Tag Archives: Vehicles

Old used cars are being exported to poor nations, increasing air pollution and traffic collisions

Rich countries are dumping millions of highly polluting, used cars in developing nations, according to a report by the United Nations. This is contributing significantly to air pollution and hindering efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, especially in Africa, the authors concluded.

Credit Flickr Mobilius

The report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) showed that 14 million used light-duty vehicles were exported worldwide from Europe, Japan, and the United States between 2015 and 2018. Some 80% went to low- and middle-income countries, with more than half going to Africa.

The fast-growing global vehicle fleet is a major contributor to air pollution and climate change; globally, the transport sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of energy-related global greenhouse gas emissions. Vehicle emissions are a significant source of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen oxides.

“Cleaning up the global vehicle fleet is a priority to meet global and local air quality and climate targets,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “Over the years, developed countries have increasingly exported their used vehicles to developing countries; because this largely happens unregulated, this has become the export of polluting vehicles.”

The report, based on an in-depth analysis of 146 countries, found that some two-thirds of them have weak or very weak policies to regulate used vehicle imports. However, it also showed that countries that set up rules to control the influx gained access to high-quality used vehicles, including hybrid and electric cars.

For example, Morocco only permits the importation of vehicles less than five years old and those meeting the EURO4 European vehicles emission standard. As a result, it only receives relatively advanced and clean used vehicles from Europe. Recently a group of 15 African countries announced strict new rules for vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency.

African countries imported the largest number of used vehicles (40%) in the period studied, followed by countries in Eastern Europe (24%), Asia-Pacific (15%), the Middle East (12%) and Latin America (9%), the report showed. The Netherlands is one of the main exporters through its ports.

Most vehicles were between 16 and 20 years old, and most fell below EURO4 European Union vehicle emission standards. For example, the average age of used vehicles exported to the Gambia was close to 19 years old, while a quarter of used vehicles exported to Nigeria were almost 20 years old.

“These results show that urgent action needs to be taken to improve the quality of used vehicles exported from Europe. The Netherlands cannot address this issue alone. Therefore, I will call for a coordinated European approach, and a close cooperation between European and African governments” Stientje Van Veldhoven, The Netherlands Minister for the Environment, said.

Poor quality used vehicles also lead to more road accidents. According to the report, many of the countries with “very weak” or “weak” used vehicle regulations, including Malawi, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Burundi, also have very high road traffic death rates. Countries that have introduced used vehicle regulations see safer fleets and fewer accidents.

The UN is part of a new initiative supporting the introduction of minimum used vehicle standards. The initiative’s first focus will be countries on the African continent. A number of countries there have already put in place minimum quality standards with many more showing interest in joining the initiative.

The European Union can and must decarbonize its transport sector: here’s how

Around 24% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the EU, and 14% of all human emissions worldwide, come from the transport sector. A new report published by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) presented at the World Science Forum in Budapest showcases how important it is for the EU to decarbonize this sector to reach its Paris Agreement pledges (which would keep us under 2°C of warming).

Image credits Kuanish Sarsenov.

We’re seeing unprecedented ecological upheaval as a result of our reliance on fossil fuels for energy. It’s encouraging that we’re also seeing unprecedented efforts being spent to clean our mess, safeguard nature, and preserve our way of life (most notably the Paris Agreement).

But it’s still not enough. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that we’re still on track to exceed both the 1.5°C and 2°C of warming targets unless governments take “urgent actions” to reduce emissions.

Taking the ‘fossil’ out of fuel

“To limit the global temperature rise to 2°C with a probability of 66% implies an approximate global CO2 budget of between 590 and 1,240 gigatonnes of emissions until 2100,” EASAC reports.

“If the current levels of global emissions from fossil fuels were to be reduced linearly within this global CO2 budget, then the budget would be used up within about 40 years (i.e. by 2060). The use of fossil fuels, including in the transport sector, should be reduced to close to zero within that timeframe.”

