Building the World

August 11, 2017
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Grid Luck

Denmark, state banner from 14th century, location of world’s first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) commercial charging station. Image: wikimedia commons.

Batteries in electric cars could help to balance the grid. In 2017 electric vehicles drew 6-terawatt-hours; by 2040, draw will expand to a predicted 1,800 terawatt hours. Tokyo-based automaker Nissan is conducting trials in Denmark where car fleet operators earn $1,530 (€1300 Euro) per year via two-way charge points. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) infrastructure could be a sign of the future. Major highway systems take note.

It may be time for a systems view of electric vehicles, predicted to account for 54% of new car sales by 2040, Electric cars will transform highways like the U.S. Interstate Highway system – more than 45,000 miles, and even more dramatically the service areas nearby. Should the Pan-American Highway, 30,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina, be the first to offer a network of V2G? Canada and the United States could rebuild the Alaska Highway for a new era. On a local level, commuter rail stations are adding charging stations; shopping centers are dotted with ChargePoint and Tesla pods. Every one of these installations is an opportunity for rebuilding the automotive energy system.

If the Nissan/Enel/Nuvve commercial vehicle-to-grid hub of 10 stations proves successful, Ernesto Ciorra of Enel predicts: “With V2G we can enhance grid stability, further enabling the integration of renewables. V2G is one of the sustainable innovation areas that is taking us towards a low-carbon society for the benefit of present and future generations.” As the number of electric vehicles increases is the future of gridlock, grid luck?

For more:

“Parked Electric Cars Earn $1,530 From Europe’s Power Grids.” By Jessica Shankleman, 11 August 2017, Bloomberg.https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-11/parked-electric-cars-earn-1-530-feeding-power-grids-in-europe

“Nissan, Enel and Nuvve operate world’s first fully commercial vehicle-to-grid hub in Denmark.” Nissan Newsroom Europe, 29 August 2016/ID: 149186. http://newsroom.nissan-europe.com/eu-gb/media/pressreleases/149186

“Electric Cars Will Total More Than 50% Of All New Car Sales By 2040,BNEF Forecasts.” By Steve Hanley.  CleanTechnica, 6 July 2017.https://cleantechnica.com/2017/07/06/electric-cars-will-total-half-new-car-sales-2040-bnef/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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May 12, 2017
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Mothers Walk for Peace

Image: Photographer, Rebecca Eschler, 2008. Wikimedia commons.

A higher purpose, above ground; a safer world, below. Why not send cars and trucks underground, where new roads for autonomous vehicles might be easier to build? Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX fame, envisions cars positioned on platforms that descend to traverse networks below ground. A similar design was earlier suggested by David Gordon Wilson of MIT whose palleted highways would increase speed and decrease accidents. Tunnels have changed transport around the world: the Channel Tunnel and the Mount Blanc Tunnel are recent examples. Boston depressed the Central Artery, resulting in a Greenway atop with a special park called the Mothers’ Walk. Nearby, walk towards a better world with the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute for the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace. Will Elon Musk’s underground highways promote a cleaner, safer environment with more parks above where people can walk and nature flourish? It’s an exciting idea with a name that belies the innovation: The Boring Company.

For more: mothersdaywalk4peace.org

For Elon Musk, watch the YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpDHwfXbpfg

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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March 10, 2017
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Bridge to the Future

Bridges to the future: in the next 15 years, the world will build more infrastructure than is currently on the planet. Photo: “Gaoliang Bridge: The Summer Palace” by Hennessey, wikimedia commons.

Rebuilding may characterize the next era. Bridges, roads, rail, energy, and water systems are in need of an upgrade. There is so much backlog in the United States, costs are estimated at $4.6 trillion by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon states it’s not just the United States, or even North America. Global infrastructure needs an upgrade. History suggests a few guidelines. Focus on projects; jobs will follow. Target both macro and micro: on the grand scale, choose iconic projects of national (or regional) impact; on a micro scale, concentrate on towns and local improvements that can be seen in four years. Government allocations should not focus on profit (certain infrastructure pays for itself in tolls, as Charlemagne proved, and such ventures can be public/private), but on rights and commons. Consider creation of a national clearinghouse where states and cities can learn from each other (such as the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership program). Some of these suggestions are offered by Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute, and others by Michael Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, and Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust in their recent announcement: “Helping mayors do their job.”

