Carbon Conservation & Energy Efficiency


Bruce Rowse & Team

Archive for the ‘Transport’ Category

A revolution in energy efficient commuting – 20 km/hr for just 35 watts!

Friday, October 15th, 2010
shweeb monorail bicycle

shweeb monorail bicycle

Shweeb, a NZ company, has come up with a fantastic low energy commuting concept that could transform our city scapes. Its based on a monorail concept under which an enclosed recumbent bicycle operates. The aerodynamic fairing reduces wind resistance, and as the rollers are steel on steel (a bit lot a railway) rolling resistance is very low. Its absolutely brilliant!

Check out the shweeb website:

If you are a cyclist  you’ll really appreciate the following elements of the shweeb concept:

  • Its more efficient than a bicycle. Being able to travel at 20 km/hr whilst only producing 35 watts of power is very efficient.
  • Its comfortable (recumbent’s are much more comfortable that normal bikes)
  • You don’t get a sweaty back when carrying a back pack
  • You stay dry
  • You are out of traffic

Will the shweeb concept take off? Whilst the advantages are considerable, it does require a significant investment in infrastructure. As the shweeb network requires staffing, there will also be ongoing operational costs. Its best initial application is for high density areas with lots of commuters travelling the same route every day and poor existing public transport.

If you are in a government (local, state or federal), in a high density area with a lot of commuters and poor public transport consider the shweeb concept!

Fast trains – a quantum leap in public transport

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

I’m starting this blog posting at 277 km/hr on a very fast train with 16 carriages and 100 seats per carriage. The train is full. Where am I? Not in Japan or France. I’m somewhere between Wuxi and Shuzhou in China, where public transport operates at a speed and efficiency that is a quantum leap above the XPT train from Melbourne to City that I’ve caught a few times. And these trains don’t just go short distances. In a couple of weeks I’ll be travelling 1200 kms in less than four hours from Wuhan to Guangzhou.


Where land is at a premium the solution has been simple – build an elevated railway over the top of the existing tracks. 20th century trains below. 21st century very fast trains above.

The fast train service is operated like an airline. Passengers go through a security check at the station. There is a large waiting hall, and train access through a boarding gate. Passengers are only let onto the platform 5 to 10 minutes before their train is due. To speed up access to the train, the platform is marked with numbers, each number corresponding to a carriage. The train pulls up so that the carriage doors line up exactly with numbers. Unlike in a plane, the leg room is sensational. A woman across from me is straining to reach the keys of her laptop perched on the tray table. My laptop is on my lap, the screen pushed back, and its still ten cm away from the seat in front. Try that in a plane!

This is the sort of public transport that can take planes out of the sky. The emissions per km are much lower. They are more convenient, operating from city centres, not on the outskirts of town. Taking into account the trip to and from the airport, my 1200 km trip in a couple of weeks will probably take no more time than if I was flying.

Signing off at 335 km/hr.

Research on Behaviour, Ethics and Climate Change

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

This is an article “We Cannot Fight Climate With Consumerism” by George Monbiot from his ZSpace Page, Monday, November 09, 2009

It outlines and gives examples of the ‘licensing effect’: Researchers have found that buying green can establish the moral credentials that license subsequent bad behaviour.

“How many times have you heard the argument that small green actions lead to bigger ones?”

“I’ve heard it hundreds of times: habits that might scarcely register in their own right are still useful because they encourage people to think of themselves as green, and therefore to move on to tougher actions.”

“A green energy expert once tried to convince me that even though rooftop micro wind turbines are useless or worse than useless in most situations, they’re still worth promoting because they encourage people to think about their emissions. It’s a bit like the argument used by anti-drugs campaigners: the soft stuff leads to the hard stuff.”

“I’ve never been convinced by this argument. In my experience, people use the soft stuff to justify their failure to engage with the hard stuff. Challenge someone about taking holiday flights six times a year and there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll say something along these lines:
I recycle everything and I re-use my plastic bags, so I’m really quite green.”

“A couple of years ago a friend showed me a cutting from a local newspaper: it reported that a couple had earned so many vouchers from recycling at Tesco that they were able to fly to the Caribbean for a holiday.”

“The greenhouse gases caused by these flights outweigh any likely savings from recycling hundreds or thousands of times over, but the small actions allow people to overlook the big ones and still believe that they are environmentally responsible.”

“Being a cynical old git, I have always been deeply suspicious of the grand claims made for consumer democracy: that we can change the world by changing our buying habits. There are several problems with this approach:

• In a consumer democracy, some people have more votes than others, and those with the most votes are the least inclined to change a system that has served them so well.