For this goal, the report says we need to adopt short-term strategies (even if they are not desirable in the long term) that lead to reductions of GHG emissions as a stop-gap measure. Meanwhile, we should be working to implement sustainable strategies for the future.

One of the promising areas where the EU can do so is transportation. All in all, the EU needs to slash 60% of the emissions from its transport sector by 2050 to meet its pledge as part of the Paris Agreement, the report explains.

“Current EU policies are unlikely to deliver emission reductions quickly enough to limit global warming to less than 2°C,” EASAC adds.

“There is no ‘silver bullet’, so a combination of long- and short-term policy options must be supported at EU, national, regional, and local authority levels […] to help citizens to understand and agree to take action.”

The 13 recommendations listed in the current report fall into three categories:

  • Avoiding (reducing) demand for passenger and freight transport services.
  • Shifting passengers and freight to transport modes with lower emissions.
  • Improving performance through vehicle design, deploying more efficient powertrains, and substituting fossil fuels with low-carbon energy carriers.

Why transport?

Total GHG emissions from the EU and the EU transport sector.
Image credits EASAC.

The EASAC explains that fossil fuels (gasoline and diesel) currently dominate (95%) the energy market in the transport sector. Transport generates 24% of the EU’s GHG emissions, and out of this 72% come from road transport — 53% from light vehicles and 19% from busses and heavy vehicles (such as transport trucks).

Transport is a vital part of modern society, both from an economic and social point of view. It contributes 6.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 13 million people in the EU. The report focuses on this sector as it’s more dynamic than construction or industry, the two other big emitters. The EASAC report states that it takes “about 20 years to renew the current vehicle fleet”, which makes reductions in GHG emissions possible in a much quicker timeframe than in other sectors.

However, efforts to reduce emissions from transportation have largely fallen flat as the higher efficiency of modern vehicles is offset by a growing number of cars and trucks in use. Passenger and freight transport in the EU has been growing since the year 2000, and “broadly follows the growth in GDP”, suggesting that this rising trend will persist in the future.

In order to tackle the issue of transport demand and supply, the report recommends reducing demand on the one hand, while improving the quality of transport supply on the other. The former can be achieved by encouraging people to change their behavior (i.e. policies that promote walking, cycling, teleworking, teleconferencing, or web-streaming of events), and shifting transport towards methods with reduced vehicle-kilometers (such as the use of vehicles with larger transport capacity, car sharing, and carpooling). The latter involves calling for more efficient vehicle designs, more efficient conventional and hybrid powertrains, substituting low-carbon fuels (e.g. natural gas or biofuels) for petrol and diesel, and promoting the development and use of vehicles that use alternative energy sources (such as electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles).

Projected (a) passenger and(b) freight transport activity in the EU Reference Scenario 2016 by mode. (a) includes domestic and intra-EU flights, (b) excludes international shipping.
Image credits EASAC.

One of the most striking aspects of these recommendations is that it does away with the EU’s traditional mindset that ‘reducing mobility is not an option’. As an EU citizen, I can tell you that this is not something the Union tends to do — we’re all about civil liberties and freedom of choice. But the report explains that business as usual is simply not a scenario we can afford, saying that the “need to reduce GHG emissions [warrant] urgent short-term policies to limit and, where possible, to reverse the growth in motorized transport demand.”

The 11 other measures suggested in this report:

Shifting passengers from private cars to public transport; only 20% of passenger transport today is handled by public or privately-owned communal transport, which is not very good.

Taking freight off the road and onto railroad or waterways. The report notes that this approach would take a lot of investment for many businesses to implement, and recommends that the “public and private sectors [jointly invest] in more and better access points for” these transport services.

To improve or introduce regulation that limits demand for oversized vehicles and engines as other recommendations go into effect. This would help keep future emissions under control by preventing such vehicles from hitting the road in the first place.

To improve the average emission performance of passenger cars and light-duty vehicles. This can be achieved by introducing hard deadlines for the phasing-out of fossil fuel engines, or through the introduction of subsidized scrapping schemes that focus specifically on old, polluting vehicles to accelerate the renewal of the vehicle pool.

