9th November 2021

Weird and wonderful environmental vehicles

Fossil-fuelled cars will be banned from sale in the UK from 2030, and people worldwide are busy thinking outside the box to create outlandish, greener alternatives. While talk of new batteries and charging systems are, frankly, uninspiring, innovations like a solar-powered tuk-tuk to electric roller skates prove that being green doesn’t have to be dull and could help to make a big difference in the way we live our lives.
 
In this article, we will reveal some of the weirdest and most wonderful environmentally friendly vehicles that will support long-term climate change objectives.

Tesla semi electric truck is finally nearing production

Conversations around sustainable vehicles are often centred on cars, but is the future of HGVs electric? The sale of diesel lorries will be banned in the UK from 2040 to cut carbon emissions, and HGV manufacturers are plotting for a greener future. Tesla is no stranger to sustainable energies, and the highly anticipated Tesla Semi - its flagship electric lorry, is nearing production. 

The Tesla Semi is not the only electric HGV in the pipeline, as other manufacturers are working around the clock to electrify their lorries. But Tesla seems to have the edge on tech and specs. The 2017 unveiling of Tesla's pioneering truck revealed that the HGV would have up to a 500-mile range and the lowest operating costs of any semi-truck. 

Teen builds solar-powered tuk-tuk from scraps

The leading automotive manufacturers are not the only ones producing environmentally-friendly vehicles, as Suntharalingam Piranawan proved in August 2021. The inventive 15-year-old from Sri Lanka spent his lockdown building a solar-powered tuk-tuk from scraps.  


The project took about eight months to complete and helped Suntharalingam deal with the stresses of the Covid pandemic. The young inventor's previous projects also include a solar-powered foot cycle, but he hopes to go one better and build a solar-powered car for his next invention. 

Student's solar-powered camper van turns heads on 1,800-mile road trip

An innovative Dutch student team designed and built a two-person solar-powered camper van that can travel up to 450 miles a day - complete with kitchen, bed, shower and toilet. The 22-student squad created the sustainable vehicle to complete a 1,800-mile road trip across western Europe, from the university base in Eindhoven to Tarifa in southwest Spain.  

The futuristic camper van uses solar energy to power its engine and internal amenities - and reaches top speeds of 75mph. The roof solar panels can be expanded into a sun cover when parked, and the van can also be charged through electricity if it's a dull day. 

 

The student team think that replicating their work on larger scales can help the climate change movement. “If 22 students can design and build a vehicle like this in one year, then I’m sure companies could as well.” Said, Tijn ter Horst, one of the students on board. 

Tankers and Transit vans sculpted into steel forests

Although the most energy-efficient trucks are doing their bit to cut carbon emissions, artist Dan Rawlings wanted to highlight the threat of pollution by creating a 3D forest sculpture from an old tanker lorry. Rawlings spent four months sculpting the tank to create a beautiful steel forest skeleton.  

Rawlings wanted the environmental message to reflect how people think about the future when using natural resources. He points to the tankers heritage as an example. He said, "I think it's 12 years old, but it's obsolete. No companies would use it because it looks too old, even though it was perfectly functional. It's ridiculous. 

"We've more than got the technology and the scientific ability to think about the future and to do things in a way that will stop pointlessly destroying everything."


It looks like the Batmobile, works on solar energy, and could be the future of cars

Aptera Motors is rolling out the first mass-produced solar-powered car. The Californian company hopes to reduce pollution levels with their three-wheel, ultra-aerodynamic car with 34 square feet of onboard solar cells.  

The cells on the batmobile-like vehicle can provide enough energy to drive about 40 miles. The Aptera design eliminates as much waste as possible. The creators say the car is 13 times more efficient than a gas-powered truck and four times more efficient than the average electric vehicle - with 90% of the power produced by solar going towards making the vehicle move. 

In addition to the solar cells, the Aptera can recharge through electricity and can travel up to 150 miles after just 15 minutes at an ordinary charging station. 

Acton: What happened to the electric roller skates after shark tank

Silicon Valley is famed for technological innovations, and the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple all call it home. So, it is no big surprise that the creation of new-age electric roller skates happened in the same place. Acton's Rocket Skates reach speeds up to 11mph and can travel eight miles before they need recharging.  

Pressing down on the heel kicks two DC motors into action to skate away, and clicking the heels together brings you to a stop. "Best heel-clicking trip since Dorothy got home." A full charge takes about 90 minutes.  


Unfortunately for the founder, Peter Tredway, his pitch to the Shark Tank panel in September 2015 was unsuccessful, and he left without a deal. But in 2018, he released an electric skateboard called the Blink S-R.

Pollution-eating car shown off at Goodwood Festival

A British designer has built a car to strip the air of pollution while driving. Designer Thomas Heatherwick revealed the Airo at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and he hopes to produce the Airo in China, making one million of them. 

The radical design is supposed to address pollution issues and solve the "space crisis". The new-age electric car has a glass roof and a room-like interior, with adjustable chairs that transform into beds and a central table - intended for meetings or meals. 

The front grill will reflect the flow of air over the car in the ridged exterior and has an air filter that will "collect a tennis ball worth of particulate matter per year", said Heatherwick. 


"That might not sound a lot but think of a tennis ball in your lungs, that is contributing to cleaning the air, and with a million vehicles in China alone that adds up."

This crazy fuel-efficient plane design has passengers sitting in its wings

Solar and electric technologies have been revolutionising the automotive industries, but the impact of aviation pollution is another vital area to address. KLM has created a V-shaped aeroplane designed to seat passengers in its wings to make it more fuel-efficient. 

The plane will carry 314 passengers, and its futuristic shape will make it lighter and more aerodynamic. The designers say it will need 20% less fuel than an Airbus A350 - one of the previously most advanced aircraft.  

The first scaled model of KLM's Flying-V aircraft successfully took flight in Germany during August 2020, so keep an eye out for more developments.  

For more on how technology and environmental targets could change the future of the haulage industry, check out our articles “It’s not easy being green” and “Most energy efficient trucks in 2021”, and SNAP’s vision of the truck park of the future – Truckpark 2049.

Josh Cousens | SNAP. 

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