• A change in consumption habits is seldom effective unless it is backed up by government action. You can give up your car for a bicycle – and fair play to you – but unless the government is simultaneously reducing the available road space, the place you’ve vacated will just be taken by someone who drives a less efficient car than you would have driven (traffic expands to fill the available road-space). Our power comes from acting as citizens – demanding political change – not acting as consumers.

• We are very good at deceiving ourselves about our impacts. We remember the good things we do and forget the bad ones.”

“I’m not saying that you shouldn’t always try to purchase the product with the smallest impact: you should. Nor am I suggesting that all ethical consumption is useless. Fairtrade products make a real difference to the lives of the producers who sell them; properly verified goods – like wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or fish approved by the Marine Stewardship Council – are likely to cause much less damage than the alternatives. But these small decisions allow us to believe that our overall performance is better than it really is.”

“So I wasn’t surprised to see a report in Nature this week suggesting that buying green products can make you behave more selfishly than you would otherwise have done. Psychologists at the University of Toronto subjected students to a series of cunning experiments (pdf). First they were asked to buy a basket of products; selecting either green or conventional ones. Then they played a game in which they were asked to allocate money between themselves and someone else. The students who had bought green products shared less money than those who had bought only conventional goods.”

“The researchers call this the “licensing effect”. Buying green can establish the moral credentials that license subsequent bad behaviour: the rosier your view of yourself, the more likely you are to hoard your money and do down other people.”

“Then they took another bunch of students, gave them the same purchasing choices, then introduced them to a game in which they made money by describing a pattern of dots on a computer screen. If there were more dots on the right than the left they made more money. Afterwards they were asked to count the money they had earned out of an envelope.”

“The researchers found that buying green had such a strong licensing effect that people were likely to lie, cheat and steal: they had established such strong moral credentials in their own minds that these appeared to exonerate them from what they did next. Nature uses the term “moral offset”, which I think is a useful one.”

“So perhaps guilt is good after all. Campaigners are constantly told that guilt-tripping people is counterproductive: we have to make people feel better about themselves instead. These results suggest that this isn’t very likely to be true. They also offer some fascinating insights into the human condition. Maybe the cruel old Christian notion of original sin wasn’t such a bad idea after all.”

I disagree with the last sentence, and I feel that the research suggests striving for continual balance of “telling it like it is” in appropriate doses that won’t overwhelm and cause inaction, with giving hope when these new realistic actions are done.

Linfox video on their carbon reduction program

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

This 8 minute video shows how Linfox is going about reducing its carbon emissions. What stands out for me in this video is the broad commitment across the organisation to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Use it to help inspire a similar commitment in your organisation.

Electric cars – affordable and available in Australia by 2012?

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Nissan has just unveiled the prototype of its first electric car, the Leaf, available in Australia from 2012, and in Japan and the USA from next year. It will have a range of 160kms, a top speed of 140km/hr and a 5 to 30 minute rapid charge. The car is a 5 door hatch. Incredibly the battery pack will only weigh 200kg.

Nissan Leaf electric vehicle

Nissan Leaf electric vehicle

By going for a rapid-charge battery the Leaf is competing with the Better Place model of physically changing the battery once depleted for a fully charged battery. Presumably you could drive into a service station with rapid charge capability and be fully charged in 5 to 10 minutes, not an unacceptable delay if you don’t have to do it that frequently.

The relatively long range (160kms) of the Leaf reduces the need for a network of charge points at car parks, also key to the Better Place model. The Leaf is suited to home charging, with a 8 hour “trickle” charge.

Pricing has not yet been announced. Nissan are planning to sell the car but lease the battery to the first customers, with the price of the car (excluding battery) to be similar to that of a small family car. The cost of the battery lease and electricity to charge the battery will be less than that of petrol for an equivalent vehicle.

An advantage of the Better Place model though is its integration with the “smart grid”, whereby whenever the vehicle is parked a charge station is nearby it can be interacting with the grid and providing storage to renewable generation.

Other electric cars which may be available in Australia in 2012 include:

  • The Mitsubishi i-MiEV (perhaps available from 2010). A small car, also with a 160km range.
  • The Holden Volt. Another small vehicle.
  • Vehicles compatible with the Better Place model (in Canberra, where Better Place is starting its national rollout)
  • The Toyota FT-EV

Already available is the Blade, a modified Hyundai Getz.

Metropolitan fleet buyers – local government and commercial would be doing well to now start planning to introduce electric vehicles into their fleets from 2012. Which, if Nissan and Better Place deliver on their schedules and prices, won’t only make environmental sense, but will also make financial sense if the capital cost is no more, and running costs are lower.