To improve the rate of market penetration for electric vehicles. Overall emissions from the energy sector are capped by the EU Emission Trading System (ETS), the report explains, so this will lead to an overall reduction in GHG emissions.

To improve the rate of grid penetration for low-carbon energy sources. In essence, this means that we need to install low-carbon sources of energy and decommission old fossil-fuel power plants to supply our new fleet of electric vehicles, industry, and residential consumers. The rate of growth in such energy-generation systems must exceed the rate of growth in total energy demand for it to have a net positive effect, however.

To improve and adapt the design and regulation of electricity markets and tariffs that apply to electric vehicles. Such schemes would make battery-powered electric vehicles more attractive both to consumers and to grid operators.

Tighten but also streamline guidance on the use of biofuels, biogas, natural gas, and methane for transport. “The use of all biofuels for transport should continue to be subjected to strict sustainability criteria, and there should continue to be a cap on the use of conventional biofuels made from food or feed crops,” the report states, adding that biomass used for bioenergy should come from sustainably-managed forests.

To increase resources allocated to the development of synthetic fuels. Hydrogen, methane, and other such fuels can be used in IC engines in the short term to reduce emissions and can be used long-term to power vehicles such as planes or ships.

Support the development of information and communications technologies and autonomous vehicles. This point should be handled with care as on the one hand, such systems can help reduce emissions, but they can also make transport more convenient and as such increase demand (and emissions).

Improve our ability to sustain long-term emission reductions with policy that supports useful innovation, jobs, skills, and interdisciplinary research.

The most pressing need for new policy relates to the short-term options listed in the report, the EASAC writes, as these need to go into effect fast. Even if the reductions in GHG emissions they would provide aren’t groundbreaking, it will add up over time — thereby allowing us to make the most of our carbon budget. In the 10- to 15-year timeframe, we also need to take meaningful action to decarbonize energy production as well, as it supplies all other economic sectors and thus will have the largest impact on our efforts to curb climate change.

The report “Decarbonisation of Transport: options and challenges” can be accessed on EASAC’s page here.

Electric car.

Europe is now home to over one million electric vehicles

Europe can boast one million electric vehicles.

Electric car.

Image credits Mike / Pixabay.

A huge sales increase in the first half of the year propelled the European market over the one-million-electric-vehicles mark, reports industry analyst EV-Volumes. This is the second market to pass the benchmark after China (which did so in 2017), which is a much larger market (so EVs have a small market share). The US is still lagging behind, but estimated to pass the one-million-mark later this year.

Grid-fed vroom-vrooms

Roughly 195,000 new electric cars were sold in Europe during the first half of this year, EV-Volumes reports, representing a 42% increase from last year’s sales profile. The figure includes fully electric cars and vans, as well as plug-in hybrids, which can travel a short distance off a battery before switching to a conventional engine, sold in the European Union as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Norway.

Among all countries in Europe, Norway recorded the largest sales numbers of such vehicles with 36,500 sold EVs and 37% of new registrations. It’s also true that the country’s market does benefit from generous government incentives aimed at EVs. Germany, however, seems poised to overtake Norway by the end of the year for total sales.

The Netherlands and Denmark also saw good growth in sales of electric vehicles. The UK remained the runt of the litter, with 30,040 EV sales and seeing only “moderate” growth — sales of fully electric cars dipped by 6% but plug-in hybrids surged by 50%. EV-Volumes estimates this sluggishness was owed to a lack of compelling models from domestic manufacturers, Ford and Vauxhall.

The analyst further estimates that sales of EVs in Europe will reach 1.35 million by the end of the year.

“A stock of one million electric vehicles is an important milestone on the road to electrification and meeting emission targets but it is of course not enough,” said Viktor Irle, a market analyst at EV-Volumes.

