Monday, October 5, 2015

New Electric Buses Could Change Public Transit Forever

Electric cars might be what everyone is talking about these days, but one man believes that electric buses are the transportation of the future. Ryan Popple, who was one of Tesla's earlier employees created the startup Proterra and has designed a fancy new electric bus that was able to drive 258 miles on a single charge. That number is made even more impressive by the fact that 258 miles is more than most tiny electric cars are capable of going and also much farther than a typical city bus route for a day.

This means that these electric buses are already ready to replace the hundreds of thousands of diesel buses that are traveling around the United States. Most of these diesel buses only average less than five miles to the gallon and produce a lot of carbon pollution, soot, and carcinogens into the air, including arsenic.

Because the buses do not have to rely so heavily on fuel, they are cheaper over the lifetime of their use than alternative buses, like hybrid-diesel buses or those that rely on natural gas. These buses are also something anyone can use, which essentially democratizes one of the most advanced alternative transportation technologies in modern times. According to Popple, "We're taking a technology that's used to power $100,000 sports cars, and we're putting it into the absolute most accessible transportation asset in the country."

Just like Tesla, Proterra designed these electric buses from the ground up. "I think it's important to cut ties with the legacy technology," Popple added. "If you tell your engineering group one of the rules they have to stick by is they have to use all the old parts form the parts bin, you're going to end up with a terrible product."

Electric vehicles run in a fundamentally different way than traditional vehicles. In electric cars, the engine is no longer the heaviest part and you no longer have to worry about exhaust or a tank of flammable gasoline. New parts, including battery packs, also need to go into different places. There are new parts to the design that are optimized for electricity and have other advantages. The buses themselves are made from carbon fiber so they are extremely lightweight, which allows the battery system to be smaller. Additionally, because the bus isn't made of metal, it also doesn't rust and lasts longer on the road. The weight also has an evener distribution, which allows for better turning and acceleration.

In addition to that, it is also easier to be manufactured. According to Popple, "Long term, we have a huge advantage over steel bus manufacturers. They're building buses like you'd build a house. They build a steel frame, they rivet things onto it. At our factory, we take in a composite body just like an aircraft fuselage."

It should be noted that the 258 mile trip was in peak conditions. In real conditions, with a load of people, on a rough road, and with different weather conditions, the bus probably won't get such good mileage. However, the 258 miles is far more than necessary as the average city bus only travels 130 miles in a day. "We think we've now hit the range that really removes any sort of range anxiety," Popple added. "There's no physical reason why you couldn't deploy zero-emission, quiet, high-tech buses."

Right now, Popple is in talks with a number of U.S. transit agencies and, in five years, hopes to reach all of them. "We want to talk to that last agency that's about to buy the last set of diesel buses. I don't know why we're encouraging people to buy cars. It's a terrible investment, you're exposed to oil prices, you have insurance costs. What we should be doing is putting out low-carbon mass transit, and helping people get back to work for pennies a day as opposed to dollars."

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Could Our Roads Someday Charge Our Cars?

There's now a new study in London, England that could drastically improve the range of electric cars by designing roads that can charge these cars while you're driving along them. If you're not fortunate enough to have a Tesla or live close to a supercharging station, then your electric car battery won't take you very far. Electric cars get 260 miles to a full charge, but a regular gas car can get you 300 miles or more.

Highways England announced that they will be doing an 18-month trial with charging lanes. Unfortunately, the testing will not be open to public roads for right now. Through these trials, vehicles will be fitted with wireless technology and roads will be installed with special equipment to simulate motorway conditions. The electricity will be generated by electric cables put under the surface of the roads that will generate electromagnetic fields, which then will be picked up by a coil inside the device.

This trial will start later on this year and we'll get the full scoop after a contractor has been chosen for the job. Then following with actually using this project on real roads. Transport Minister Andrew Jones says that "the government is already committing £500 million over the next five years to keep Britain at the forefront of this technology."

Highways England's Chief Highways Engineer Mike Wilson says, "Vehicle technologies are advancing at an ever increasing pace and we’re committed to supporting the growth of ultra-low emissions vehicles on England’s motorways and major A roads. The off-road trials of wireless power technology will help to create a more sustainable road network for England and open up new opportunities for businesses that transport goods across the country."

