Future Ecology Designed

Sustainable design theory manifested in products, infrastructure, and graphic representation. A utopian glimpse of a future New Zealand where environmental considerations are of tantamount importance, and society is designed to accommodate the native ecosystem.


This is EXACTLY what I was planning on exploring....

I postulated planting native trees in an inner-city site, and letting infrastructure then adapt to this new environment. I really do have to start believing in mass population conciousness now, this always happens to me.

Also interesting, the Digital Earth symposium coming up.

Otherwise, I have found some very good links at the IDSA site, as well as an indispensable PDF

The approach here is very much allied to how I see the introduction of our work, although the ecological context is obviously slightly different.

What this really made me realise is that we need to set up a framework of tangible results to show we are serious, and then really go out and talk to people about how this can be acheived- Parliament, DOC staff, Professors, local Iwi, corporate figures etc. This will mean together sorting out any Auckland rendevous' before I can be there over Easter, possibly organising some talks in Wellington as well. I think at this stage the context of the project is of primary importance, with a basic outline of our own intentions with regard to it- in effect, we need to develop a presentation outlining a self-set brief. I think this could be an initiative that would be eligible for community grants too, which is an interesting idea. The sooner we build up a network, the greater the resources we will have at our disposal.


Interesting work on ultra-capacitors, and electric/electric hybrids. This essential PDF file details how the system works.

A zinc-air battery, with high specific energy density, is used as the primary power source- perfect for cruising to a destination, lots of stored energy in a small space. A conventional battery with energy density being no issue, for example of Ni-Cad cells, is used for rapid power requirements, ie. stop/start traffic, and urban driving. This can be rapidly regenerated through braking, and topped up from the zinc-air battery if required. With this system, space is not lost entirely to Ni-Cads, as zinc-air batteries are much smaller for equivalent energy. The low energy density Ni-Cads can therefore be employed in lesser amounts, to fulfill only rapid power requirements that zinc-air cannot meet. This system gives performance comparable to the fossil fuel based system in the vehicle it replaces.

Where it gets interesting, is the idea of ultra-capacitors being perfectly attuned to the rapid energy demands, and zinc-air being perfect for the distance requirements- the two would be amazing as a hybrid system. I really want to put one in a Delorean. It is of course worth remembering that the recharging of zinc-air batteries is a complex process.

Note that there is a proposal for scooters in the PDF, very interesting as far as my own personal transport concepts are concerned.

Edit: I have been running this idea through my head since the above post. Economies of scale appear to support this application in large formats, especially public transport. For a very light commuter vehicle, the purchase costs would be prohibitive when dealing with both zinc-air and ultra-capacitors. A secondary factor is the idea that the very light vehicles with conventional batteries can recharge to replace the energy used in the commute as described below- this would not be possible with a zinc-air cartridge requiring seperate infrastructure.

One compromise would be an electric/electric domestic vehicle closer to a car, seating 5 people. The conventional battery could be big enough to practically last for an entire commute in to work, and thus be recharging over the day for the return, but not have an excess- the actual capacity would require some experimentation. To make up capacity and act as a high-density resevoir while commuting, a small zinc-air battery would be installed with the whole system working in series, the zinc-air batteries topping up energy in the conventional batteries, in concert with regenerative braking. For longer journeys, the system would operate in parallel with the zinc-air running the car directly for extended periods at a constant speed, the conventional batteries supplying rapid energy. Both batteries would be modular, so different combinations would be easily installed depending on the intended nature of the trip, and intended mode (series or parallel). The zinc-air cartridge would then be sent off for recharging when desired. Variables in this idea:

Series: Short trips, a lot of installed conventional battery space is taken up, but less luggage capacity is needed on commute anyway. Most energy can be recharged during parking period, so no complex external infrastructure is required daily. Because overall speeds are slow, external luggage panniers can be fitted without affecting energy consumption adversely.

Parallel: Long trips, less conventional batteries are installed so more luggage space available. Not parking for long periods so no chance to recharge these batteries anyway, apart from regenerative braking and topping up from zinc-air batteries- they are used only for rapid energy requirements. High specific energy storage in a number of zinc-air batteries for long range, but complex external refuelling facilities will be needed at some point in the journey.