Europe, however, seems determined to bet on EVs. Late last year, international energy company E.ON and Denmark-based e-mobility service provider CLEVER detailed plans to roll out 10,000 charging stations and an ‘electric highway’ across the continent. Sweden also unveiled the world’s first fully-electrified road, and several countries (including France, Norway, and Scotland) are poised to ban the sale of new fossil-fueled vehicles in the close to medium future.

Electric-road-rail.

Sweden opens world’s first electrified road, to charge e-vehicles on the run

One stretch of road outside Stockholm will recharge electric cars and trucks as they’re zipping along.

Electric-road-truck.

A former diesel-fueled truck owned by the logistics firm PostNord is the first to use the road.
Image credits Erik Mårtensson / eRoadArlanda

Stockholm can now boast having the world’s first operational electrified road. While it’s quite short, linking Stockholm Arlanda airport to a nearby logistics site over a stretch of two kilometers, it is nevertheless an important step forward in Sweden‘s long-term energy strategy and its efforts to combat climate change.

The country has pledged to decouple completely from fossil fuels by 2030 — quite an impressive goal to set for ones’ self — the lion’s share of which are currently guzzled by the transport sector. This electrified road is Sweden’s proof-of-concept, aiming to show that e-vehicles can be used conveniently over long distances. Once expanded to other key infrastructure lines, such as highways and main roadways, the roads will ensure Swedes can charge their electric vehicles wherever they are — and ensure a smooth transition from combustion engines to electronic ones for residents and industry.

The road transfers electricity from an underground rail into the batteries of cars through a flexible arm attached to the charging vehicle. It might sound risky, but the team behind the project says it’s not any more dangerous than a bowl of meatballs with cranberry sauce.

“There is no electricity on the surface,” Hans Säll, chief executive of eRoadArlanda, the consortium behind the project, explained to the Guardian.

“There are two tracks, just like an outlet in the wall. Five or six centimeters down is where the electricity is. But if you flood the road with salt water, then we have found that the electricity level at the surface is just one volt. You could walk on it barefoot.”

Each new kilometer of electrified road currently costs roughly 1 million euros ($1.23 million) to install. Not exactly cheap (the World Bank estimated back in 2000 that one kilometer of new road costs around US$866,000 to install, so about 1/3 less), but its still a whopping 50 times cheaper than installing an overhead tram line over the same distance.

Electric-road-rail.

Not so cool now, are ya, overhead electricity?
Image credits Erik Mårtensson / eRoadArlanda.

The e-roads are divided into 50 meter-long (164 feet) segments, which are individually powered — and only when a car is running on that segment. To keep extra safe, power will be cut when a vehicle stops.

With Sweeden currently maintaining about half a million kilometers of roadways (20,000 of which are highways), that would add up to a lot of euros. Luckily, as e-vehicle manufacturers have done such a wonderful job in battery technology one-upmanship lately, the Swedes don’t need to electrify everything — just the important bits.

“If we electrify 20,000 kilometers of highways that will definitely be enough,” Säll explained. “The distance between two highways is never more than 45 kilometers, and electric cars can already travel that distance without needing to be recharged.”

“Some believe it would be enough to electrify 5,000 kilometers.”

Another interesting feature of the e-road is its “dynamic charging” ability. In essence, the system can estimate how much energy each vehicle running on it consumes, meaning the costs can be debited per individual car or user. It also means that these cars can get away with smaller batteries (since there’s always a reliable supply of power close at hand) making them even more energy-efficient in the long run.

The government’s roads agency has already drafted a national map for future expansion, The Guardian adds.

The only question yet to be answered is whether Ikea will start shipping DYI stretches of electrified roads, with their customary excess of bolts in each package.

Don't drink and drive.

Australian Committee thinks it should be OK for drunk people to use autonomous cars

Soon, you could be able to drink till you drop and still drive in Australia — as long as your car does the driving.

Don't drink and drive.

Image credits Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bryan Reckard / U.S. Navy.

It seems certain that autonomous vehicles are making their way into our lives. With that in mind, we have to tailor existing legislation to their use so that we may get the full benefits out of them. At least, that’s what The Australian National Transport Commission (NTC) plans to do. And they’re starting with DUI laws.

