The Technology Is There, So Why Aren’t You in a Zero Emissions Car?

AGV Cover
Image: NEMPA

Automotive technology has come a very long way over the last few years. Fuel efficiency is better and seeing hybrid and electric cars is no longer out of the ordinary, but there’s one problem. No one is buying into the whole zero emissions thing right now even with a growing number of options that are significantly better for the environment.

This was the topic of conversation at the NEMPA/MIT Technology Conference held this year at the MIT Technology Center. It’s an annual event organized by the New England Motor Press Association along with MIT to focus on technology issues in the automotive industry. The topic this year was the challenge of getting people to buy into zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs).

You might remember a few years back when gas prices were frighteningly high and everyone was clamoring to get into a more fuel efficient car. There weren’t even a heck of a lot of hybrid options out there at the time so people were on waiting lists for cars like the Prius. Then gas prices came down and our priorities changed.

The expert panels of speakers included representatives from General Motors, Toyota, MIT, and the International Council on Clean Transportation. They represented different groups all trying to convince consumers to go green and get into a zero emissions car.

Image: NEMPA
Image: NEMPA

If you look just at the cost of gas, that might not convince you to get into a ZEV, but if you look at the environmental impact, then it’s a no-brainer. Bob Perciasepe of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions gave a great example of the impact of ZEVs.

A hybrid produces roughly three tons of carbon dioxide annually which is a lot less than a beast like a Hummer at ten tons. Your traditional gas car probably falls in the middle somewhere, so you can feel good if you’re driving a hybrid. If you want to feel really good, then look at a ZEV. They come in at 60% more climate-friendly than even a hybrid. That’s a significant difference.

Pure electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are out there and they’re much more environmentally friendly than even the best hybrid on the road. The problem is, people are loathe to embrace this new technology and want to stick with what they know.

Image: NEMPA
Image: NEMPA

There are concerns about electric vehicles and their range, but the network of public charging stations continues to grow as does the speed at which they can fully charge a vehicle’s battery. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are lagging behind on refueling options making them an even tougher sell. The infrastructure doesn’t exist in a way that makes most people comfortable.

It’s like that old line from Field of Dreams. If they build it, they will come. The next time you’re in the market for a new car, take a second look at ZEVs and consider not just the dollars in your pocket, but the pollution in the air and how much you can help by going zero emissions.

International Scratch Day: Saturday, May 17!

Do your kids Scratch? Nope, this isn’t a medical question.

Scratch is a free programming language developed for kids. From elementary school to college, kids use it to create interactive stories to building animations and games. In the meantime, they’re learning programming principles and collaboration skills—important stuff for the future. Scratch is available in over forty languages, and is in use in one hundred fifty countries.

This Saturday, May 17, is International Scratch Day—and events are popping up everywhere. See if there’s an event near you where you and your kids can learn more about programming!

The MIT Media Lab group Lifelong Kindergarten developed Scratch in 2003 and the project has received grants from the National Science Foundation as well as Intel Foundation, Microsoft, MacArthur Foundation, LEGO Foundation, Code-to-Learn Foundation, Google, Dell, and others.

Professors Win $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation, Give It All Away

Image: Lemelson-MIT
Image: Lemelson-MIT

Rice University Professors Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Maria Oden recently received the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation and then promptly gave it all away. They received the award in recognition of their efforts to develop life-saving technologies and provide low-cost options for improving health care in developing nations.

In 2006, the professors started the Beyond Traditional Borders engineering design initiative at Rice University with the goal of guiding students through the invention process and coming up with technologies that can actually be put into use. Since that time, over 3,000 students have participated in the program, inventing 58 technologies used in 24 countries.

The program doesn’t just work with students in a lab, but involves bringing them out to the areas where people most need their help through an eight-week internship program in Africa and Latin America. Continue reading Professors Win $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation, Give It All Away

Playing in the Sandbox With Dale Dougherty

Last week I attended Sandbox Summit, a conference at MIT that gathers great thinkers in children’s media. This year’s theme was was about nurturing kids’ imagination in the digital age, which stood in sharp contrast to the events unfolding in Boston while we were there. Instead of gluing ourselves to the news, we pressed on with the conference. It was so reassuring to talk about inspiring kids and the good that we can do through media.

There are a ton of things that I’m still processing, but one thing I wanted to be sure to share with my fellow GeekMoms is the closing keynote from Dale Dougherty, Founding Editor and Publisher of Make Magazine (thanks to Scott Traylor of 360Kid for filming it). The way Dougherty talked about makers is the way we often talk about geeks here at GeekMom—people who are passionate about something and love to find a community to share that passion with. He also talked about the DIY movement, not as in “hey, you can make something” but as in “hey, you can make something.” Let’s all be makers. More importantly, let’s get our kids to be makers. Dougherty talks about the importance of maker spaces in schools, and I couldn’t be more in favor. Watch the video and learn more at the Maker Education Initiative.