Ecomodo - The Best Of Treehugger

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This week at TreeHugger: We get plugged in with a company called Hybrid Technologies, who is making plans to bring all-electric, lithium battery-powered PT Cruisers to New York. Check out the iZap, another lithium ion battery system that extends the life of your iPod up to 28 hours on a single charge. We look in to the most energy efficient televisions, and find that LCDs are good, while big plasmas don't rate quite as well. The team at Solar Sailor is thinking big, with plans for two 600-passenger hybrid-electric ferries to carry tourists to the island national park of Alcatraz from San Francisco. Lastly, could this wind-powered helmet generator be the next big fashion/alternative energy trend? We want to see one on every head.

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Hybrid Technologies is working to bring all-electric taxis to New York. Pending negotiations with New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), the fleet of Chrysler PT Cruisers taxis will help the TLC continue in the green direction started by the hybrid taxis that went into service last year. The lithium PT Cruisers, already being produced by Hybrid Technologies for Paratransit, a large, California-based transportation non-profit, use a 320V battery pack that offers a cycle life of more than 1,500 charges. According to the company, the taxi has a range of up to 150 miles, and can be fully charged in 5 - 6 hours using a conventional 110 volt current.

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From lithium car batteries, we move to lithium batteries of a smaller sort. Energy pioneer ZAP (the same guys bringing smart car to America) is offering a new series of lithium battery packs designed specifically to work with the iPod. Called iZAP, the battery accessories for the iPod are part of a new line of ZAP Portable Energy systems. The lithium-ion battery system, reportedly adding 28 hours of listening time to an iPOD nano, can be recharged up to 1000 times. Unfortunately, it will not protect your nano from snapping like a graham cracker if you leave it in your back pocket and sit on it, though.

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Shopping for a new, energy-efficient television isn't nearly as easy as watching it. Scan the manufacturers' specs, and you'll find that many won't provide power information; those numbers that are provided rarely include standby power ratings. Depending on what type of set you buy, a television can consume as little as 45 watts or as much as 500 watts, and cost anywhere from $13 to $145 per year to run. TVs that use the least amount of electricity are smaller LCD TVs, and the biggest energy consumers are the 50+ inch plasma sets. The most efficient LCD televisions are generally those in the Sharp Aquos line. Last year, CNET tested the energy efficiency of 20 television sets, and the Sharp Aquos LC-20B8U-S 20 inch set was found to be the least power hungry — it costs just $13 a year to run.

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The head honchos over at Solar Sailor are thinking big. In the past week, two new proposals have emerged that have dropped our collective jaw, to say the least. One is to build two 600 passenger hybrid-electric ferries to carry tourists to the island national park of Alcatraz from San Francisco. The ferries utilize massive solar wings to generate electricity, which cut fuel needs in half and generate zero emissions while pulling in to the dock. Their other plan is to develop massive 'aquatankers' to ship water from the monsoonal Kimberley region of Western Australia down to the State capital of Perth, who a is currently considering a desalination plant to extract the city from a drought-plagued water shortage. Tankers much like those used to ship oil around the globe would be deployed to bring half a million tons of water, per load, down to Perth. Using solar wings, such as those on the ferries, it is expected that fuel costs could be reduced by 40 to 60%.

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Lastly, with tongue firmly in cheek, we check out this helmet with a built-in wind power generator. With just enough power to light a single LED, we don't think this baby will be weaning us from the local power grid anytime soon, but it'd still be fun at parties. Insert wind-powered brain joke here.

TreeHugger's EcoModo column appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.

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