In a report published earlier this month, the NTC proposes changing current legislature on DUI. They argue that requiring for occupants of self-driving cars to be sober only negates part of the benefits of such technology.

“One potential barrier to receiving the full benefits of automated vehicles would be to require occupants of automated vehicles, who are not driving, to comply with drink-driving laws,” the report reads.

“This would create a barrier to using a vehicle to safely drive home after drinking.”

Their solution is to amend current rules and regulations with an exemption for autonomously driving vehicles. In essence, this would mean that no matter how monumentally shattered you are, as long as your car is driving itself, it’s not DUI. The Commission, however, admits this exemption should be used only in cases where the driver’s vehicle is fully automated.

“A risk of providing exemptions is that an occupant may subsequently choose to take over driving the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” the report read.

“If this occurred, they would become the driver of the vehicle and drink and drug driving offences would apply.”

While self-driving cars are poised to hit the roads, they won’t simply take over — at first, they will share the tarmac with human-operated cars. As such, there will be situations when a driver has to take control of the autonomous vehicle to avoid risk or navigate dangerous situations. In such a case, the full extent of DUI laws would still apply, the report notes. Even after full automation, when cars would be perfectly capable of running any trip entirely unsupervised, if a driver were to take manual control of the vehicle, DUI laws would still apply.

So the NTC also recommends that the exemptions be made as clear-cut as possible, so people may get maximum use out of their vehicles without getting into trouble.

“The occupants will always be passengers,” their report concludes. “The situation is analogous to a person instructing a taxi driver where to go. Any exemptions should not apply to the fallback-ready user of a vehicle with conditional automation. A fallback-ready user is required to be receptive to requests to intervene or system failures and must take over the dynamic driving task if the ADS cannot perform it.”

Gas cannister.

Aggressive driving burns up to 40% more fuel and can waste one dollar per gallon

Researchers from the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory say you should drive more sensibly — if you like saving money, that is. They’ve recently published a paper analyzing the impact patterns of aggressive driving, such as speeding and forceful breaking, have on fuel economy.

Gas cannister.

Image via Pixabay.

Aggressive driving doesn’t pay — unless you’re a gas pump. Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers report that aggressive driving can slash fuel efficiency by between 10 to 40% in stop and go traffic, or between 15 to 30% at highway speeds in light-duty vehicles. All in all, it could end up costing you about $0.25 to $1 per gallon in wasted gas.

A burning question

The team started by analyzing previous studies to develop a new energy model that would be used for the paper. It was applied to two similar mid-sized sedans, one being a hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) and the other a conventional gasoline vehicle. Both were run through driving experiments at the lab’s National Transportation Research Center, to see what difference in fuel consumption an aggressive driving style would cause. A point of particular interest for the team was to evaluate an HEV’s limitations when recapturing energy to replenish the battery during different levels of hard braking.

“The new vehicle energy model we created focused on the limitations of regenerative braking along with varying levels of driving-style aggressiveness to show that this could account for greater fuel economy variation in an HEV compared to a similar conventional vehicle,” said ORNL’s John Thomas, lead author of the paper.

“Our findings added credence to the idea that an aggressive driving style does affect fuel economy probably more than people think.”

In the end, the team’s result confirmed popular wisdom, often self-reported by drivers — aggressive driving does impact fuel economy. They also showed that HEVs are more sensitive to driving style than conventional gasoline vehicles, although HEVs almost always achieve much better fuel economy. All in all, driving aggressively could take up to one dollar from your pocket per gallon of gas burned.

So if you like money (of course you do), driving more sensibly could be just the thing to put save up. Plus, you and yours will be safer on the road and you’ll also go to sleep with a smile knowing you helped save the penguins. Win-win-WIN!

You can see the team’s full dataset on the government site fueleconomy.gov, a platform maintained by the ORNL for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy with data provided by the Environmental Protection Agency. The project aims to help consumers make informed fuel economy choices, along with other simple fuel-saving measures such as obeying posted speed limits, avoiding excessive idling or carrying too much weight, and using cruise control.

