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Inhabitat's Week in Green: Chevy's concept car, LED bulbs and solar lanterns

Inhabitat
04.26.15
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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.

Tesla made headlines again this week with the official (sort of) announcement that it will be unveiling a battery that can power your entire home at the end of the month. In autonomous vehicle news, some of the biggest automakers are starting to roll out self-driving concept cars. Just a few weeks after Mercedes-Benz revealed a self-driving concept, Chevrolet has now rolled out the FNR, a futuristic autonomous concept car of its own, at the Shanghai Motor Show. In other automotive news, automakers from around the world are continuing to roll out more efficient electric vehicles and hybrids. Volvo has announced plans to release hybrid versions of its entire lineup, beginning with the 2016 Volvo XC90 SUV, which is slated to hit the road with a new plug-in hybrid powertrain.

In a coup for electric vehicles, Motor Trend has named the sporty and compact VW Golf family (including the e-Golf electric car) its Car of the Year. In Montreal, Mayor Denis Coderre wants to create an electric vehicle-sharing program, with the goal of putting 1,000 EVs on the road by the year 2020. In other green transportation news, Japan's maglev train broke the world speed record when it traveled at an astounding 375MPH on a test track. To put that in perspective, Amtrak's Acela service from Washington to Boston tops out at 150MPH. And after a three-week delay, the Solar Impulse airplane has launched the sixth leg of its round-the-world journey. The solar-powered plane departed from Chongqing, China, on April 21st, and is headed for its final stop in China before crossing the Pacific and heading to Hawaii.

Could bacteria-grown materials be used by the construction industry in the future? Designers Stefan Schwabe and Jannis Hülsen think so. The duo has been using bacteria to grow materials that are very strong, moldable and that have the ability to hold water. In other green tech news, lighting company Philips announced it will begin selling the most affordable LED lightbulb ever, with a retail price of just $5 for a two-pack, and solar lantern company SolarPuff launched a Kickstarter to raise funds for its ingenious portable solar lanterns. The Finnish company Solar Fire Concentration has launched a campaign to build solar concentrators around the world, which use solar thermal devices to power stoves.

An unlikely person has stepped in to try and solve California's water woes -- William Shatner. The man who played Captain Kirk has proposed building a $30 billion pipeline from the Pacific Northwest to funnel water to the increasingly thirsty Golden State. We also saw a petition making the rounds across the internet calling for the ban of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, which has been linked to both cancer and autism. Refrigeration has radically changed the way we eat, but it takes a ton of energy to keep a fridge running around the clock. To address the problem, a Dutch company has created the Groundfridge, a modern take on the root cellar, allowing you to keep your produce fresh without traditional refrigeration. And on the 3D-printing front, Disney has partnered with Cornell and Carnegie Mellon to build a 3D printer that uses fabric as an alternative to plastic. Disney will use the printer for its own purposes, and while it's unlikely that this technology will come to market any time soon, it's another example of how 3D printing is quickly evolving.

On the green architecture front, design firms Snøhetta and SANAA have won a competition to design the Budapest National Gallery/Ludwig Museum -- one of the largest museum developments in Europe. Snøhetta's original proposal called for joining the gallery and museum under one cascading roof that would function as a public terrace. In Australia, Make Architecture has created a playful, new gable-roofed extension for a family in Melbourne, transforming the house into an architectural icon. In a different home-renovation project, design firms March Gut and Wolfgang Wimmer renovated and enlarged an Austrian home, transforming it into the face for Clemens Strobl, an Austrian boutique winery. The sleek, contemporary house contains a large wine cellar in the basement.

Milan Design Week wrapped up last week, and Inhabitat was on the scene to check out some of the top green furniture innovations at the show. Among the showstoppers on display was Japanese designer Kappes' mesmerizing Continuum lamp, an ethereal light animated by the movement of small wires. Some of the best new lighting designs in the world were on display at Euroluce, Design Week's annual international lighting exhibition. Inhabitat took it all in and rounded up the top 15 lighting innovations at the Euroluce show. Other green lighting and furniture designs were also on display at Milan's Brera Design District. That show featured lamps made from recycled plastic cutlery and chicken wire. And finally, the Spazio Rossana Orlandi show was a lesson on how versatile recycled and upcycled materials can be. Looking beyond Milan Design Week to the upcoming Milan Expo 2015, new reports have raised concerns that pavilions won't be completed in time for the May 1st launch.

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