to be offered in a public place are also welcome. You're only limited by your imagination. Dreamy. What if every city in North America held a similar contest?

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Ford: “Tough”

Two California drivers fight Ford to keep their electric vehicles An around-the-clock protest began Friday in Sacramento, Calif., to save two electric vehicles from being repossessed and scrapped by their maker. The electricity-powered Ford Ranger pickup trucks were two of many produced by Ford Motor Co. during a new-vehicle pilot program in 1999 and then leased to drivers. Lessees David Raboy and William Korthof say they're ready to purchase the vehicles, which cost very little to maintain, require no gasoline, and have no direct emissions. But Ford is ready to (ahem) pull the plug on these EV Rangers because, according …

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And to Sprawl a Good Night

Urban sprawl imperils species, report says If you needed one more reason to hate urban sprawl, we're happy to help: It's imperiling species left and right. According to a report by the National Wildlife Federation, Smart Growth America, and NatureServe, the next 25 years will see more than 22,000 square miles* of habitat lost to development in 35 of the sprawlingest metropolitan areas in the U.S. This comes as bad news to the 553 species the groups identified as unique to those areas. "The bottom line is that these species are at risk of extinction due to habitat destruction," said …

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Baby, You Can Drive My Car — In 2010

Lots more hybrids and hydrogen cars in the pipeline We begin with a public service announcement: Quit driving so damn much. Ride your bike. Take a bus. Walk. OK, with that out of the way, we turn to auto news, which is plentiful. Ford announced it would add four new hybrids to its lineup, at least one by the end of the year. GM announced that it would add two, both SUVs. GM also made a splash by unveiling the Sequel, a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered car with a range of 300 miles, something of a milestone in the hydrogen car biz. …

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Suit of Harmer

Automakers sue California over greenhouse-gas emission regs The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers filed suit against California on Tuesday, charging that the state's new regulations on greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles (requiring a roughly 30 percent cut by 2016) amount to the imposition of new fuel-economy standards, which is the feds' purview. The Schwarzenegger administration has pledged to defend the regulations in court. Automakers predict that the regs will drive average vehicle prices in the state up by some $3,000, restrict consumer choice, and cause the sky to fall. To enviros' chagrin, Toyota, a company actually selling fuel-efficient cars, joined the suit, …

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Fond O’ Honda

Honda ranked as greenest automaker Of the six largest automakers selling vehicles in the U.S., Honda is the greenest, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Emissions from Honda's 2003 vehicles amounted to less than half the industry average. Nissan, which ranked second, was the most improved in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide. GM, ranked last, was the only automaker whose emissions worsened in the 2003 model year compared to two years previous. A GM spokesflack pointed out that its ranking was low only because it makes bigger vehicles than the others. (As the kids say: …

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Hyper Activism

Software company Hyperion offers employees money for fuel-efficient cars California software company Hyperion is getting quite a bit of positive press for offering its employees $5,000 toward the purchase of a fuel-efficient car, and we're happy to jump on the bandwagon. The grant is available to any of Hyperion's 2,600 employees who have worked at the company for more than a year and who buy a vehicle that gets at least 45 miles to the gallon. The company will offer 200 grants a year on a first-come first-served basis. Currently, the range of vehicles that meet that standard is fairly …

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Take It E.V.

Electric vehicles catching on in China; Smart cars coming to U.S. All the talk these days is about hybrid and hydrogen cars, but in China, where air pollution is an ongoing crisis, they haven't given up on electric vehicles. Improvements in battery technology are making electric cars, scooters, and buses a viable option, with shorter charging times and traveling ranges that rival those of gasoline-powered vehicles. Electric scooters are already popular in crowded cities, and Beijing and Shanghai plan to deploy hundreds of electric buses in coming years. As Lee Schipper of the World Resources Institute points out, "Such cars …

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Umbra on Wal-Mart

Dear Umbra, Why is Wal-Mart evil? This is really a request for more information. I have often heard that the company has a weak environmental track record, treats its employees poorly, and generally is Satan incarnate. However, when challenged on this position, I have no data. My opponents argue that shopping in bulk reduces packaging. I also have to admit that a case of Pellegrino for $10 pulls me closer to the dark side. I am growing weak. Please combat my temptation with information. Hurry before I have lost my soul. James Washington, Penn. Dearest James, Why Wal-Mart is evil …