The paper “Fuel Consumption Sensitivity of Conventional and Hybrid Electric Light-Duty Gasoline Vehicles to Driving Style” has been published in the journal SAE International Journal of Fuels and Lubricants.

Micro-vehicles move through a mouse stomach, healing its ulcers

Tiny robots could soon be delivering drugs throughout your body (no, not those kind of drugs).

Autonomous microbots delivered antibiotics inside the stomach. Image credits: UCSD.

For the first time, researchers have used tiny vehicles, each about half the width of a human hair, to administer a dose of antibiotics daily for five days. At the end of the treatment, they reported that it was much more effective than just taking antibiotics orally.

“The movement itself improves the retention of antibiotics on the stomach lining where the bacteria are concentrated,” says Joseph Wang at the University of California San Diego, who led the research with Liangfang Zhang.

Video highlights the technology.

The vehicles are basically spherical magnesium cores coated with several different layers. They’re designed so that they’re protected from the stomach’s gastric acid but also stick to stomach walls. Perhaps the most creative part is how they move around. When the cores react with the gastric acid, they create a stream of hydrogen bubbles that pushes them around.

This process also reduces the overall acidity of the stomach, which makes the antibiotics more efficient.

Without this reduction, a part of the antibiotics is destroyed before it even gets a chance to do anything. The stomach acidity is restored to regular levels after 24 hours. The tiny spheres are also mostly built from biodegradable materials which decay without leaving anything behind.

“It’s a one-step treatment with these micromotors, combining acid neutralisation with therapeutic action,” says one of the researchers, Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila.

Researchers tested the technology once mice infected with Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium found usually in the stomach linked to the development of duodenal ulcers and stomach cancer. After the treatment, they evaluated the bacterial count in each mouse stomach, finding that it was slightly but significantly more efficient than the conventional way of delivering antibiotics.

The study was praised by external scientists.

“It’s a really nifty and impressive application. Micromotors are still new, but their impact will be big,” Thomas Mallouk at Pennsylvania State University told New Scientist.

In theory, this could be used for a variety of treatments, but researchers caution that this is still early days of the technology. This is more about opening doors for future studies rather than having a viable technology today or tomorrow.

For the future, they will try different drug combinations with different type of micromotors to test their efficiency in the gastrointestinal tract.

Journal Reference: Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila et al — Micromotor-enabled active drug delivery for in vivo treatment of stomach infection. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00309-w

Giant zeppelin could change how we think about air transportation

The world’s largest aircraft just had its maiden flight on Wednesday, with a short but historic stroll over an airfield in central England. The best part? It’s an airship.

The Airlander just before its first flight.
Image credits Hybrid Air Vehicles.

Zeppelins have an almost incredible power of attraction over the world of sci-fi. Sadly, they’ve had a rough history so we don’t see much of them nowdays.

But a new vehicle may finally bring sci-fi into the real world. The 92 meter-long (302 feet) Airlander 10 took its first flight 73 km (45 miles) north of London, over the historical Cardington airfield. Hundreds of locals came to witness how, with engines roaring, the ponderous aircraft took off, performed a circuit of the area, then landed half an hour later at dusk.

So what’s so special about it? Well, the Airlander 10 is a new breed of aircraft — part blimp, part helicopter, part plane. It can stay in flight up to five days at a time if manned, or over 2 weeks unmanned, and carry more weight than a conventional airship while using less fuel than an airplane. Hybrid Air Vehicles, the vehicle’s developer, says it can reach 16,000 feet (4,900 meters) and travel at up to 90 mph (148 kph.) The vehicle was initially designed for the U.S. military, as a surveillance platform to be used in Afghanistan. But the Army’s program was scrapped in 2013, and Hybrid Air Vehicles has since been relying on funding from government and private sources.

