Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Electric Vehicles of the Past

Posted by Andrew at 5:17 PM on February 20, 2011

A few weekends ago, I visited the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Northern Ireland and in the transport part, I came across some electric vehicles. One was a bread delivery van from 1948, one a milk float from 1954 through to 1986, and finally a Post Office van from 1994. Clearly, electric vehicles are not new and as you’ll read later on, the performance of electric cars doesn’t seem to have changed much in the last few decades.

I’ve reproduced the salient parts from the exhibit placards below each photograph.

Bernard Hughes Bread Delivery Van, 1948. This battery electric delivery van was one of a fleet of vehicles used by Bernard Hughes bakery to deliver bread door-to-door. Drivers had a short regular route as the vans could not travel over long distances. With age, the batteries became less reliable and the sight of a battery-powered bread van being towed back to the depot was fairly common.

Co-op Milk Float, 1954. This battery-electric vehicle delivered milk for the Co-operative Society Ltd. from 1954 to 1986. By the 1970s, it was also being used to deliver cream, yoghurt and fruit cordials. Driving the milk float was a slow but simple task. It had an electric motor, powered by batteries. Each night the batteries were recharged at the depot for the next day’s milk round. The maximum speed was 30 mph (48 km/h). It could travel up to 40 miles (64 km) before its batteries needed recharging.

Electric Royal Mail Van, 1994. This electric Ford Ecostar was used by the Royal Mail to enable Ford to test the effectiveness of electric vehicles for working purposes. About 100 of the vans were produced and they were tested throughout North America and Europe.
This van had a top speed of 70 mph (112 km/h) and its charge would last for about 100 miles. Drivers would connect the specially developed battery to a normal domestic supply and wait between five and seven hours for it to charge fully.

This last vehicle is probably the most interesting because it’s not too far off the plug-in electric cars being promoted today.

Ford Ecostar – top speed 70 mph, range 100 miles and charge time approx 7 hours.
Nissan Leaf
– top speed 90 mph, range 109 miles and charge time approx 7 hours.

Note – the UK domestic supply uses 240 V.

So, in nearly 20 years, all we’ve managed to do is increase the top speed?

Somfy Tahoma – Beyond Home Automation

Posted by Andrew at 7:00 PM on February 12, 2011

Steve Iommi chats to Todd and Tom about Somfy‘s new Tahoma system which takes home automation to the next level. It’s based round the concept of “scenes” – a scene might be “weekday-morning” which has certain set of actions, e.g. open blinds at 7.30am, whereas the “weekend-morning” opens the blinds at 8.30. With a whole a range of scenes, everything from blinds to thermostats can be controlled according to the day of the week and the activities of the owner.

As with all things these days, the Tahoma system is connected to the Internet via the homeowner’s Wifi, meaning that the owner can connect via a web browser back to the system to make any changes that might be needed, say, because of changes in the weather.

The underlying technology is the Z-Wave RF home automation wireless standard, so upgrading a home to for automation doesn’t involving lots of recabling. It’s simply a case of replacing the controllers with Z-Wave-compatible ones.

A basic Tahoma system can be professionally installed for under $2000.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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Horizon Portable Fuel Cell

Posted by Andrew at 4:51 PM on February 12, 2011

Tom interviews Kyle from Horizon Fuel Cell Technology which is introducing the world’s first consumer hydrogen fuel cell to the market. It’s been a long time coming and I think we’ll see more of these over the next few years.

Marketed as a USB charger for portable electronics, the hydrogen-filled HydroStik plugs into the MiniPak (the fuel cell) and generates electricity by combining with oxygen from the environment within the fuel cell. There’s a complementary home hydrogen generator, the HydroFill, that will re-fill the HydroStiks.  The MiniPak is hand-sized and each HydroStik will be able to re-charge a smartphone a couple of times.

The system will be priced at $99 for the MiniPak and two charged HydroStiks. The ‘Stiks alone are $9.99 and the HydroFill charger is expected to be in the $150-$200 range. Available towards the end of 2011.

Interview by Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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Gazelle – Convert Your Unwanted Gadgets Into Money

Posted by Andrew at 10:22 PM on February 8, 2011

Andy talks with Anthony Scarsella, Chief Gadgets Officer at Gazelle, purchasers of previously-enjoyed (second-hand) gadgets. Now over 4 year’s old, this is big business with over 250,000 gadgets models available for trade-in.

When compared to ebay or craigslist, Gazelle simply gives a superior customer experience. Free shipping is included, boxes are sometimes provided and there’s no question about whether the purchaser is reliable or not – payment is typically made in week or less. Gazelle provides an online chat where people can ask questions about models or condition.

