Another month, another slew of solar innovations! This month, while we’re continuing our ongoing “solar everywhere” theme of explore the many places where solar can go beyond the roof, we’re also seeing an emerging trend: electric vehicles of all kinds. While not specifically solar-powered in most cases, it is only the tiniest of leaps to get from an electric vehicle to a solar-powered electric vehicle. So bear with us: Although it seems like we’re straying from our self-imposed mission, this is how the pieces all come together.
Solar bike charger: To start off our roundup and underline our point, let’s look at the new Spark solar charging station (pictured above at left) designed by electric-bike manufacturer Xkuty. Inhabitat reports that the Spark recharging station “doubles as a parking unit and it adapts to almost any environment — it can be easily integrated into houses, buildings and shared spaces.” Sadly, at this point the Xkuty One e-bike — and it’s fancy new charger — are only for sale in Europe.
Ford’s electric bike: The Ford Motor Company is also getting into the electric bike game, showing of the new Ford Supercruiser electric bike. Created by Pedego Electric Bikes and licensed and branded by Ford, the Supercruiser is a seven-speed e-bike with a 600-watt motor that goes up to 20 miles per hour, and can carry you between 15-30 miles per charge, depending on your size and how much you pedal. As cool as it looks and as great as it sounds, the price tag will likely give you pause: According to ElectricBikeReview.com, the Supercruiser will set you back $3,595. That’s enough to get you a a down payment and eight months of a lease on a Nissan Leaf — or just about the sweetest non-electric bike you can imagine.
The Electric Snow-Sled: Speaking of sweet rides, Gas2 writes about the MTT-136 an electric sled that doubles as so much more:
The MTT is seen throughout much of the demo video connected to a sled-type platform pulling along its passengers at an undefined, but adequate looking pace. As fun as this looks, what I find more intriguing are the multitude of other uses Martel has found for his invention. The MTT-136 is seen operating on dry land as well as snow, opening up a plethora of additional uses. He pulls logs, goes down stairs, cuts through knee deep snow and pushes a car (a Pontiac Montana in neutral on snow) to show what his creation can do.
Although the MTT-136 is still seeking funders to move it to production, it looks cool and hyper-practical, particularly given the snow that has steadily dumped on most of the country this winter.
The Wheelchair-friendly Electric Car: Over at Grist, Holly Richmond points us to the The Kenguru, a very small electric vehicle designed specifically for people in wheelchairs. Originally conceived of by a Hungarian engineer, the Kenguru found a second home — and, more importantly, investors — in Texas, and is going into production this year. Richmond writes: “The EV’s sticker price is about $25,000, but thanks to mobility and clean energy tax incentives, buyers may not have to pay nearly that much. The cars, which are even smaller than a Smart Car, are made in America, feature LED lights, and can go up to 25 miles per hour (they’re designed for local use, with an estimated range of 60 miles). Batteries power two 2-kW motors in the back, and the Kenguru takes about eight hours to charge.”
Solar-Powered Healthcare Kit: We’ve seen a number of solar-powered tools aimed at the developing world, all of which promise to make great strides in improving quality of life and potentially helping to improve the environment in those regions. Ecopreneurist tells the story of the Solar Suitcase, a healthcare kit that aims to provide more reliable light for hospitals and field medical workers where lights are either currently lacking or too intermittent to be reliable. The Suitcase, built by the nonprofit WE CARE Solar, includes 40 to 80 watts of solar panels, a lead-acid battery, medical-quality LED lights, a universal cell phone charger, a battery charger for double- or triple-A batteries, outlets for up to 12 DC devices, and the maternity unit comes with a fetal heartrate monitor. So far, WE CARE has distributed 300 Suitcases to 25 countries, but is seeking donations to provide more units to the Phillippines, Nepal and Tanzania.
The Congolese Solar-Powered Traffic Robot: Let’s file this under “you just couldn’t make this up:” The capital of Congo, Kinshasa, has installed two giant solar-powered robots to serve in lieu of traffic police, directing cars, bikes and pedestrians, using embedded cameras to identify and later fine any drivers that ignore the laws. Commenting on the impact the robots have had so far, one Congolese driver told CCTV Africa, “As a motorcyclist I’m very happy with the robot’s work. Because when the traffic police control the cars here there’s still a lot of traffic. But since the robot arrived, we see truly that the commuters are respectful.”
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