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Tech Tuesdays (GM’s New Toys)

(By Boss Magezine)

My apologies, I did not post anything last week so this week I will do a double feature: two (relatively) new systems that have been rolled out by the All-American car manufacturer, General Motors. Maybe I am biased for posting about the company I work for, but excellence is excellence! I must say that General Motors has achieved Automotive Excellence, time and time again.

One of their newest innovative “toys” is the so-called Super Cruise Mode. A very familiar concept, it acts just like autopilot except on a more temporary platform. It introduces more of a “Car-Driver-Teammate” system instead of completely taking control and letting the driver of the vehicle “relax”. When that happens, most if not all attention to their surroundings is reduced significantly which sounds quite unsafe if you are on I-75 going 70 miles an hour.

Super Cruise Mode, however, uses a plethora of LIDAR sensors and an enhanced GPS system to keep itself together. It also utilizes head positioning sensors to note when the driver’s attention veers from the road. In other words, say you glance a little bit too far to your right, to check out an interesting billboard on an upcoming exit. Your vehicle will activate vibration sensors in the steering wheel in an attempt to guide your attention back to the road. So the car quite literally acts as your co-pilot, by keeping you alert, yet cutting you some slack on the initial maneuvering and controls.

It looks to me like the term “autopilot” is better left for only such machines that can handle it without overcompensating and that operate in much lower traffic volumes. This “Buddy-Pilot System” seems much more effective and in my honest opinion looks just too cool!!

Check out the video here.

Furthermore, learn about GM’s Magnetic Ride Control, which yet again put’s proprietary mechanical systems to shame with the wonders of electromagnetism (sorry my fellow ME counterparts.).

“Magnetic Ride Control is unique in that it does not use mechanical valves or small moving parts that are prone to wear. Instead, a Magnetic Ride Control shock absorber uses the following components:

  • A monotube damper filled with magnetorheological fluid located at each wheel of a vehicle
  • A set of sensors
  • An electronic control unit (ECU) responsible for coordinating the entire system”More about MRC can be found here.

The world of automobiles is truly taking a huge step into an era of pure futuristic innovation. I am ECSTATIC (yes, that is one of my favorite words). In a few short decades, we may not even need traffic lights, who knows. I can not wait to see what the future holds.

My name is Benjamin Tomlinson, I am an Aspiring Engineer of the Future, and thank you for tuning in to BengineerFuture.

 

Thanks for Reading.

— BKT

 

 

(As a believer of accountability and prose, all graphics and content have been properly sourced in the above passage.)

Tech Tuesdays: Spinning Solar Modules

Dear readers.

I will be honest, this week will be short, but to the point.

I stumbled upon a Facebook post from what I assume is another fellow Tech Fiend: Mr. David Wolfe. It highlights Spinning Solar Cells. I am honestly ecstatic because as a solar energy supporter, I am glad that there are alternatives to this alternative (I hope you caught that reference).

With intermittency (and of course infrastructure) being the main roadblock, these spinning cells can evenly distribute the energy from sun across the entire array as well as alleviate the device from thermal inefficiencies. I have heard of rotation cells before, but am glad to see it again in action.

To my skeptics, what would you say about this? Do you still doubt the advancements of solar energy? According to some recent reports, coal is certainly taking a hit, which opens an opportunity to invest in this “energy teenager.”

Read about David Wolfe’s video here.

Thanks for reading

— BKT

 

 

(As a believer of accountability and prose, all graphics and content have been properly sourced in the above passage.)

Tech Tuesdays: Electric School Buses

California is at it again. This time, their new toy is a familiar one that we all know from childhood, The School Bus.

While many companies have been tampering with this innovation, Two, in particular, have taken the biggest step so far. The Lion Electric Co., based in Quebec and Pennsylvania has partnered with First Priority Green Fleet out of California to get ahead of the game on this venture. Together, they are working on electric buses that can range from 55 – 94 miles per charge, not nearly as much as the famed Tesla Model 3 (Lambert). However, considering the application, these specifications are not so bad for early development. “Their routes are generally relatively short and they are often parked for long periods of time as they are not used as intensively as urban transit buses or coaches, which gives them opportunities to charge.” says Electrek Editor-in-Chief, Frederic Lambert.

America’s very own Proterra Company and other companies in China have apparently reached several benchmarks with Electric Buses so there is indeed tangible evidence that bus electrification can be a success. As an EV Enthusiast, my vote is definitely cast in favor of their support, but what about the critics?

There is always the argument of “is switching to Electric worth it?”. Charging stations would need to be installed either on school premises or in the bus yard, which creates an infrastructure problem — the main inhibitor of automobile electrification. Some people went further to argue that implementing an all-electric infrastructure to support electric railroads would also be a feat to overcome. With all this said, I’m curious what can be done further to address these concerns.

What is your opinion? Do you believe that there exists a bright future for Electric Buses? Will our children experience a “rechargeable ride” in a Tesla-Brand School bus to and from school one day? (A very biased, hypothetical presumption, I know).

Share your thoughts and read more about this initiative here.

Thanks for Reading

— BKT

(As a believer of accountability and prose, all graphics and content have been properly sourced in the above passage.)

Tech Tuesdays (Fueling Your Future, One Fuel Cell at a Time)

It is October 1, 1908. America’s first affordable automobile makes its debut appearance on the first day of production. Henry Ford and company must have been ecstatic about such an accomplishment. Back then, instead of rivaling against the design and horsepower of other auto manufacturers, the Model T faced off against the health and leg power of the horse. Just as always, critics claimed that Ford would not succeed, that his product would not match up against what was already traditionally acceptable. However, Ford Motor Company is now the second largest American Auto Manufacturer in the world and holds the title (by most historical accounts)  for producing the first affordable V8 engine.

