Friday, March 7, 2008


Back to cars: I love them. I especially love fun, involving cars.

BUT, I feel sad that internal combustion's heyday seems to be drawing to a close. That said, I feel a strong responsibility to promote alternate energy and mobility solutions to reduce mankind's impact on our earth and to lengthen the availability of our finite resources. I think it is crazy that people who do not think humanity is to "blame" for global warming use that as an excuse to not take responsibility for their actions or purchasing.

Burning anything (e.g. combustion) releases chemicals into the air: CO2, CO, and NOx - not to mention unburned fuel molecules, sulfur, ash, particulates, and whatever else is in the fuel being burnt then. And, miracle of miracles, not burning those things does NOT release those chemicals into the air. So, as the day follows the night, less burning creates less combustion by-products. Thus - electric vehicles are good and will be better (Hydrogen is lame and boring and horrifically impractical - Ethanol is a publicity stunt).

However, this (electricity) does not sort out two issues with cars: making batteries which I am uninformedly guessing is a dirty process and will need a lot more work, and making the cars themselves. The latter motivates me to propose the following: let's try to make a car from a very renewable resource - bamboo.

I have been growing ever more fond of bamboo in recent years. It is a grass that can grow astonishingly rapidly (some species can grow over 3 feet in a day). It cares little for where it is grown. It is a low maintenance plant. It can reach usable maturity in as little as 3 years or so. It grows right on top of itself. It has more strength to weight than steel - although I have yet to discover what manner of strength that is (I am hoping both tension and compression). Oh, did you know that is a little bit prolific, as well?

I think that it would be fun and educational to build a bamboo-space-frame car. Ideally it would be electrically propelled, to be charged by energy captured from the sun or wind or geothermal sources. However, in earlier testing stages, it might be prudent to prove the bamboo-chassis concept with a more mainstream powertrain such as a small (possibly turbo-charged) motorcycle engine with chain drive. 

Obviously, bamboo won't last as long as a steel car - provided that car is not an old Japanese one. Obviously, there are construction issues to work out. Possibly, there are severe safety issues to iron out, but I don't intend for bamboo to replace the steel industry. I think that the awareness that such a versatile resource is at our fingertips would be invaluable. Honestly, it even tastes good! Pandas have it worked out! I think that more people need to think ecologically. I think that if enough gasoline-blooded people can think "green" (I hate the connotation this is taking on with all your liberal media people and their Priuses - I think it is too divisive), then maybe adrenalin junkies won't have to "sacrifice" so much.

We have a lot of ingenuity left in us, and I don't think we need to wallow in pathetic hermitism to save the planet. I don't think that thinking green requires opposition to the idea of liberating Iraq (although I think we need to liberate the country from us momentarily). I want to promote the idea that people like me can have fun in a car built from material grown in 3-5 years on a 4x4 ft plot of land.

I am actually pursuing the idea of making a bamboo car, and I have received interesting feedback from a few very different people. Car people tend to like it because it is weird and interesting and challenging. Green people tend to like it because it is green. I would like feedback on this idea from any interested parties - or even disinterested.

1 comment:

Chanda said...

Hey Brian. I did not and probably won't read your blog. I just can't. It gives me an anxiety attack. But I WILL post comments that have nothing to do with your blog. So that's something, eh? Morgan brought some root beer home. It was my first taste after 9 or so months of no root beer. We drank it on the porch at night the way root beer or I suppose all beer should be drunken/dranken/drinken, whatever.