Driving from Australia to Norway without stopping for gas

Four men plan to drive from Australia to Norway on biodiesel alone. Four Aussie men are preparing to make an epic road trip that will see them drive from their home in Australia all the way to Norway. That, in and of itself, should make for quite an adventure, but they’ll also make the journey without stopping at a single gas station along the way. Instead, they’ll use biodiesel to power their vehicle and they’ll gas up by collecting cooking oil and animal fat from restaurants and pubs, which they’ll convert into fuel instead.

The journey has been labeled The Green Way Up and it will get underway in March. The drive will start in Hobart, Australia, the southernmost point on that continent and will end more than 28,000 miles later in the northernmost part of Norway. Along the way, the team will pass through 30 different countries, spotlighting the use of alternative fuels on a local level along the way.

In fact, the focus of the entire trip is to bring the use of alternative fuels to the attention of the general public, placing an emphasis on their importance to the environment and the future of energy for the planet. The team is so committed to using biodiesel for instance, that they’ve built their own special processor to create the fuel they’ll use along the way, and their putting the final touches on a biodiesel-powered boat that will carry them from Darwin, Australia to Singapore, with stops on the islands in East Timor, Indonesia and Malaysia along as well.

To find out more about this expedition, visit the official website and check out the video below. Anyone else feel inspired to go on a big road trip now?

[Photo credit: The Green Way Up]

Green Way Up from Jo Melling on Vimeo.

Solar plane lands after two-week flight

A week ago we reported on the Zephyr solar airplane flying nonstop for a week. Yesterday it landed safely after flying nonstop for two weeks, achieving the goal its designers set for it.

The unmanned drone runs on efficient solar cells along its wingspan that charge batteries to keep it running through the night. Sunny skies over Arizona helped boost its power. Engineers hope that it will be the first “eternal plane”, never having to land. Qinetiq, the UK defense firm that designed it and flew it over a US military base, said there was no need for it to land yesterday but that it had proven its worth and is now ready for production.

The US military is interested in using it for military purposes, but Qinetiq is also pointing up the plane’s scientific and commercial possibilities.

The previous endurance record for an unmanned drone was 30 hours, 24 minutes. A manned solar plane, the Solar Impulse, recently flew through the night on a 24-hour flight.

Photo courtesy Qinetiq.

Solar-powered plane flies at night

An airplane that relies entirely on solar energy has flown for 24 hours straight, cruising along happily through the darkness and emerging into the dawn with three hours left in its batteries. Once the sun rose, of course, the batteries immediately began to recharge.

The Solar Impulse is the product of the same great minds that brought you the cuckoo clock–the Swiss! The entire wingspan is covered with 12,000 solar cells that power four electric engines. Average cruising speed is 70 km/hr (43.5 mph). You can see complete stats on the plane here.

The next step for the engineers is to make the next generation of the plane, one that will fly around the world by 2013. The Solar Impulse is not the first solar-powered airplane, only the first to complete a manned night flight. Scientists and engineers have been experimenting with solar-powered planes since the 1970s and manned flights since the 1980s. This new leap forward will add impetus to a field of study that has so far received little attention from the press.

While this technology is still in the experimental stage, the potential impact for the airline industry and the environment is obvious. Airline emissions pose a major environmental threat, and G8 leaders have called for a 50 percent reduction in airline emissions by 2050. That’s a tall order, but it looks like the Swiss have shown the way forward. Of course the Solar Impulse’s slow speed and small cockpit mean the age of solar-powered 747s is a long way off, think of it as the modern equivalent of the Wright Brothers plane. It was only a generation after Kitty Hawk that passengers started flying to international destinations.

Explorer claims second of “three poles”

We’ve mentioned Eric Larsen and his Save The Poles Expedition on more than one occasion here at Gadling. He’s the explorer who has set out to become the first person to visit the “three poles” in one calendar year, with the three poles being the North and South Geographic Poles and the summit of Mt. Everest.

