Wizard Gadgetry Tree Hugging for Greener Driving

Tech innovation that looks like pipe dreams at the moment may one day help lower your carbon footprint — not to mention save you some money. Welcome to the age of tree hugging through technology.

Learning From NASCAR

Electric vehicles (EVs) that charge wirelessly, remote-controlled commuter convoys, and other tantalizing technical concepts down the road bring fresh ideas to taming the second-largest source of carbon-dioxide emissions on the planet — transportation.

Racing fans should think of NASCAR drivers “drafting” bumper-to-bumper at hundreds of miles an hour around a track. They’re cutting turbulence and save precious fuel, sure, but they’re also shrinking their carbon footprint. The European Union (EU) is testing a computer-controlled highway convoy that wirelessly links up to seven vehicles in tight formation behind a professional driver, according to CNet. The phenomenon called “platooning” works like this:

  1. You enter the highway, signaling a convoy headed your way.
  2. You relinquish control of your vehicle to a professional driver at the head of the convoy, who…
  3. …guides your vehicle into line, and then operates it remotely.

You then sit back, phoning, texting, or simply relaxing until you see your exit. According to the brains behind the Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) concept, this approach could save 20 percent on fuel, cutting commute time and congestion.

We’ll have to wait for their results to see how such a thing might be applied in the U.S. The reason you can’t just try it yourself, of course, is that it’s illegal. To be ready for the change when it comes you could always get yourself a 2014 Mercedes-Benz S class luxo-cruiser. Just take a glimpse into Car and Driver website, and you’ll see how it’s all wired up for the future.

Charge Your EV Wirelessly

Electric cars are our automotive future, they keep telling us, but all that charging hassle keeps prospective buyers from trying them out. It turns out magnetic induction — the same technology used in electric toothbrushes, pacemakers, and other consumer devices — can charge EV batteries wirelessly, too. Nissan, maker of the fully-electric car, the Leaf, has demonstrated a system that charges a parked car that way. The Japanese automaker wants to implant induction charging strips right into the road surface so cars can get their juice on the go.

To try this wireless EV charging for yourself, AutoGuide.com suggests putting a deposit down on a 2015 Toyota Prius which will offer the new technology.

High Tech Curbs Urban Carbon Footprint

The high-tech ideas for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the city just keep coming. Consider the following:

  • Stackable CityCar — The CityCar is a proposal from the Smart Cities program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a 2-passenger EV available as-needed. Micro cars parked tip-to-tail in special racks, they’d have a jointed driveshaft for scrunching up even more.
  • All Meshed Up — GoLoco is a high-tech mashup of social networking and carpooling from the co-founder of Zipcar. This distributed mesh network will enable America’s millions of cars to share up-to-the-second information making them “radically more efficient.”

These two urban concepts could show up anywhere from Sacramento to your hometown, where you can take part. Meanwhile, to go green when driving in Indianapolis while saving gas, you can browse through used cars with the SmartWay leaf signature on them at a nearby DriveTime location. It may be tempting to give in to your emotions when shopping for a car, and just start drooling over your favorite brands, leather interior options or car stereo hookups. However, doing your part to stay green is not only good karma, but will make you look hip in the process.