Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week's most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us -- it's the Week in Green.
Electric cars are the gold standard for green automakers, but a car is only as eco-friendly as its source of fuel. That's why the World Solar Challenge -- an annual competition to design the most practical solar-powered car -- is such a big deal. This year's winner was the Stella, a four-seat family vehicle created by the Dutch Solar Team Eindhoven, which produces so much energy it can actually feed power back into the grid. Ever wish you could cruise around town in a Batman-style motorcycle? If you happen to have an extra $27,500 kicking around, this awesome all-electric Batpod motorcycle could be yours. The Silicon Valley town of Palo Alto set a new high bar for building codes this fall, requiring all new-construction homes to come wired for electric car chargers. The code is relatively inexpensive, costing builders just $200 extra. And electric car chargers don't have to look ugly and take up lots of space: The company HEVO Power has designed a new type of induction charging unit that blends into its surroundings by disguising itself as a manhole cover. And Inhabitat had the pleasure of test driving BMW's new 328d clean diesel, which can go 675 miles on a single tank of gas.
Apple made waves when it announced plans to build a new flying saucer-shaped campus in Cupertino -- and now it looks like the Foster + Partners-designed structure will actually come to pass. Plans have been approved by the city planning commission, and the building is scheduled for completion in 2016. In other green architecture news, 3Gatti unveiled plans for a bizarre bubble building wrapped in an inflatable antibacterial skin that creates a greenhouse-like environment. Officials in Venice just completed the first test of the city's new $7 billion flood-protection system. In a strange bit of performance art, Alex Schweder spent 10 days living in a small, inflatable plastic bubble that was lifted 22 feet in the air next to Philip Johnson's iconic Glass House. Schweder referred to the stunt as "performance architecture."
In Nazi Germany, thousands of people would huddle into giant flak bunkers to protect themselves from Allied bombs. One such structure in Hamburg has been transformed into an Energy Bunker that will provide the 50,000 residents with clean electricity. In other green energy news, scientists at Cambridge University are creating a "green transport fuel" that is made up of air, water and sunlight. The minds at Disney Research have come up with an equally impressive piece of energy-generating technology: they've just unveiled an electric generator made from paper. And a team of University of Wisconsin researchers is developing next-generation solar cells that are made from organic dyes instead of silicon, which could significantly reduce costs.
It's been more than a decade since the Roomba -- the small, disk-shaped vacuum robot -- was introduced. But why settle for a single robo-maid, when you could have a small army of them? Columbian designer Adrian Perez Zapata recently released plans for The MAB Automated Cleaning System, a futuristic device that spits out dozens of tiny flying robots to clean your house. Last week was also an interesting week for marine biology, as a woman discovered an 18-foot-long sea serpent while snorkeling off the California coast. Speaking of fish, aquarium designer Sebastien Cordoleani came up with a new aquarium design that looks like something straight out of a Salvador Dalí painting, with a bubble of water extended above the main tank. In an exciting development in the world of prosthetics, British inventor Joel Gibbard created a durable 3D-printed hand that boasts an impressive range of motion and can be produced for a fraction of the price of other prosthetic hands. UNICEF projected ghostly images of children throughout Stockholm to bring awareness to the plight of young refugees, and in a big step forward for the fashion industry, Estonian designer Reet Aus created the Up-Shirt, the world's most environmentally-friendly T-shirt. Millions -- if not billions -- of T-shirts are sold every year, and if other clothing makers adopt similar techniques, it could have a huge impact.