2-3 person enclosed vehicles, dedicated commuters - conventional batteries.

4-6 person vehicles - conventional batteries or electric/electric hybrid or fuel cells.

Public transport - electric/electic hybrid or system distributed electricity.

Edit 2: A Norweigian start-up company, ReVolt, has established technology to directly recharge zinc-air cells. So far only small scale applications such as mobile phones are being commerically concentrated on, but could this technology change the above thinking? we need to formulate a system to contact some of these parties, Nilut.

A Free Ride?

Some more exploration of a dual-mode electric motor/generator. Shown is an updated sketch of an enclosed motorcycle- I quite like the styling possibilities presented by the format.

Further to the motorcycle itself, is where the dual use part comes in. An idea is to run drums on axles, covered with rubber, in small trenches in carparks. The axles would be fitted with a differential, which would in turn receive drive from a small wind-turbine, via a gearbox.

The whole point is that the vehicles are sitting for most of the day, all their components unused- commuters all travel within fairly specific windows of time.

In this situation, vehicles would position their drive wheels in such a way as to take torque from the rotating drums, the motors would be reversed and engaged as generators- this would save manufacturing and installing extra generators to charge the vehicles anyway. The electricity produced over the 8 hours or so that the vehicles are parked could either go towards re-charging their cells, the logical outcome, or fed back into the grid.

Because the installation of the car-park components is fairly simple, with no integral generator, the wind turbines themselves could be fairly simple. My initial idea was to have a conventional propellor blade, at a safe height, but this would require two differentials- and a lot of mechanical loss. Instead, a vertical axis turbine would be better suited- less complexity, and could be more efficiently constructed, inexpensively with very lightweight materials, ie. like a sail. Of course, each section of ground drums would have drive from only one turbine- they would always be turning at a different rate. Gearing would ensure that the resistance from the vehicles was not so great as to stall the aerodynamics- the full weight would not be supported by the drums either, just enough to maintain enough turning friction. A lot of detail must be worked through- safety, capacity for larger vehicles etc. but I think there could be some promise here.

Edit: A waterwheel would of course be the most efficient way to apply drive, as it would not require a differential. Could this be set up in downtown areas to take advantage of harbour currents? tide changes?

The phytoplankton of transport modes....

A very quick layout exploration of personal transport, that is, the modal means to convey oneself to a public transport node. Two-passenger personal transport vehicles could also be accepted into ultra-urban, traffic calmed areas, as they would be far closer in footprint to a motorcycle.

This example is basically an enclosed motorcycle, with automatic outrigger retractable wheels for low speed stability. The overall arrangment is far closer to optimum modal efficiency than a conventional car. If more modal time was spent in low-speed, traffic calmed areas, then a tilting 3-wheeler would be more effective in operation, the trade-off being higher complexity. I intend a number of 2 - 4 seat personal transport vehicle concepts and scenarios will be developed through the duration of my thesis.

Habitat Hotel

This is right down your alley, Nilut....
Interactive architecture responding to renewable energy collection- amazingly elegant.


We are definitely onto some similar ideas- Here are an initial few pages I scribbled up yesterday. Inherently self-stabilising systems, and the idea of total interrelation seem to be a common thread- I would really like to push the bio-mimicry within this, particularly where evolutionary adaptation is concerned. Darwin first postulated that evolution occured primarily as a reaction to environmental challenges, while some Neo-Darwinian thinkers suggested a further function, direct manipulation of the environment itself to benefit the organism in question. On a different level, a practical application would once again see human infrastructure adapt firstly to the environment- if the state of the biosphere deteriorates further then manipulation of nature will be proven as lessening our chances to survive as a species.