Basically, there are three steps…first find your gadget on the Gazelle site and put in some information about condition and accessories. Gazelle will then make you an offer: if you accept, you ship the gadget to them. On receipt, Gazelle checks the gadget over and if it matches what you told them, they send you the money within 5-7 days. Easy-peasy.

Anthony reveals some of the economics of the market, including how sales of previous generation phones peak when new models are announced.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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GE Southwest Skystream 600 Wind Turbine

Posted by tomwiles at 10:14 PM on February 8, 2011

Andy Cruise from GE Southwest Windpower discusses the GE Southwest Skystream 600 Wind Turbine. It is designed for consumers who have at least an extra half acre of land and of course, wind !!!

Interview by Scott Elliot of Geek News Central.

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GE EV Watt Car Charging Station

Posted by Andrew at 9:48 AM on February 4, 2011

Jeffrey Powers talks to David Wang and Joshua Caillavet of General Electric about the GE EV Watt station, which is a charging station for electric cars. This is a level 2 charger, operating from 240V, rather than 110V, giving shorter recharge times for EVs (electric vehicles), say 4 to 8 hours, rather than 15 to 18 hours associated with a level 1 charger.

Fortunately, common sense seems to have prevailed with electric cars and a charging connector standard has been agreed by the manufacturers, so there shouldn’t be any compatibility problems between chargers and EVs.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast.

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Ford Introduces The Ford Focus Electric

Posted by tomwiles at 9:17 AM on February 3, 2011

Sean from Ford introduces the all-electric version of the Ford Focus, which is set to be launched in 19 markets in late 2011. This is simply a remarkable vehicle. Esby takes you deep into the heart of the car to get a full rundown of all the features inside and out.  With the need in my family growing for an additional vehicle I could see the green Electric Ford Focus sitting in the driveway.

Interview by Esbjorn Larsen of MrNetCast.com.

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Gazelle

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 12:13 PM on January 30, 2011

The newest shiniest gadget has just come out and you want it, but what do you do with the previous model. You could try to sell it on Ebay or Craigslist but there is an easier way it is called Gazelle. You can send your old electronics to Gazelle and they will either pay you or if the item is not worth anything they will recycle it for you. The way it works is you go to the site and enter the item you want to get rid of. They will ask you the condition of the item and if you have any charger, cables and CD’s that came with the device. Once you fill in the required information they will tell you how much they will pay for the device. On the same page you can see how much the gadget was going for over time. If you choose to accept their offer they will send you a shipping label. In some cases they will send you an box to ship the gadget or gadgets in. Place the item in the box and send it off to Gazelle.  Gazelle will send you an email letting you know they’ve received the item and they have to inspect it.

Once Gazelle finishes looking the item over, you will get another email letting you know if there were any problems and if the price they are going to pay is different then what was originally given. The price maybe lower or higher, if you don’t like the new price they will send the gadget back to you. They have multiple payment options, including Paypal, Amazon Gift Card or Walmart PrePaid Visa. I’ve used Gazelle myself and had a great experience. They kept in touch by email and notified me when there was a problem. It was easy and convenient with no hassle involved.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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nPower PEG Personal Energy Generator

Posted by Andrew at 12:17 AM on January 27, 2011

The nPower PEG (Personal Energy Generator) is a kinetic charger that generates electricity through the motion of your body, typically when you are walking or running. It stores the energy in a rechargeable battery which can then be used to charge your mobile phone, mp3 player or other portable device via USB. As a rough guide, a minute of motion gives a minute of mp3 listening on an iPod nano or similar player.

Available for $159.99 soon – it’s on back-order according to the website.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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The Xi3 Modular Microcomputer

Posted by tomwiles at 1:22 PM on January 23, 2011

David Politis of Xi3 Microcomputers (http://xi3.org/) presents the Xi3 Modular Computer. It is an extremely small form factor and operates on only 20 watts of power, yet contains a dual-core AMD Athlon x86 processor operating at 2 gigahertz. The standard model ships with 2 gigabytes of DDR 2 RAM and 8 gigabytes of solid SSD solid state drive memory.

The Xi3 is revolutionary in several different respects. Not only is the unit as small as possible, the motherboard is broken down into three modular, replaceable components. Thus it becomes possible to upgrade to the latest technologies such as USB 3.0 once it becomes widely available in the near future or to higher-performance future CPU processors.

Imagine the Xi3 as the heart of a high-performance, low-engergy-drain, absolutely silent-running Media Center PC. Since it’s x86 architecture running on a dual-core processor on a high-performance SSD drive it can easily boot Windows 7 Ultimate in 30 seconds flat.

Why didn’t someone think of this before?

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast and Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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