In Ford’s time, he faced two particular giants. These were symbols for the multiple challenges that came his way. The first, “Economy”. With only 155 total miles of paved U.S. roads, very few of them connecting neighboring states, a car would not last long in the world that society was used to (Sandison).  The second is a peculiar one, “Culture”. People simply were used to the Family Horse and Buggy and could not wrap their minds around rocking a stick back and forth while they sit on top of miniature explosions that are responsible for the propulsion of the vehicle. It was truly a non-trivial complexity to most minds and therefore was hard to “sell” to the masses (both literally and figuratively). Fortunately, Ford saw past these giants, he went on to develop the manufacturing process. This accomplishment set the tone for the modern industrial world. Automobiles were once what consumers and producers perceived as vague and difficult to mass produce. Now, consumers cannot wait to head to the dealership and buy a brand new set of wheels.

Fast forward to 2018. There are now several Henry Fords in the world. CEOs of automakers, Solar Energy Start-Ups and Infrastructure Innovators everywhere are disrupting tradition with “Fordisms”, every day. Only now, even larger organizations like the US Department of Energy and NASA are behind these “Henry Fords”, in support of their ingenuity. General Motors and Honda started a Joint Venture in 2013 to engineer a fleet of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles that can be reliable and affordable for the masses. The possibilities that their work can create are nearly limitless. The US Department of Energy, US Army, and US Navy are all calling dibs on what can come from Fuel Cell Technology. The Chevy Colorado ZH2 has incredible advantages that make it more efficient and useful than its petroleum counterparts.  From a report at General Motors, the vehicle is being tested under rigorous conditions to evaluate its power generation, reduced odor, low thermal signatures, extended range and the possibility of using the water exhaust byproduct. Underwater fuel cell vehicles are also being adopted from their original land concept designs for maintenance and rescue operations (Ganz)(GM).

More importantly, the Department of Defense is taking a strong liking to these incremental achievements, seeking to expand EV and FCEV technology to a larger scale in order to grow the country’s overall network and infrastructure. (Casey)

On the contrary, these initiatives face the same giants as Henry Ford did. The two giants, “Economy” and “Culture” still loom over this progress. With economy, particularly, infrastructure, California may be the only state that has a consistent network of Hydrogen Fuel Stations. Then there is culture. A culture that was once inseparable with the Horse and Wagon, now economically glued to the Reek, Rev, and Roar of the petroleum-powered engine. 

Most consumers are clinging to gas-powered cars solely because of the sound and power they give the driver. Others enjoy the smell of oil and prefer to fix a broken motor mount then replace a battery pack. It is clear that some of these minds would rather enjoy a cultural satisfaction than face bigger problems and usher in superior changes. As a reader, are you pro or anti Alternative Energy in the transportation sector? 

As for me, I believe that Fuel Cell Technology will be at the forefront of Vehicular Transportation due its tremendous efficiency, variety in relevant energy applications, and its innovative nature that can truly add to the current conventions of sustainable transport.

We face cultural, economic and political barriers, but every pioneer before this time has found a way to prove that his or her solution actually works. Fuel Cell Technology will literally fuel our world in the coming years. Our reliance on fossil fuels has reached an alarming peak and the environmental effects are both real and detrimental to society. Together, we can all embrace our inner “Henry Ford” and utilize these fascinating technologies to create a better world to live in. I am confident that we can usher in an era of “Clean, Efficient and Innovative” by redesigning and refueling our future, one fuel cell at a time.

Thanks for Reading

–BKT

(As a believer of accountability and prose, all graphics and content have been properly sourced in the above passage.)

Tech Tuesdays (NASA Kilo Power Reactor)

NASA is back at it again!

Two of my favorite U.S. Organizations (NASA and the US DOE) have partnered together to create the Kilopower Reactor. This unique reactor converts heat from a uranium core into electricity by simply passing it through sodium pipes. The reactor is small, lightweight and can produce enough electrical power to run several households over a period of 10 years. In other words, sustainable energy that can be used productively to perform multiple “super cool science projects.”

“Safe, efficient and plentiful energy will be the key to future robotic and human exploration,” said NASA- STMD Acting Associate Administrator, Jim Reuter. According to tests and evaluations, this reactor can improve lunar and Mars missions, by supplying sustainable energy to astronauts on their missions.

As stated before, the Kilopower Reactor uses a paper-towel-sized, solid, cast uranium-235 reactor core. Sodium heat pipes transfer reactor heat to heavy-duty Stirling engines which convert the heat into electricity. Quite similar to most power generation plants we know of.

This all sounds, quite too good to be true. I must say, I am not too familiar with Nuclear Energy so I ask you this, what could be the potential hazards of building a small Nuclear Power Plant on the moon? Chief Reactor Designer, David Poston claims that the prototype will kill two birds with one stone:

  • Prove that fission power is an effective method for producing electricity
  • Showing that the system is both stable and safe.

Furthermore, the Kilopower team claims that since there would be issues with solar power on the moon (since lunar nights are equivalent to 14 days on Earth), this Nuclear System poses a better alternative for the intended purpose.

Are we willing to risk harming the celestial body responsible for our Oceans tides and an essential part of our Earth-Moon gravitational system for an experimental source of energy for space exploration?

As an alternative energy enthusiast, I support efficient alternatives, but certainly not harmful ones. I really do love NASA and the DOE and support what they do. I hope this Kilopower Project can bring out a positive impact on interstellar travel..

 

Let me know your thoughts.

 

Thanks for reading

BKT

 

(As a believer of accountability and prose, all graphics and content have been properly sourced in the above passage.)