I came across this company, Resilience Alliance, by accident, but it deals with the approach I would like to take. Fundamentally, my thesis will deal with the inherent order and adaptive quality of the New Zealand endemic ecosystem, and translate it to an infrastructure and transit system for the urban environment. I intend to redefine the relationship between the biosphere and artifice, so that infrastructure adapts to the natural environment itself, as opposed to modifying the landscape to our own ends. As an example, it has always fascinated me that New Zealand's journey from Gondwana created an inland ecosystem which, in higher level flora and fauna, is almost entirely based on a variety of landscapes and vegetation (mainly temperate rainforest), and birdlife. Environmental adaptation in a most pure form. It is clear how easy it is to tip the balance, when presented with the arrival of introduced mammals: rats, cats, dogs, possums etc- Current urban infrastructure is a great big possum. But not as fluffy.

Diversity of endemic species must be maintained, and in fact re-established on the mainland. Evolution has provided each example of flora and fauna with functionality perfectly attuned to the environment around it- nothing is superfluous in this form of response [Edit, I do not intend to describe evolution as design per se....] to operational requirements. Therefore, species must be re-introduced where they have a positive symbiotic relationship with the biosphere. This symbiois will be the basis for my research, both enhanced in it's own right, and used as a basis for an urban system.

The challenge will be to keep the balance between utopia and reality.

phase[ ]space - concepting

As promissed, some thoughts (Albeit highly unfinished and fragmented) on general systems, related to a follow on to my past research on complexity theory. Using it more as a general thought approach than a mathematical, scientifically sound theorem.
The scans show some throught processes, that may or may not reveal what I'm getting at. I hope they are somewhat legible.
I will work this a little further and see If I can come up with a little more meat.

Untill then..

Oil free economys

A brave move by Sweden towards a new energy economy by setting itself a 15 year limit to switch to renewable sources. Although the main replacement looks to be bio-fuels (ethanol) from its massive forests, which leading on from your previous post is not looking like a cure.

However it is exiting to see bold initiatives like this. If they ever get realised remains to be seen. (A 1980 referendum to phase out nuclear power is still not finalised)

Other interesting activity:

"The decision to abandon oil puts Sweden at the top of the world green league table. Iceland hopes by 2050 to power all its cars and boats with hydrogen made from electricity drawn from renewable resources, and Brazil intends to power 80% of its transport fleet with ethanol derived mainly from sugar cane within five years."


An Interesting Comparison

Fuell cell vehicles have always intruiged me, in that they appear to be an environmentally credible way to continue using internal combustion engines into the long term. Despite the fundamentally anti-social nature of a Ferrari V-12, I would hate to never hear one again....

However, really looking at the benefits of still unattainable fuell cells when compared to already existing electric mediums is quite a revelation. What it comes down to is the fact that hydrogen must be split from water, using electricity, then after a rather technically difficult storage either recombined with oxygen through combustion, or within the cell itself, giving off electricity again: fuell cells are of course a direct analouge to an electric cell, dealing with a gas which is extremely hard to store without loss. Which is why an electric cell is inherently more efficient- the electricity can be sent straight to the cell, instead of being first used in hydrolysis. The mechanical process is massively reduced, and therefore net losses are as well.

For 79 Kwh from an electricity source, through the transimission lines (92% efficient) and charger (89% efficient), to the lithium ion battery (94% efficient) and hub-mounted brushless motors (89% efficient), we end up with 60Kwh at the wheels.

For 202 Kwh from an electricity source, with electolyisis (72% efficient) through a pipeline (86% efficient) providing a fuell cell (54% efficient) with hydrogen, the same motors (89% efficient) will again provide the same 60Kwh at the wheels.

This is not to mention the fact that the infrastructure is in place to support electric vehicles. Generation can be added to the grid, and the system I postulated recently would suit domestic use particularly well.

Of course, the petro-chemical empires will push for the establishment of a hydrogen economy, because privatised filling stations will earn you a large profit, and plugging cars in to the mains at home won't.

One can only hope that electric cells can be made slightly less environmentally reprehensible. Imagine the end of life waste if every car was powered by lithium ion batteries....

An article (followed by heated discussion) with regard to the efficiency of hydrogen fuell cells versus electric vehicles.

Technical data with compelling evidence. The flow chart is of particular interest.