Don't mistake this trial as being the first. There's a 7.5-mile road stretch in South Korea, that charges up electric buses as they drive, using a process called Shaped Magnetic Field in Resonance (SMFIR). There's also a trial in Milton Keynes, England that shows buses being charged wirelessly through plates in the road. The only downside with this one was the buses had to stop moving to be able to charge.

This new scheme in London is way more ambitious and has a lot of positive potential in changing the electric car scene. Although there's been some skeptical questioning on this trial being efficient or just a waste of money, there's always room for battery technology improvements, so maybe these roads won't even need to be used in the future. No matter what, I think it could be a fun trial and could possibly be a big part of the world's future in new technology.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Samsonite Creates Smart Luggage That Can Check Itself In At The Airport

Luggage maker Samsonite has teamed up with Samsung to bring you smart luggage. That's probably not what it's actually called, but let's be honest here, the term is coming. And everyone remember that I said it first. According to The Daily Mail, the luggage that the two companies are working on will let you track the location of your bags, tell you if anyone is opening them, and somehow they will actually be able to move themselves. You will be able to track all this from an app that you will be able to install on any smartphone.

Other cool features include sending you alerts right when the luggage is taken off the plane or moved to the carousel. The companies are also working on being able to have the bags check themselves in automatically when you get to the airport. Pretty soon you won't have to do anything when  you get to the airport.

Another crazy thing they are working on is a bag that will be self propelled and will actually be able to follow you anywhere you go as you make your way around the airport. It will be able to follow six inches behind you at all times. They will have their own remote control too. This is either really cool, or really creepy. I feel like airports are about to look like an episode of The Jetsons.

Apparently it's going to be a little while before all of this takes off though. The company is still working on everything, and still trying to make the motor and remote control small enough to fit into the bag without taking up too much valuable room.

Is this the future of luggage? Is this what we can expect to see in airports in the next few years? Will it even be that cool? Who knows, but it is still a pretty neat idea. And, Samsung doesn't really disappoint with anything they are involved in, so at least we know it will be a serious product.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

7 Amazing Summer Events In The Baltimore, MD Area That You NEED To Attend!

Summer is fast approaching, and I'm sure you can all guess what that means. There will be a plethora of different events and festivals happening nationwide! There are a few special ones that will be taking place in the Baltimore, MD area. If you're looking to spice up your summer with some fun, here are some of the best events too look forward to in the Baltimore area!


AVAM Kinetic Sculpture Race
This just so happens to be one of those events for the more eccentric types, but can still be fun for any passerby! Human-powered sculptures trek through the streets, mud and harbor waters. 10 a.m. May 2. Free for spectators. American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway. For more information, click the link above!

Wine in the Woods
Who doesn't love a nice glass of Merlot. Or perhaps a more sweet Moscato is your thing. No matter what your choice of wine is, there's plenty to enjoy at the Wine in the Woods festival! Enjoy gourmet treats, live bands and wine tasting. Go on, you deserve it! 11 a.m. May 16-17. Price TBD. 5950 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia.


What better way to add some spice to your summer than by attending this years Latino Fest. Immerse yourself in Hispanic culture by dancing the day away, trying classic dishes and admiring art. Times and prices TBD. June 27-28. Patterson Park.

African American Festival
Mix culture, empowerment seminars and live performances and what do you get? A great time. Celebrity appearances and times TBD. June 20-21. Free. Camden Yards Lots B and C between Camden Yards and M&T Bank stadium, 1101 Russell St.


Vans Warped Tour
This particular music festival is by far my favorite music festival there is. With thousands of people in attendance every day of the tour, you can only imagine the energy and happiness that comes from this event. With bands like Asking Alexandria, Beartooth, Slaves, and even some non-rock/metal groups like Riff Raff, you can be sure that this years event will be the biggest and best yet! July 18 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion. 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD 21044.

Anime fans rejoice! Baltimore hasn't forgotten about this incredible part of Asian popular culture! You can be sure that there will be plenty of cosplaying and LARPing to boot! Anime fans flock to this three-day convention to celebrate East Asian popular culture. July 24-26. Ticket prices TBD. Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St.


Baltimore Fashion Week
Sometimes, you don't like getting all dressed up and want to see other people get dressed up. This event is definitely up your alley then! For its eighth annual production season, budding artists and designers prove that fashion is also art. Aug. 14-16. Various locations and ticket prices.

As always, remember that if you are attending any of these events as a vendor or are putting on the event and you need fast and easy technology rentals, then feel free to visit the Baltimore, MD Rentacomputer Rental Service for any of your tech needs!

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