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.”

Perpetuum Mobile – between marvel and deception

The Perpetual Motion Machine – a heavily debated topic and an ongoing strife for its realization at the same time. One can look at it from many different viewpoints and this article attempts to elucidate a few aspects of this interesting phenomenon. It is meant to instigate thoughts and discussions and appropriate feedback is very much appreciated as are other related ideas and inventions.

As fascinating as the idea of perpetual motion and consequently the concept of free energy sounds one cannot neglect the theoretical and commonly accepted laws of physics that have brought us to the state of science of today. Consequently we also have to examine the concept of a perpetual motion machine under this light. According to the first law of thermodynamics energy cannot be created nor destroyed – it can only be converted to different forms. According to the second law of thermodynamics these forms of energy can be generally divided into exergy and anergy and while assimilating a system to its environment the exergy will decrease while the anergy increases. Anergy cannot be transformed into work (= exergy).

Taking into consideration these basic laws of thermodynamics it provides enough knowledge to reasonably argue against the possibility of the existence of a perpetual motion machine. Since no energy within a closed system can be produced out of nowhere, a machine couldn’t provide enough energy to maintain itself while overcoming its own energy dissipation let alone additionally propelling any form of generator. If one would take it a step further and try to recover the energy that has been transformed into heat through dissipative processes one would arrive at the limits of the second law of thermodynamics, which states that anergy cannot be re-transformed into exergy or in other words: The process of transforming work to heat is irreversible.

So why bother even trying to build such machines?! It is a valid question that everyone has to answer for himself. As for me – a student of engineering who believes to be familiar with at least the basic laws of physics – I cannot help but being fascinated at the sophisticated attempts of people putting forth their knowledge and creativity to build such machines.

Here is a fascinating example: Reidar Finsrud from Norway and his perpetual motion machine

And a website with many other ideas: Perpetuum-Mobile.de


To stimulate your minds a bit more here’s another interesting thought:

The above mentioned laws of thermodynamics are defined within a closed system, however where exactly one chooses to draw the border of the system is up to oneself as long as one is consistent with it. For example if one takes an electric engine and draws the border around the rotor without knowledge of the magnetic field that is induced by the stator, it could be considered a perpetual motion machine because one would not understand the reason for the motion. Referring to this simple example, couldn’t it be possible that we create a machine that seems to us like a perpetuum mobile because it uses energy sources that we don’t fully understand, yet (e.g. the field of quantum mechanics), and thus we simply haven’t drawn our system borders around it, yet?!


Please feel free to share your constructive thoughts and any creative ideas you might have or have heard of.

Let’s stay excited about life and all there is to discover!

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

ASIMO – The Most Advanced Humanoid Robot

What looks more like someone in a space suit is nothing less than HONDA’s most advanced humanoid robot “ASIMO”. (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility). ASIMO, however, was not made for space but rather to be a helper to people. He has a wide range of abilities that enable him to fulfill his purpose. Here are just mentioned a few:

  • recognize moving objects, postures, gestures, its surrounding environment, faces, voices
  • interaction with people, i.e. handshakes, following someone, interpreting voice commands, identifying people by their voice
  • walking speed of 2.7 km/h and running speed of 6 km/h
  • autonomously avoids obstacles
  • climbs stairs
  • carries trays and prevents spilling its contents
  • pushes and freely controls carts

The first version of ASIMO was unveiled in 2000. Since then it has been updated and improved (the specifications above refer to the latest release).

Sources: http://asimo.honda.com and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASIMO

ASIMO conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

ASIMO serving a tray