Felipe Calderon adds: “There’s evidence that 1% of GDP spent on infrastructure can lead to a 1.5% increase in GDP within 4 years. But, given the rate at which greenhouse gas emissions are accumulating, the type of infrastructure we build matters more than ever. Building a solar plant is better than building a coal plant. Building light rail is better than expanding a highway. Solid flood defense systems can hold back rising seas. We will be building over the next fifteen years more infrastructure than currently exists on the planet.

Global infrastructure investment, over the next 15 years, is expected to reach $90 trillion. It’s an opportunity for structural sustainability perhaps unprecedented in history. Can we build the bridge to a better future?

For more: “America’s Infrastructure Scores a D+” American Society of Civil Engineers, Infrastructure Report Card. http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

Bloomberg, Michael R. and Drew Gilpin Faust, “Helping mayors do their job.” The Boston Globe, 25 August 2016. https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/08/25/helping-mayors-their-job/1HblR7a4hKsQMJEbXmnAgP/story.html

Calderon, Felipe. “Global infrastructure needs an upgrade.” 7 October 2016. CNN. http://money.cnn.com/2016/10/07/news/economy/felipe-calderon-oped-us-infrastructure/index.html

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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March 18, 2016
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8 billion hours

Traffic jam in Beijing, 2005. Image: wikimedia commons.

Americans spend 8 billion hours a year stuck in traffic. When the Federal Highway System was built, roadways did not anticipate the lure of the automobile and individual transport. China’s traffic is legendary; Beijing’s 50-lane stall resulted in a film. Aging infrastructure, bridges and roads, present both a danger and an opportunity. As transportation systems are replaced and improved, should solar highways be considered, or lanes for autonomous vehicles? What about filling stations that offer flexible fuel options including electrical charging? Will new transit forms including the Hyperloop transform commuting, reclaiming and returning those 8 billion hours?

Watch a traffic jam in Beijing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3kL6nMap2s

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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July 9, 2015
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Environmental (W)holiness

Pope Francis stated that protecting the environment is a moral and ethical obligation. Image: wikimedia commons.

Pope Francis has updated the list of sins; harming the environment is now of ethical, and moral, import. Environmental provisions were part of building Solomon’s Temple; Hebrew and Phoenician work teams alternated crews so that agriculture could be sustained. More recently, Boston’s Central Artery Project, known familiarly as the ‘Big Dig,’ hinged on provisions for environmental protection to qualify in part for some aspects of federal funding. When the road was placed underground (it was first called the Depressed Artery), a Greenway replaced cars with gardens, enhancing city aesthetics and oxygen. Environmental requirements and protections are increasingly part of public/private initiatives. Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra, Law 071, passed by Bolivia, and presented at the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference, defines earth as a collective subject of public interest with inherent rights. As the world prepares for the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris, what influence might the pope’s encyclical Laudato Si have on environmental governance and guidance? In the United States, will the address to Congress on September 24, 2015 encourage progress?

For the complete text of Laudato Sihttp://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

For the complete text of Pope Francis’ address to the United States Congress on September 24, 2015:

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/09/24/text-of-pope-francis-address-to-congress

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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April 7, 2015
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PanAmerican MagLev

“Ciudad de Panama de noche” image: wikimedia commons.

Cumbre de las Americas, 2015 Summit of the Americas, in the panel on “Infrastructure, Logistics and Connectivity: Bringing the Americas Together,” could inaugurate a new vision for the Pan American Highway. Planned as a railway, the route might realize its original vision, with designs by Ernst Frankel, Frank Davidson, and Elon Musk. Could the PanAmerican MagLev take inspiration from Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Vactrain? The 2015 Summit convenes in Panama, renowned for success of the Panama Canal. Should Panama propose an elevated mag-lev train to improve the environment, and unite the Americas in La Via Panamericana?

http://svc.summit-americas.org/?q=vii_mandates

http://www.oas.org/en/default.asp

https://www.wpi.edu/Pubs/E-project/Available/E-project-101207-130034/unrestricted/IQP.pdf

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/69842/warren-kelchner/the-pan-american-highway

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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October 27, 2014
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Interconnectivity: Americas

 

Simon Bolivar. Image: wikimedia commons.

