Inhabitat's Week In Green: Google's new car, ice walls and the future of bamboo


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June 1, 2014 2:02 PM
Inhabitat's Week In Green: Google's new car, ice walls and the future of bamboo

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's 2014 and even though we can 3D print entire buildings and create jewelry from Beijing's smog, we're still struggling to fix our transportation system and transition away from polluting fossil fuels. It'll be a while before flying electric cars take to the skies, but there are concepts in the works that suggest we may not be crawling through toxic traffic forever. In a major breakthrough for its self-driving car project, Google recently unveiled a pod-like vehicle it built from scratch. Creating its own car instead of modifying an existing one enabled Google to pursue some interesting design choices such as, well, the lack of a steering wheel -- for a start! In an effort to make current automobiles more efficient, some experts have suggested that bamboo could soon upstage carbon fiber as the material of the future. But as we all know, the greenest car is no car at all. Worried that it might not meet its pollution reduction targets in 2015, the Chinese government announced plans to take at least 5 million old cars off the road. For those that prefer their transportation with two wheels, IKEA is branching out into the transportation arena with a brand-new electric bicycle that will feature six different driving modes and a pedal-assisted range of up to 45 miles.

If you're living off-grid (or perhaps just camping for the weekend), keeping food and beverages at the right temperature can be a complicated task. The eCool underground cooler uses the lower temperatures of subterranean soil to make cold beer emerge from the ground like magic. This kind of gadget could save the average person a ton on refrigeration costs, but that's just a drop in the bucket compared to the energy Google uses. This infographic tallies up the search giant's energy consumption –- and shows how the company's investment in renewable energy and offsets has given it a carbon footprint of zero. Those interested in generating their own energy at home will love LIAM, a mini windmill that can be installed on any roof and produce between 300 and 2,500 kilowatts of clean electricity per year.

Of course, rooftop turbines aren't the only way to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. Students from the Rhode Island School of Design are developing a solar-powered house that uses a futuristic Sheerfill membrane to reduce energy consumption by 90 percent. But theirs isn't the only building using a unique exterior to operate more efficiently. Delft-based design studio DP6 drew up plans for an energy-generating building with a skin that looks like water drops. Running a little low on sunlight? Italian physicist Paolo Di Trapani recently debuted a brilliant invention that uses efficient LEDs to bring artificial daylight into windowless rooms. Sometimes innovative architecture has nothing to do with the urban fabric. Antwerp's Badboot boat uses a transparent, inflatable cabin to shelter a rooftop bar, and Japan is moving forward with plans to build a massive ice wall to stop radiation leaks from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

In green technology news, a startup called New Matter has developed a charming desktop 3D printer that costs as little as $149, and it's surprisingly elegant too. Tiny mushroom mycelium are the foundation of this adorable lamp that can be tossed in the garden compost pile when you're done with it. This Little Architect's Toolset inspires the designers of tomorrow (with a portion of proceeds donated to Architecture for Humanity). On the wearable technology front, this expandable dress is the perfect way to keep creeps from crowding into your personal space on the subway. And some say that even things as tiny as fingernails will someday be embedded with sensors to track activity or health, modify behavior and even put on a light show.

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