Hybrid Air Vehicles, the vehicle’s developer, says it can reach 16,000 feet (4,900 meters) and travel at up to 90 mph (148 kph.) The vehicle was initially designed for the U.S. military, as a surveillance platform to be used in Afghanistan. But the Army’s program was scrapped in 2013, and Hybrid Air Vehicles has since been relying on funding from government and private sources.

Image credits Hybrid Air Vehicles.

“It’s a great British innovation,” said chief executive Stephen McGlennan. “It’s a combination of an aircraft that has parts of normal fixed-wing aircraft, it’s got helicopter, it’s got airship.”

The craft is housed at Cardington, the historical focal point of the British airship industry. Here, the country’s first airships were built during World War I, and production continued up to the 1930s, when a tragic airship crash killed almost 50 people, including Britain’s air minister. And sadly, such accidents sealed the fate of the airship as a wide-scale transport system. When the Hindenburg crashed in New Jersey in 193, killing 35 people, it brought any hope of the blimp regaining public confidence down in flames with it.

But Hybrid Air hopes they’ll make a comeback. For starters, we’ve moved on from using hydrogen in airships (which is highly flammable) to helium (which isn’t). Wednesday’s flight shows that the Airlander is air-worthy. Although it was originally scheduled for Sunday and was then postponed due to an unspecified technical issue the flight was a success, setting an important milestone for the future development of a transportation method that currently is a commercial wildcard.

But MacGlennan is confident that the Airlander will be a hit with both civilian and military customers, because it’s just too good to pass on. It can gather data and conduct surveillance for days on end, or carry up to 10 metric tons (22,050 pounds) of passengers or cargo.

“[The Airlander 10 can] provide air transportation for people and goods without the need for a runway. But this thing can take more over longer distances, it’s cheaper and it’s greener,” he added.

The company is so optimistic that they plan to have an even bigger craft, with a projected 50 metric ton (110,000-pound) cargo carrying capacity, ready by the early 2020s.

Others, however, aren’t yet sure that the blimp is gonna catch on.

“Airships and hybrids have still got a credibility gap to cover,” said aviation magazine AIN’s defense editor Chris Pocock.

“Technically I think they are there now, but economically I’m not so sure.”

So what do you think? Is it too late for airships, or will the stately vehicles soon fill the skies above us? I hope it’s the latter because just imagine one of these babies mooring to the Empire State Building in the afternoon glow.

 

First U.S. testing of a man-carrying drone planned for later this year in Nevada

The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems has granted permission to Chinese drone company EHang to test its on-demand, passenger-carrying aerial vehicle inside state boundaries. This marks the first time a passenger-carrying drone has ever been tested anywhere in the United States.

Chinese company EHang received testing rights for its EHang 184 model inside the state of Nevada on Monday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. The vehicle is an autonomous human sized drone, which EHang was very happy to hail as the future of personal transport at the CES 2016 conference in Las Vegas. The company already produces a consumer model known as the “Ghost Drone,” which lead some to believe that the 184 is more of a marketing tool for their regular product.

Well, the vehicle certainly is eye-catching.

EHang 184 being presented at CES 2016.
Image via techcrunch

The press kit described the drone as “about four-and-a-half feet tall, weighs 440 pounds, and will be able to carry a single passenger for 23 minutes at a speed of 60 MPH. The 184 also has gull-wing doors and arms that fold up.” They also have a pretty cool video showing the drone in flight and its development process.

https://youtu.be/IrPejpbz8RI

So does it have any merit on its own, or is it just a shiny “look at me” lure for the company’s staple Ghost Drone? We’ll have to wait for the test results, planned for later this year, to find out. But there is a lot of excitement at Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) for the testing.

“We will help them submit necessary test results and reports to the FAA and all that kind of stuff,” Mark Barker, the institute’s director, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“It’s a big deal for EHang and it’s a big deal for NIAS and the state of Nevada because we will be helping them to test and validate their system.”

There’s a lot hanging on the outcome of these tests — alongside smart cars, autonomous flying vehicles like the 184 and Ghost Drone could very well be the future of transport. And possibly, the future of getting frisky.