Cities

Google plugs in

Notes from a plug-in hybrid conference

Silicon Valley came to Washington this week to talk about plug-in hybrids at a great conference organized by Google.org with Brookings. The combination of tech visionaries, electric cars on display, Washington heavy hitters such as John Dingell, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and even a couple of film stars, Peter Horton and Anne Sexton of Who Killed the Electric Car?, made for a great meeting. Here are my notes from the standing room only event ...

Notable quotable

Toyota and Honda could sure learn something from Chevy!

“I don’t have to tell you how sexy the [Chevy] Volt is. The Japanese and Chinese couldn’t possibly put out something that appealing to middle …

The Daley show

Hot plans rile the Chicago waterfront

Two curious things going on along the waterfront in Chicago, which Mayor Richard Daley envisions as the “greenest city in America”: a brouhaha over plans …

Keeping tabs on Tampa

Florida city takes another smart(ish) step

Yesterday, the Tampa city council gave preliminary approval to a plan that offers incentives for green building; they’re expected to formally approve it later this …

A radiant documentary

Radiant City is a mesmerizing documentary on sprawl

Radiant City is as described in the trailer -- oddly disturbing, strangely amusing, and sadly illuminating: A terrific movie. It features planning guru/God Andres Duany and dyspeptic sprawlhater James Howard Kunstler (in a strange and hilarious tie that looks like he slept in it for a couple days) intoning, in a reasonable tone, some of their most on-target slams on sprawl and the suburban paradigm. It includes lots of "fun facts" about the suburbs, including one or two from Alan Durning's book The Car and the City. Not quite up to Errol Morris standards, but really, really good documentary.

Eco-celebrity, design, and social justice coalesce in a new Brooklyn green space

Sun, open space, and celebrity — the opening of Brooklyn’s “Garden of Hope” had them all. On an unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon last month, …

Converting a Yaris into a plug-in hybrid

Toyota may have something up its sleeve

The first car I ever owned didn't have power anything. Today you will be hard pressed to find a car without power brakes and steering. But those features also consume energy. This explains how the first wave of economy cars from Japan got such notoriously high mileage (they didn't have power anything either). One reason I chose a Yaris for my next car is that it has electric power steering and power brakes. In theory, you should be able to turn the engine off without losing power boost. I asked a mechanic at the dealership before I bought the Yaris if the power steering and brakes would continue to function with the engine turned off. "No, no," he said definitively. "It's just like any other car." Surprise! The mechanic didn't know what he was talking about. I've turned the Yaris engine off several times now while going downhill and the power boost systems continue to function just fine. Don't try this at home. [update] Seriously, don't try this at home. The mechanic was partially right. I've discovered that, given enough time, the brake boost system will eventually depressurize leaving you with insufficient braking at the bottom of a long hill. The Toyota engineers left power boost running just long enough to get you out of a pickle in the event of inadvertent engine shutdown.

San Francisco approves giant solar incentive program

San Francisco has become the proud owner of the largest municipal solar program in the United States. The Solar Energy Incentive Program, approved by the …

Notable quotable

Even green space can’t get us off our lazy you-know-whats

“This study shows you don’t really need green space.” — Dutch researcher Jolanda Maas, commenting on a new study showing that living near green space …