more greener wheels

At jungle[8] we keep track of all things green, and we try to look beyond the “greenwashing” tendencies of corporate America to try and spot the technical innovations that are practical and make a real difference. That being said, it’s important to note that any vehicle running on anything other than sunlight, pedal-power, or wind, is not “green” in any way, but can be “greener” if it’s made to be more efficient and less polluting. A couple days ago we posted an article on the future of eco-vehicles. As we learned there, diesels will be a viable, practical and affordable alternative to hybrids when Honda and VW import the first round of compact diesels in 2009. Also, hybrids will be substantially better for the 2009 model year and we will have more models to choose from.

However, it’s understandable that for many of you, 50 miles per gallon simply isn’t good enough. You needn’t worry, because 100-plus mpg vehicles are closer to reality that you may think.

Piaggio, a major Italian scooter manufacturer, already has a hybrid scooter in the works. Aside from its gas-sipping qualities, the overall design is very unconventional—it has three wheels, two in the front to steer, and one in the back. Amazingly, the front tires lean over to facilitate safe, effective cornering. You may have seen one already, because many people are currently driving non-hybrid versions of these scooters all over the USA. The hybrid version is rumored to get between 140 and 170 mpg!!! This figure may seem outrageous and unbelievable before one accounts for the fact that traditional scooters can easily go 70-80 miles on one gallon of gasoline, due to their minimal weight and compact motors. The hybrid design will be similar to the system’s found in Priuses, but will have the capability to recharge with household AC power. The mpg rating of these soon-to-be-released hybrid scooters looks even better if you try to imagine a hybrid car getting the same mileage—2000 miles of driving on a single tank would be possible if a hybrid car achived that kind of efficiency. Also, owners of the Piaggio hybrid scooter can easily manage long commutes to work, 5 days a week, on only one gallon of gasoline.

For those who acknowledge the high carbon footprint of battery production, and won’t be seen on a dorky-looking 3-wheeled scooter, there’s a solution—The Hayes Diversified Technologies (HDT) diesel-powered motorcycle. This motorcycle came into existence in the same manner of many types of commonplace machinery in the world today—through a military contract. The military decided few years back that all their battlefield vehicles and other machinery would run off diesel fuel for obvious reasons—diesel engines are stone-reliable, efficient, and, perhaps most importantly, less dangerous because diesel fuel is virtually non-combustible (those army guys have a lot of flammable stuff lying around) if spilled, unlike gasoline.

The clever dudes at HDT found a way to cheaply covert existing Kawaski KLR 650’s to effective diesel-burning status. The result—105 mpg, with MORE power than the original gasoline-powered motorcycle its based on, a range that exceeds 600 miles, and a 100mph top-speed. Although the army already has a bunch of these bitchen bikes, we’re still waiting for the civilian model, the “Bulldog” as HDT figures out how to conform their bike to environmental regulations.

The irony of the HDT diesel motorcycle is stunning—right now these bikes are being used in a war effort that has, essentially, created the demand for the civilian model. Yet, The HDT diesel motorcycle is an example a greener motorcycle with no compromises—it still hauls butt and looks cool. The anti-war-industrial-complex folks can look at this bike as a small, yet positive, side effect of war-waging—HDT’s amazing “greener” bike would have never left the drawing board without defense spending.

The HDT “Bulldog” and the Piaggio hybrid scooters are promising signs of a future in which gas-hogging vehicles and widespread acceptance of wasteful lifestyles will no longer be accepted.

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