Last week Larsen took another major step in his quest by reaching 90ºN, otherwise known as the North Pole. He, along with teammates Antony Jinman and Darcy St. Laurent, spent 51 days out on the ice, battling high winds, sub-zero temperatures, massive rubble fields, and ice flowing away from the Pole that made it seem like they were on a treadmill at times. But in the end, they reached the top of the world, putting Larsen two-thirds of the way toward his goal. Eric, and two different teammates reached the South Pole back on January 2nd.

The main objective of the project is to raise awareness of global warming and its impact on the Earth’s Poles, while promoting the use of new, clean energy sources and carbon offsets. In that light, it seems all the more fitting that the team arrived at the North Pole on Earth Day.

With the North and South Pole under his belt, Larsen will now turn his attention on Everest. It is too late to make the climb during the spring season, so he’ll be planning a fall ascent. If all goes as planned, he’ll be making history later this year.

Airports go green with new eco-friendly initiatives

Airports are little cities unto themselves. Many are even large enough to have their own zip codes. With so many people coming in and out, cars dropping off and picking up, and planes departing and landing, airports produce a whole lot of air pollution and physical trash. But, many are making an effort to reduce their environmental impact by implementing new green features. Here are some of the coolest green initiatives at airports around the world.

Using Alternative Power
Last July, Boston Logan Airport installed 20 wind turbines that will offset about 3% of the building’s annual energy needs (doesn’t sound like much, but consider the amount an airport uses), and it’s not the only airport investing in alternative sources of energy. The airports of Munich, Zurich, San Francisco and Denver have also installed solar panels to help power their buildings. Dallas/Fort Worth Airport converted its bus and shuttle fleet to run on compressed natural gas and hydrogen-based fuel, as has Mineta San Jose. Heathrow is testing its new Personal Transport Pods, battery-powered, zero-emission vehicles that will whisk passengers from the terminal to the parking lot, and Boston provides preferred parking spots to drivers of hybrid cars.

Refilling Empty Water Bottles
The Portland Airport allows travelers coming through the security line with water bottles to dump the liquid but keep the container to refill once they pass security. That doesn’t sound like a big deal until you realize that other airports, like Chicago O’Hare, require the bottles to be thrown out. Not only does that policy generate tons of unnecessary waste, but all those full or half-full bottles weigh more and therefore the removal produces more emissions. Portland’s rule seems pretty green in comparison. San Francisco Airport goes one step further than Portland by providing water refill stations past the security checkpoint so people can refill their water bottles free of charge.

Recycling and Composting
Many airports have limited recycling programs in place, but some are going above and beyond when it comes to making sure that nothing that can be recycled gets added to a landfill. Seattle-Tacoma Airport, rated by the Clean Airport Partnership as one of the greenest in the country, charges concessionaires by the pound for waste(but doesn’t charge for recycling), encouraging vendors to recycle as much as possible. Portland makes it easy on flyers as well by providing a “single sort” recycle bin. Everything gets tossed in one bin and later sorted by a recycling company, so people don’t have to worry about which receptacle they throw their items into.

Seattle doesn’t end its recycling efforts with paper, plastic, glass and aluminum – it also composts 145 tons of coffee grounds per year and recycles 1,000 gallons of cooking oil each month, which is then used to produced biodiesel fuel. Munich Airport has a similar program: the organic waste from the airport’s restaurants is collected, sent to a farm, and used as pig feed. San Francisco hopes to require its concessionaires to serve all food in containers that can be composted and turned into fertilizer and Denver Airport will begin its own composting program this January.

Other green airport practices include using energy-efficient LCD screens on all computers and monitors, landscaping with native plants, installing low-flow toilets, and replacing paper towel dispensers with electric hand dryers. With the amount of waste and emissions airports produce as a result of their sheer size, the have a long way to go to truly be called “green”, but it’s nice to know that many are taking steps to reduce their environmental impact in whatever small ways they can.