Smart Cities Group at MIT Media Lab Wins 2009 Buckminster Fuller Challenge

May 11, 2009 - 10:06:44 PM

Sustainable Personal Mobility: The CityCar, the RoboScooter, and Mobility-on-Demand Systems

Winning Team:

William J. Mitchell, Ryan Chin, Charles Guan, William Lark, Jr., Michael Chia-Liang Lin, Dimitris Papanikolaou, Arthur Petron, Raul-David "Retro" Poblano, Andres Sevtsuk

Excerpts from the winning entry:

"The gasoline-powered private automobile was one of the greatest inventions of all time. Over the last century, it has radically transformed our daily lives and the forms of our cities. However, it has become increasingly apparent that there are strict limits to scales at which automobile-based personal mobility systems can effectively and responsibly operate, and that we are fast approaching those limits. The proximity of limits shows up in the forms of rapidly growing negative externalities to automobile use – urban congestion, peripheral sprawl and inefficient land-use, excessive energy-use, petroleum dependence and the associated geopolitical/economic problems, local air and noise pollution, and carbon emissions contributing substantially to climate change.

In response to these problems, incremental improvements to automobile and road infrastructure technology are often worth pursuing. However, these technologies are very highly evolved and mature, so there is limited benefit to be derived from further evolution. An evolutionary path to improvement will not have a sufficient impact, within the necessary time frame, on the pressing problems of urban sustainability and global climate change. Instead, a radical reinvention of urban personal mobility systems is required."

"We have designed several new battery-electric vehicles – the CityCar, the RoboScooter, and the GreenWheel electric bicycle – that are utilized within mobility-on-demand systems. All of these vehicles are extremely lightweight, have small footprints, have no tailpipe emissions, and are extremely frugal in energy use. This is accomplished without compromising safety, comfort, convenience, or fun. Mobility-on-demand systems provide racks of these vehicles at closely spaced, convenient locations around an urban service area. Vehicles automatically recharge while they are in these racks. Users walk to the nearest rack, swipe a credit card, pick up a vehicle, drive it to a rack convenient to their destination, and drop it off. These are, in other words, ubiquitously distributed one-way rental systems. These systems are highly efficient in reducing urban congestion, energy use, and carbon emissions. They are synergistic with ubiquitous wireless networking and distributed intelligence, and with solar-friendly, wind-friendly, fuel-cell-friendly smart electrical grids. There are some attractive business models for their introduction, and the political and economic climate is increasingly propitious."

Learn More  about the winning entry

Go to the MIT Smart Cities Website


Better Place --"Sustainable, Zero-Emission Transportation as a Service"

January 02, 2009 - 10:03:38 PM

It’s simple. The car has evolved. Gas guzzlers have gone the way of the dinosaur - there’s a reason they call it “fossil fuel.” In their place we have electric versions of our favorite makes and models being developed by established car companies.

And the evolution of the car means the evolution of the entire transportation model. When we eliminate the dependence on oil, we eliminate the environmental and economic damage that came with it.

The good news is we’re evolving into something very familiar. The Better Place business model is one most of us already experience every day - with our mobile phones.  READ MORE »

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Air-Powered Car Coming to U.S. in 2009 to 2010

July 27, 2008 - 10:07:58 PM

The CityCAT, already being developed in India (above), will be available for U.S. production in three different four-door styles. But it's the radical dual-energy engine, with a possible 1000-mile range at 96 mph, that could move the Air Car beyond Auto X Prize dreams and into American garages.

Air-Powered Car Coming to U.S. in 2009 to 2010 at Sub-$18,000, Could Hit 1000-Mile Range By Matt Sullivan of Popular Mechanics Magazine

Published on: February 22, 2008
The Air Car caused a huge stir when we reported last year that Tata Motors would begin producing it in India. Now the little gas-free ride that could is headed Stateside in a big-time way.

Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM) confirmed to on Thursday that it expects to produce the world’s first air-powered car for the United States by late 2009 or early 2010. As the U.S. licensee for Luxembourg-based MDI, which developed the Air Car as a compression-based alternative to the internal combustion engine, ZPM has attained rights to build the first of several modular plants, which are likely to begin manufacturing in the Northeast and grow for regional production around the country, at a clip of up to 10,000 Air Cars per year.

And while ZPM is also licensed to build MDI’s two-seater OneCAT economy model (the one headed for India) and three-seat MiniCAT (like a SmartForTwo without the gas), the New Paltz, N.Y., startup is aiming bigger: Company officials want to make the first air-powered car to hit U.S. roads a $17,800, 75-hp equivalent, six-seat modified version of MDI’s CityCAT (pictured above) that, thanks to an even more radical engine, is said to travel as far as 1000 miles at up to 96 mph with each tiny fill-up.  READ MORE »

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Home hydrogen fueling station

June 07, 2007 - 02:12:50 PM

From the Business 2.0 website:

What could be cooler - or greener - than a hydrogen car in your driveway? Try a solar-powered hydrogen fueling station in your garage. Scientists in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a prototype of such a device. It's about the size of a filing cabinet and runs on electricity generated by standard-issue rooftop solar panels.

The first version of the home fueling station is expected to produce enough hydrogen to give your runabout a range of some 100 miles without emitting a molecule of planet-warming greenhouse gas. Road trips are out of the question, but it's enough juice for running suburban errands or powering fleets of urban delivery trucks.