Monthly Archives: August 2016

Modular camper van is one for the dogs

Camper vans are a great option for adventurous couples and small families looking to get out and see the countryside. The all new Dogscamper van helps those couples and small families bring the family dog along. The German-designed Type B motorhome makes man’s best friend a priority with a modular interior that includes a flexible kennel system that fits dogs large and small, ensuring that the whole family can ride and sleep comfortably.

Dogscamper is the latest camper van brand from Martin Hemp, whose work also includes the versatile Volkswagen and Mercedes van creations of Terra Camper, and the delightfully retro VW Flow Camper. The cornerstone of Dogscamper’s design is what it calls the Vari-Modular System, a series of grid walls that mount to the floor rails inside the van, allowing the owner to create kennels of different sizes and layouts as needed.

The system is designed to save on weight and bulk when compared to a permanent dog room or portable crate, while offering a more comfortable, adjustable space for one or more dogs to relax in during the ride and at camp. The Vari-Modular dog area closes securely and keeps dogs safely in place during the ride. Interior and exterior doors can be opened up at camp, allowing dogs to roam in and out of the vehicle and retire for a nap when desired.

The dog area mounts neatly below the folding bed, so that humans also have a comfortable place to spend the night. The pop-up roof offers a second bed, providing sleeping space for four people.

Other helpful features for dog owners include a ramp that lets Fido or Fifi board and deboard through the liftgate with ease, a dog food/accessory case that hangs on the back next to the spare tire, and a wall mount/hook system that provides a place to hang up leashes, as well as other items, like coats and lanterns.

Beyond its dog-friendly features, the Dogscamper is a smartly laid out camper van that relies on Terra Camper’s expertise in modular furniture design. It features an indoor/outdoor driver-side kitchen area with removable camping stove and slide-out refrigerator. The fridge can be accessed from inside or out thanks to a pull-out that rides right through the sliding side door. The sink includes a sprayer hose to double as an outdoor shower, another feature that promises to be quite handy for dog owners.

Explains why the Earths core

Geologists estimate that the Earth’s core is a sweltering 5,700 K (5,427° C, 9,800° F), putting it about on par with the surface of the Sun – and yet the inner core is a solid ball of iron. Why it doesn’t liquify is a bit of a mystery, but now a study from KTH Royal Institute of Technology puts forward a new theory, simulating how solid iron can remain atomically stable under such extreme conditions.

Here on the surface of the Earth, iron atoms arrange themselves into cubes, in what’s known as a body-centered cubic (BCC) phase. Since this state is a product of room temperature and normal pressure, scientists have long believed that iron couldn’t exist in this form in the broiling temperatures and intense pressure at the planet’s center. Under those conditions, the crystal architecture of iron was expected to take on the shape of a hexagon, in a state called the hexagonal close-packed (HCP) phase.

Using the Swedish supercomputer Triolith, the new study from KTH crunched larger volumes of data than had previously been analyzed. The data indicated that the core was likely composed of 96 percent pure iron, with the remaining four percent made up of nickel and some light elements. But most importantly, the study found that BCC iron can indeed exist in the core, with its crystal structure remaining stable thanks to the very characteristics that were previously assumed to destabilize it.

“Under conditions in Earth’s core, BCC iron exhibits a pattern of atomic diffusion never before observed,” says Anatoly Belonoshko, one of the study’s authors. “It appears that the experimental data confirming the stability of BCC iron in the core were in front of us – we just did not know what that really meant.”

The crystal structures can be thought of as being divided into “planes” of atoms – that is, two-dimensional layers of atoms. So, iron atoms in a cubic phase are arranged in two planes of four atoms, making up the eight corners of a cube. These structures are normally fairly unstable, with planes sliding out of shape, but at extreme temperatures, the layers that slide off are reinserted into the mix, occurring reliably enough that it stabilizes the structure.

This diffusion normally destroys the crystal structure by liquifying it, but in this case, the iron manages to preserve its BCC structure. The researchers liken the planes to cards in a deck.

“The sliding of these planes is a bit like shuffling a deck of cards,” says Belonoshko. “Even though the cards are put in different positions, the deck is still a deck. Likewise, the BCC iron retains its cubic structure. The BCC phase goes by the motto: ‘What does not kill me makes me stronger.’ The instability kills the BCC phase at low temperature, but makes the BCC phase stable at high temperature.”

This finding also helps explain another inner-Earth mystery: why do seismic waves travel faster pole-to-pole than east-to-west, through the core? This phenomenon has been explained by the core being anisotropic, meaning it has a directional texture like the grain of wood. If that texture runs north-south, that difference would be expected, and the stable BCC phase iron could create this texture.

“The unique features of the Fe BCC phase, such as high-temperature self-diffusion even in a pure solid iron, might be responsible for the formation of large-scale anisotropic structures needed to explain the Earth inner core anisotropy,” says Belonoshko. “The diffusion allows easy texturing of iron in response to any stress.”

Packed to the propellers with disaster relief

Delivering life-saving supplies to victims of natural disasters and war zones often relies on inexact air drops requiring good weather to pull off. The Pouncer, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from Windhorse Aerospace, would land accurately at disaster sites with a design that allows for the utmost utility of its parts. Its hollow wings and body can be packed with food, water and medicine, the pre-formed shell used as shelter, and the frame burned for cooking fuel.

