Although David Bowie once sang ‘Blue, blue, electric blue, that’s the colour of my room, where I will live’, the colour of the world we live in is greener than ever. Whether or not you’ve a passion for environmentally friendly innovations, the concepts that manufacturers and engineers are coming up with today are very likely to affect you in the future. Which ones do you like the sound and vision of most?
Energy producing roads
Cars produce a lot of energy that’s currently being wasted, but researchers are looking at ways to harness this power and convert it into electricity for things like street lamps, traffic lights and charging points for electric cars. Smart materials such as 'piezolectric' ceramics could be installed in road surfaces, allowing us to convert vehicle vibrations into electrical energy.
A company in Sweden has built the first electrified road which stretches for 2 kilometres from Stockholm Airport. With rail tracks embedded in the road, cars charge up through an arm that’s attached to the bottom of the vehicle, similar to an electric tram or train. Keeping drivers away from petrol pumps, users are billed for how much power they use, and the invention would allow electric cars to cover much longer distances than they can at present.
Still very much a concept when it comes to applying the technology to cars in mainstream production, the idea of hydrogen powered vehicles actually dates back over 200 years. The Toyota FCV Plus is one car that’s harnessing the potential of the world’s most abundant element, which could prove to be a viable option when it comes to alternative energy.
Solar powered cars
Another technology that isn’t exactly new, you might not think that the UK would be the best place for solar powered cars. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen though. When combined with an electric motor, it could be possible to drive for endless hours thanks to the energy of the sun.
Last year Volkswagen unveiled a concept for a hover car, which would be a pretty monumental innovation when it comes to how we get around. Taking inspiration from the Shanghai maglev train that hovers along special rails using electromagnetic suspension, the car is tall, narrow, easy to park and emission free.
Unveiled at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, let’s hope that what happened in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. Tackling mobility and delivery services, the Toyota e-Palette has the backing of global companies such as Amazon, Pizza Hut and Uber. As well as dropping you off in the style of a taxi, the concept also aims to bring you food and deliver parcels in an environmentally friendly package.
It’s not just about usage of course, production matters too. One area where we could improve is in the tyres we use; the less rubber the motoring industry burns, the better it is for the environment. Tyre makers such as Michelin have developed designs which reveal hidden grooves as the main tread wears. This prolongs the life of the tyre, helping to reduce waste, and is a concept that could and perhaps should become reality for all tyres sooner rather than later.
Going one step further than merely improving tyre longevity, Goodyear’s Oxygene concept was introduced at the 2018 Geneva International Motor Show. With living moss that grows inside the sidewall, the tyre absorbs moisture from the road through its revolutionary tread and photosynthesises the air’s CO2 into oxygen. Clever stuff.