Mobility of the future

Quite some time has passed since I wrote my last article on this blog. Even though the numbers of visitors is certainly less than during times in which I wrote a lot of posts, there always are at least a few checking on different previously written posts according to the statistics.

Some time ago I posted some information about the idea of an air propelled vehicle for use in urban areas. That in mind and taking a more general view on the mobility of the future questions arise: What other sustainable technologies are there that could contribute to a wide-ranging solution for the need of individual mobility?  Are they economically feasible? Do they give way to new problems? Who will be able to use these technologies? What are the resources needed for their production as well as for their operation?

Most established automobile companies are investigating the possibilities of electric propulsion since many years. While different kinds of electric engines can drive vehicles with efficiencies over 90% at very high acceleration rates with no direct emissions from the engine the problem remains the storage of the energy.

Tesla Motors, basically one of the most advanced, if not THE most advanced producer of electric cars, for instance, claims their batteries provide enough energy to propel the Tesla Model S for ca. 500km. While this might not seem bad, the realistic range will probably be lower due to non-ideal influences like additional friction losses and handling of the car by the driver. However, their new charging technologies promise a charging speed of 110km kWh worth of range per charging hour and there are 62 supercharger stations in Europe, 112 supercharger stations in North America and 17 in Asia provided by Tesla Motors, that can charge half of the battery in only 20 minutes.

tesla superchargerConsidering these recent developments and innovations by Tesla Motors and keeping in mind that they will keep developing and improving their products, there is a lot to learn and to catch up for competitors within the automotive industries.  But while the risk of profit losses might hold them back the technological advances in the area of alternative mobility solutions, in particular electromobility, inevitably move forward.

An alternative to storing the energy in heavy accumulators would be to generate them in a fuel cell. I believe that this technology has a great future once the necessary infrastructure has been established. Cars driving on hydrogen hardly have emissions and drive on hydrogen and oxygen. The production of the hydrogen and its distribution certainly has to be taken into account when striking an energy balance.

Electric_car_sharing_MilanApart from new technologies new approaches have to be made. An era of renewed, innovative ways of mobility require a new mentality and a new approach. It could for instance start with more car sharing concepts – especially in urban areas. This would tackle the problem of pollution in busy city centers and further increase the public awareness of alternative mobility concepts. And most of all the change of concept can be seen as an opportunity rather than a risk. In recent years we have become spoiled with flexible and individual mobility while often forgetting about the problems of conventional cars driven by fossil fuels. While keeping the advantages of flexibility and individualism the rise of new concepts like car sharing in urban areas will enhance the efficiency of our collective mobility and furthermore with this change of awareness hopefully new room will be given to new and innovative ideas not only in technologies, but especially in concepts and ways of thinking. After all technology should foster human interaction.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein:

“Concern for man and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.”

The AirPod

Could this be the mobility option for the future? A small vehicle that drives on air: The AirPod.
Despite its problems it is an exciting and innovative concept, which is why I decided to post this article.

The french company MDI (Motor Development International) has developed a concept of a car that drives on compressed air. It’s a result of the company’s studies on pollution and urban mobility.

According to MDI this concept could be the future of urban mobility due to its environmental friendliness, small prize and size and innovative design. There are different designs apart from the AirPod: The One FlowAir, Mini FlowAir, City FlowAir and Multi FlowAir.

Here are some specifications for the AirPod*:

  • Turning radius: 1.9 m
  • Tare weight: 220 kg
  • Power: 4 kW
  • Recharging time: 1.5 min (at compressor station)
  • Stock pressure: 350 bar
  • Tank capacity:  175 l
  • Maximum speed: 80 km/h
  • Maximum range: ca. 100 km
  • Energy consumption: 7 kWh / 100 km

*The specifications are taken from the official website

The concept has not yet made its way to commercial production and there are several points of criticism, i.e. not all the specifications above have been verified.

For more information check out the company’s website.

The AirPod in action

AirPod interior