Our Changing World for Thursday 15 May 2008
UltraCommuter ready to race
Hybrids - vehicles which use an electric engine as well as an internal combustion engine - are slowly joining the mainstream in New Zealand. And if a partially electric car is a step forward, surely the next step is to get rid of fuel engines altogether. Or is that sci fi dreaming? Not at all, says Mike Duke, engineer and Senior Lecturer at Waikato University. Amelia Nurse went to see the UltraCommuter, a battery electric vehicle (BEV) designed to demonstrate that vehicles which draw their electricity supply from renewable sources are feasible for NZ.
The Antarctic ice sheet was long considered as relatively stable, but Richard Alley, a geologist at Pennsylvania State University, says recent fast changes have dispelled that view. Even small puddles of meltwater on top of glaciers can open crevasses and slight warming of water beneath ice shelves can speed ice flow to the ocean. He talks to Veronika Meduna about the future of the Antarctic ice sheet in a preview of a lecture he will give in Wellington next week.
Khosla Ventures is a US venture capital company which invests in "Clean Technology", whether through energy efficiency or ways of replacing oil and coal. Their chief scientific officer Doug Cameron was the keynote speaker at an international biotechnology conference in Auckland. Amelia Nurse asks him what directions fuel generation is headed in and whether using biomass for energy is a viable long term solution to the oil crisis.