Company founder Nigel Gifford, who’s experience includes a stint in the British Armed Forces designing feeding programs for soldiers in hostile environments, helped develop the Ascenta drone, which was bought by Facebook in 2014. He’s also an aeronautical engineer, veteran skydiver and successful Everest mountaineer.

For the Pouncer, Gifford told New Atlas he, “had the original idea a year ago as a solution to getting food aid into Syria.” Traditional methods of aid delivery include dropping boxes via parachute, which can miss their mark and thus go to waste. The parachute itself is often a wasted byproduct as well; they can sometimes be reused, but collecting and repacking them is difficult and costly. Also, some drop zones are potentially dangerous, putting aircraft and crew at risk.

The Pouncer is designed for situations “where all communications have broken down and roads, tracks and railways have been destroyed, and ground traffic cannot get to survivors,” Windhorse Aero’s Jason Dobson told us, citing last year’s Nepal earthquake as a prime example. “This also applies to areas of the world that are in conflict, where it is also unsafe or currently impossible to deliver aid using traditional means, like Aleppo in Syria.”

The Pouncer will be made of a plywood frame and pre-formed plastic shell that is waterproof and highly aerodynamic, while vacuum-packed food, water and medical supplies would be integrated as partial components within the wings and body.

“If you imagine going into a supermarket and going up to the salad bar, you grab a pre-formed clear plastic tub with a lid and fill it with your choice of food,” says Dobson. “The initial shell of the Pouncer, which includes the fuselage and part of the wing section will initially be formed in a very similar way and can then be loaded with food, water or medical aid. The food selected will be appropriate food for that particular location so it is recognizable, safe and gives maximum nutrition.”

Solo electric vehicle motors past Elio on way to market

For years, we’ve been hearing Elio Motors’ plans and seeing its prototypes, to the point that it’s only natural to wonder if it’ll ever actually make a viable, market-ready vehicle. On the other hand, the similar Electra Meccanica Solo three-wheeler only hit our radar back in June of this year, but it’s already set to beat Elio to market. Canada’s Electra made things official last week, introducing the model and announcing 2017 deliveries.

When we looked at it a few months ago, the Solo was really just some renderings and a few specs on paper, making us wonder if it was yet another oddball vehicle project that would fall by the wayside, never to be heard from again. But things got more serious over the weekend when Electra Meccanica rolled out the Solo at the Luxury and Supercar event in Vancouver.

The Solo’s basic description and primary specs haven’t changed much since June – it’s still a single-seat, 992-lb (450-kg) three-wheeler with an 82-hp (61-kW) electric motor driving its rear wheel. Range remains at roughly 100 miles (161 km), which continues to look paltry next to the new guard of 200+ mile (322+ km) cars like the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt. When you take the Solo’s super low weight, compact, single-seat design and 0.24 drag coefficient into account, you’d expect it to be leading the pack, not falling quietly into the middle of it. But the Solo does slot in at less than half the price of those other two, so we reckon concessions are going to come somewhere.

The Solo will never be a road-trip vehicle, anyway. Electra Meccanica is quite clear that it’s really designed as a single-focus commuter, a supplement to the family car that can tackle the driver’s basic everyday transportation needs in a very efficient way.

Beyond range, Electra Meccanica says the 16.1-kWh lithium ion battery and AC synchronous motor combine for speeds of up to 80 mph (129 km/h) and a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) sprint of under eight seconds. That battery charges in three hours at a 220 V charging station or about six with 110 V.

Take flight with BMW concept

One of the best things about Lego is the world of possibilities it opens. You can follow the instructions and build accurate cars and monuments, or you can let your imagination run wild and turn that average vehicle into something much more exciting. That’s exactly what the team at BMW has done with its R1200 GS Adventure motorbike, creating the Hover Ride from tiny bricks before handing it over to the production team to give it life.

The R1200 GS has only been available as a Lego kit since the start of January this year, but the creative team at BMW has already completely taken it apart and turned it into a much wilder machine. Whereas the R1200 kit faithfully recreates the real-world bike, right down to its complex suspension and horizontally-opposed engine, the Lego Technic Hover Ride uses the same 603 pieces to envision a future where off-roaders don’t need wheels.

Although it wears a BMW badge, the Hover Ride wasn’t penned through the usual design team in Munich. Instead, it was developed by Junior Company Munich, a unit where members of the company’s training program come together to work on smaller projects. Trainees from the second, third and fourth year of their courses used the pieces of a full-size, production R1200 GS Adventure to build a life-sized (but non-functional) model of the Lego Hover Bike.

Some of the parts from the bike have been repurposed for life in the air – the front wheel has been turned into a propellor, while the boxer engine remains in place. There’s no word on what’s actually powering the concept, nor any detail about what would make it float. Like the best Lego creations, we’re going to assume there’s a gleeful kid holding it in the air making vroom-vroom noises.

The full-size model of the Hover Ride Concept will be shown in Copenhagen from the 16th of February. From there it will make its way around Denmark, before touring the BMW Group Research and Innovation Center and other BMW sites in Munich. Those unable to see the model in person can also build it as part of the R1200 GS Adventure Lego kit.