Transportation has always presented significant design challenges. And no mode of transportation is more fraught with potential hurdles than the automobile.
How can we improve fuel efficiency without affecting performance? Are there ways to reduce weight while maintaining strength and safety? How can we increase recyclability of components at end of life?
Given that the number of cars and trucks on the road is expected to more than double in the next 20 years; and that the Obama Administration raised CAFE Standards to 54.5 MPG for light cars and trucks by 2025, how we approach vehicle design will greatly affect the environmental impact of how we get around.
And in this year, having just passed the 125th anniversary of the internal combustion engine, new pioneers are already starting to make a difference in the way we approach transportation.
• For example, Green Lite Motors has built a hybrid-electric two-person vehicle that gets 100 MPG. This innovative vehicle delivers the safety and comfort of a car with a small footprint and energy efficiency similar to a motorcycle.
• KOR Ecologic’s “Urbee” is a three-wheel, two-seat, next-generation hybrid vehicle that is capable of achieving up to 200 MPG. And many of the car’s components are designed to be 3D printed, making production as local and low-waste as it can get.
• Not to be outshone on the roads, PiMobility is developing an electric bicycle called the PiCycle. The PiCycle’s single, arch-like tube of recycled aluminum is the key to its strength, and unlike plastic parts prone to breakage, provides a durability that ensures the bike will last over the long haul, a key sustainable design strategy.
The essence of design is people thinking through problems to create solutions. With the right tools, clean tech companies can design cleaner, cooler transportation for all and then bring those ideas to market faster and more cost effectively. Thanks to these companies and many others, the wheels are already in motion.