Cities

Electric cars: going nowhere fast

Electric motorcycles may be bridge to electric cars

I see this pea-green electric car biffing around the neighborhood now and then. I test drove a similar car a year or so ago. Entrepreneurs just can't resist testing the electric car market. One company after another goes out of business, only to be replaced by the next guy in line. It might help if they would make them less silly looking. Adding a fourth wheel might have been worth it in this case.

And You Thought It Was the TPS Reports

Your commute may be killing you, says clean-air advocacy group Here’s one more reason to hate your commute: it could be making you sick. Commuters — on car, train, bus, bike, or foot — breathe in up to eight times more diesel soot particles than they would just being in a downtown area, according to a new study by the nonprofit Clean Air Task Force. Based on air-quality monitoring on routes through New York City, Boston, Columbus, Ohio, and Austin, Texas, the task force estimates that during the 6 percent of the day spent commuting, the average person breathes in …

A journey on China’s controversial new train to Tibet

Each night, the Qinghai-Tibet train leaves Beijing at 9:30. A mere 48 hours later, it rolls into Lhasa, 2,525 miles away. Waiting to depart from Beijing. Photos: Erica Gies Shortly after 9 p.m. one warm night last fall, my travel companion and I raced through the sprawling West Beijing train station, weaving our way through a crush of humanity sitting on newspapers and bits of cardboard, eating cups of noodles while waiting for their own journeys. Winded, we boarded our soft sleeper car on Train 27 and made our way to our compartment — only to find it overflowing with …

Detroit Should Get an Award for Ending Every List

New report ranks U.S. cities on environmental and social realities A new report ranks 72 U.S. cities on their greenness — but we’re not talking just parks and bike paths. The Urban Environment Report, put out by the Washington, D.C.-based Earth Day Network, includes a “vulnerable population index” that takes into account the segment of a city’s population that is most susceptible to environmental changes, including those who are unemployed and uninsured. “This study is the first of its kind, not only because of the sheer quantity of environmental data analyzed, but also because it redefines the term ‘environmental’ to …

The Land of Electric Enchantment

Tesla Motors to build electric-car plant in New Mexico In April, electric-car start-up Tesla Motors will break ground on a manufacturing plant in Albuquerque, which beat out Flagstaff, Ariz., and Pittsburg, Calif., for the honor. The plant will churn out 10,000 WhiteStar sedans a year starting in 2009 — “zero-emission” cars that will go 250 miles on a full charge and start at $50,000. The 150,000-square-foot plant, which will provide 400 jobs, has officials singing the company’s praises. “Tesla is committed to clean energy and so is New Mexico,” sang Gov. Bill Richardson (D), while Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) warbled …

Cabin Pressure

What should greens do about air travel? Is it a sin to fly to your vacation spot? The Bishop of London recently proclaimed it so. Plenty of others are increasingly critical of excessive air travel too, though not all are as strident as the Right Reverend. The trick is figuring out what’s excessive. Is it OK to fly to developing countries for on-the-ground environmental and anti-poverty work? What about travel to important international negotiations and conferences? How does one decide which meetings are “important”? And then there’s the question of occasional visits to far-flung family members and loved ones. Peter …

The Prius snob strikes back

Prius consumes more energy in lifetime than Cherokee

I thought this article hit a little too close for comfort. If you really want to call yourself an environmentalist, do what my sister-in-law did: Buy a small Toyota hatchback and put 5,000 miles a year on it for two decades. Then there was this interesting article in the Economist discussing the future of diesel cars in America: The dirty little secret about hybrids is that their batteries and extensive use of aluminium parts make them costly to build in energy terms as well as financial terms. One life-cycle assessment claims that, from factory floor to scrap heap, a Prius consumes more energy even than a Hummer III. Diesels are unlikely to consume anything like as much over their lifetime. That could change, of course, if some bright spark decides to replace a hybrid's petrol engine with a diesel--to launch a family car capable of 100mpg. Now there's a thought. Actually not, Economist staff writer person. That assessment you refer to says that the diesel Jetta wagon will also use as much energy in its lifetime as the H3. And guess what? In all likelihood that diesel hybrid you cite will too, for the same reasons as the Prius and Jetta. But you would have known that had you bothered to actually read that lifecycle assessment. I don't blame you, actually. The damn thing is over 400 pages long. I know because I did read it. In fact, I built a spreadsheet with the data I gleaned from it to answer some burning questions I had.

Sixty-Two and You

U.S. EPA places limits on carcinogenic benzene in gasoline Late last week, the U.S. EPA announced a new rule that will affect most Americans’ gas tanks. The Mobile Source Air Toxics rule — or as we like to call it, the Your Car is Full of Crap rule — limits benzene, a carcinogen that makes up about 1 percent of current gasoline mixes but poses a whopping health threat. Beginning in 2011, refiners will have to work together to meet a national average of 0.62 percent benzene in their product, a $400 million tweak that — together with new guidelines …

Hybrid Lowdown

Toyota will introduce new advertising, incentives for Prius To many, the Toyota Prius is synonymous with months-long waiting lists. But just as the automaker has stepped up production on its hybrid darling, sales have plateaued. Fearing that the car lacks mainstream appeal, Toyota is training dealers in Prius sweet talk, hyping incentives like low- and no-interest financing, and kick-starting its very first Prius ad campaign. Priuses (Prii?) made up half of U.S. hybrid sales last year. While there are murmurings that competition from other hybrids is hurting sales, Toyota spokesperson Bill Kwong disagrees: “The Prius is like the icon for …

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