Should the Americas be interconnected; if so, in which ways? Simon Bolivar raised the issue in 1826; Bill Clinton continued the debate at 1994’s Summit of the Americas, as Nafta took a further step. In 2015, is it time to consider the Pan-American Highway , perhaps inspired by its original vision? Pan-American Railway reconnaissance surveys were completed in 1897, but in 1923, the 29, 800 mile route instead became a highway. Now, with magnetic levitation and tube train technology, envisioned by Frankel and Davidson, and recently by Tesla/SpaceX-founder Elon Musk, there is an opportunity. The most difficult part of large-scale infrastructure may be the securing of rights-of-way: in this case, already agreed. The route has never been completed, respecting the Darien Gap’s precious environment. But might an elevated tube train serve as flyover? On the ground, “La Carreterra Panamericana” could thus be preserved, and even enhanced by addition of a Sportsway inspired by Benton MacKaye’s Appalachian Trail. Summit of the Americas 2015 convenes in Panama; might Juan Carlos Varela propose a new vision? Will Bolivia, named after Simon Bolivar, lead the way to an environment of greater connectivity with Law 071, “Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra?”

Bolivia: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/10/bolivia-enshrines-natural-worlds-rights

Musk’s Hyperloop: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/12/tech/innovation/hyperloop-fastest-trains/

Pan-AmericanRail:http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/69842/warren-kelchner/the-pan-american-highway

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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July 17, 2014
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Horseless Carriages to Driverless Cars

 

Driverless Cars. Image with appreciation to Stanford University at http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/.

In 1902, there were 17 million horses and only 23,000 cars in the United States but six years later, Henry Ford rolled the first Model T off the production line at the Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit. By 1921, 387,000 miles of paved roads transformed the United States to a driving economy. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 continues to finance improvements, including Boston’s Big Dig. Was Henry Ford prescient in calling his invention an “auto-mobile?” Will we soon be a nation of driverless cars? Should Nafta be expanded to link autonomous smart highways from South to North, in a new Via Panam?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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October 9, 2013
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A River (of Green) Runs Through It: Boston’s Central Artery

Boston’s Greenway. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Greenways, like the Rose Kennedy Greenway, jewel of the Central Artery in Boston, Massachusetts, offer economic, artistic and public health benefits. An urban equivalent of the Appalachian Trail, such stretches of nature bring fresh air into dense cities including Dalian China, planned to emulate Haussmann’s Paris and the Washington, D.C. of L’Enfant and Banneker. But greenways may provide another aspect of public health: disaster response routes. City centers are prone to blockage; greenways could serve as pathways to safety, and as a means of reaching critical areas. Meanwhile, these ribbons of green keep city dwellers healthy. Sunday bicyclists traversing the Paseo de Reforma, in Mexico City, could use the same route if an earthquake strikes. Might the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities after Disasters (www.umb.edu/crscad/) lead the way for an expansion of urban greenways in the world’s cities vulnerable to earthquakes?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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May 29, 2013
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US Interstate: Horses to Horsepower

Wild Horses, U.S. Bureau of Land Management

More than 17 million horses shared American roads with 23,000 cars in 1903. Five years later, Henry Ford rolled the Model T off the production line in Detroit, Michigan. Soon, the phrase “horseless carriage” was in vogue (following Scottish engineer James Watt’s coining of the term “horsepower” as that unit of energy needed to lift 550 lbs 1 foot in 1 second). Inspired by Germany’s Autobahn, Dwight Eisenhower authorized the Federal Highway System on June 29, 1956. Soon, the interstate system stretched 160,093 miles (275,645 kilometers) from Maine to California, accounting for 43% of all American travel and transit. But traffic and accidents endanger roads. For these and other reasons, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched the DARPA Grand Challenge, a prize contest for driverless cars. In 2004, no entrant succeeded. But in 2005, Sebastian Thrun, co-inventor of Google Street View, headed a team that won by modifying a Prius with Google Driverless Technology. In 2012, Nevada became the first state to legalize driverless cars, with Florida and California racing just behind. What factors will drive the future of cars and highways?

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Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

 

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