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Inhabitat's Week in Green: self-driving cars, library tanks and bionic arms


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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.

It was a big week for Tesla. CEO Elon Musk just announced the end of electric vehicle range anxiety thanks to a Model S software update that makes it "impossible" to stray too far from a charging station. Tesla also got a big break in New Jersey as Governor Chris Christie lifted the state's ban on the automaker's direct sales model. Elsewhere on the automotive front, BMW just unveiled the X5 eDrive40e, which can travel up to 19 miles in fully electric mode and is rated at 71 mpg. An Audi is set to embark on the first-ever cross-country trip for a self-driving car. The electronics company Delphi is the driving force behind the road trip, and they've rigged up an Audi SQ5 with the necessary sensors, cameras and controls for the trip.

In other green transportation news, Spinlister and Vanmoof unveiled what they hope will be the future of bike-sharing programs at SXSW in Austin. In a break with many major bike-sharing programs, Spinlister's bikes will be independently owned by riders, and after rental time is booked a bike can be unlocked via a smartphone app. Chicago Uber riders can feel a little better about their carbon footprint now that Uber has rolled out a new fleet of electric cars. The service has ordered 25 BYD e6 electric cars so that Uber drivers can offer emission-free rides to their customers. And in Argentina, artist Raul Lemesoff has transformed an old Ford Falcon into a mobile library that is shaped like a tank, earning it the clever title of "Weapon of Mass Instruction."

Dubai has been a hotbed for outlandish architecture in recent years, and the city recently revealed its latest ambition: the Museum of the Future. The large, football-shaped building will be made largely of 3D-printed components, and it will have a holographic billboard projected onto it. It's difficult to predict what the future of design will look like, but tornado-shaped buildings are gaining popularity today. Thomas Heatherwick just completed work on a cluster of 12 tornado-shaped towers for a university building in Singapore. And the architecture firm Kinslow, Keith & Todd recently unveiled plans for a tornado-shaped skyscraper in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that would house a storm research center and a museum dedicated to weather. In other green design news, Taco Bell unveiled its first store made from shipping containers at SXSW. The building was built in just three days and will be used to test the concept before deploying the modular structures across the country. In Rome, Vincent Callebaut Architecture unveiled plans to transform a former military district into a self-sufficient urban ecosystem. The City of Science, as it's been dubbed, will consist of green public spaces and a mix of residential and business spaces. On the topic of residential spaces, Airbnb has created one of the world's most jaw-dropping penthouses at the top of a 200-foot ski jump in Oslo. The company recently hosted a competition inviting people from around the world to explain why they deserve to spend the night in the glass-walled space. And Inhabitat writer Andrew Michler explores what it takes to build a certified Passive House -- one of the world's strictest energy-efficiency standards -- in the Colorado Rockies.

The promise of 3D printing is that it will enable us to produce objects quickly and efficiently, and thanks to new technology developed by Silicon Valley startup Carbon3D, printing speeds are getting even faster. The company just unveiled a new 3D printer that can produce objects 25 to 100 times faster than other printers. In a demonstration of the power of 3D printing, a team of engineering students and grads at the University of Central Florida is using a 3D printer to create a bionic arm for children. On the green energy front, the folks at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have succeeded in using wireless power transmission to transmit solar energy through the air. The breakthrough could make it possible to gather solar energy from space in order to use it here on Earth. In wearable tech news, Dutch designer Pauline van Dongen unveiled her new solar-powered shirt at SXSW Interactive last week. The sleek T-shirt generates power from 120 thin-film solar modules that are integrated into its fabric. Conventional and organic farmers have been at odds for decades over which kind of farming can effectively feed the world, but according to one Dutch firm, hydroponics is the best way to feed the world's growing population. PlantLab is developing revolutionary growing methods that could grow fruit and vegetables for the entire world in a space smaller than Holland. Boston-based agriculture startup Freight Farms is also jumping on the hydroponics bandwagon. The group is designing fully functional hydroponic farms within retrofitted shipping containers that can grow a variety of crops, regardless of the time of year or weather conditions.

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