News Stories

Cars (& Gas Stations) of the Future

BMW will bring out an electric version of its popular "Mini" in 2010, but you'll have to get on a waiting list in order to buy one, since they will only be leased to around 500 "selected" customers at first. The first ones will be available in California, since that state has a mandate that requires car manufacturers to build 7,500 non-polluting cars by 2014.You can refuel your electric car?if you're lucky enough to get one?by installing a wall socket in your garage, but how can you find a gas station if you have a hydrogen-fueled car?

BMW has its factory in England building Minis without engines, transmissions or fuel tanks in them. They are then shipped to Munich, where electric drivetrains are installed.In Wired.com, Chuck Squatriglia quotes BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer as saying, "This step will allow the BMW Group to gain an initial knowledge of how mobility can be achieved efficiently using purely electrically powered vehicles. Our task here is to combine the ultimate driving experience with an efficient electrified drive with practically no emissions."

Meanwhile, the English company ITM Power has set up a sample hydrogen filling station in the town of Sheffield, which produces hydrogen gas from water and electricity. They've also set up a showcase home in the same city, which uses hydrogen gas for heating, cooking and powering its refrigerator. The company has also designed a small hydrogen power plant that you can use to "fill up" your hydrogen car at home.

BBC News quotes researcher David Hart as saying, "The critical element of this is how much it would cost to put such a refueling station in your home. The technology is very plausible but there are some issues about public acceptance."

Another new California law that is affecting drivers: driving while talking on a hand-held cellphone became illegal in California on July 1st, and other states will undoubtedly soon follow. It's happened in Canada too: since April 1st, when Nova Scotia outlawed the use of hand-held cellphones while driving, sales of hands-free devices have increased dramatically. But researchers don't think this makes driving while talking on the phone any safer AT ALL!

Researcher Yoko Ishigami surveyed current scientific research on cellphone use, showing that talking on the phone, regardless of phone type, has negative impacts on performance, especially when the driver is confronted by complex or unpredictable situations. She says, "Talking and listening are such complicated tasks, especially if you're thinking ahead to what you?re going to say. The conversation is what takes all your attention."

Hands-free phones can even make things WORSE, because before, people would often drive slower while talking on the phone or pull over to finish a call. Ishigami says, "People tend to be over confident with hands-free and drive faster. They're thinking, 'I'm OK because I've got on the headgear. Whereas if they were driving with a hand-held phone, they tend to drive slower."

The future is here?in California and the UK, anyway. What happened to the rest of us?

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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