Test driving "Spiros", which is made to work in normal city traffic. Photo: KTH.
We’re used to car races all being about being first and fastest. Today there’s a contest in Lausitz, Germany, where the goal is quite different. The main objective here is to come as far as possible on one tiny litre of petrol. The world record is 5000 kilometers and now the question is: Will someone be able to beat that?
Teams from all over the world participate, many of them made up by researchers and professors. Swedish KTH Royal Institute of Technology sends two teams entirely made up by students and the other day I spoke to Jonas Severin, who has built one of the vehicles, “Sleipner”, together with a group of fellow students.
Sleipner runs on petrol, but being much lighter and having a less powerful motor that turns itself off in downhill slopes where the car can roll down by itself, the energy use is very much below a “normal” car.
The speed isn’t exactly breathtaking, Jonas Severin explains, with an average around 30 km/hour. But if the aim is to get as far as possible on as little energy as possible, going there fast can’t be a high priority. Just can’t get both. And as you see on the photos, Sleipner isn’t really the kind of vehicle you imagine packing your family into.
The other Swedish car in the contest, called Spiros, is more like the cars we are used to and has to be able to work in city traffic and pass a normal vehicle test, having proper lights, working brakes etc.
But are these just fun experiments for students? Jonas Severin says that a developed form of Spiros could maybe be out on the market in 10 to 15 years, able to roll for 500 kilomtres on one litre, instead of a max around 40 kilometers/litre for today’s smartcars.
A while left, apparently. But today is the big test for the KTH teams. Will their vehicles make it in the competition?
- Obviously it isn’t easy for a team of students to beat teams of professors, but it’ll be exiting to see how Sleipner does, says Jonas Severin.
The student team behind "Sleipner" has made the vehicle themselves and are now going to a contest in Germany to test it. Jonas Severin on the right at the group picture. Photos: KTH.
The estate of Katrinetorp is one of the places that Natur- och kulturbussen points out.
As many other weather-obsessed Swedes I’m eagerly following the progress of spring. Light mornings and days of sunlight don’t only make me wake up insanely early in the morning, it also awakes my longing for making excursions. I’m longing for wild forests, peaceful canals, old parks surrounding castles, small secret cafés… well, I simply want to get out of the city.
In most places it’s perfectly possible to do this without a car, it just requires some research. Where exactly is that field filled with dancing cranes? And what bus stop would be the right one to get off at?
In the province of Skåne in the South of Sweden, there’s no need for that research. A few years ago they started a project called Natur- och kulturbussen (”the nature and culture bus”). The project’s web page (some information in English) lists interesting nature areas, places to visit and nature and/or culture related things to do, all within the reach of public transport, and with a link to the public transport planner, showing how to get there.
Dalby hage. Photo: Lotten Pålsson.
When I speak to Sofie Norrby, who is project leader for Natur- och kulturbussen, she tells me that the idea behind this project is to encourage people to get out more, and quotes various studies showing how well-being and performance increase when we spend time outside. She also tells me that the arranged activities, where people can visit a new place together with others, works as an easy way to discover places where many wouldn’t otherwise dare to go to. Having been showed once how to get there, where to find the toilets/food/best spots, its easy to come back, bring your friends and become their guide.
Comparison of a short distance in Lund.
Ever wondered what difference it makes if you go by bike or by car to work? Now the municipality of Lund in southern Sweden has launched a service which will provide its inhabitants with good arguments to think their transportation choices over. The travel comparer (only in Swedish, though) lets you point out departure and arrival addresses and then calculates how long it would take you to get there by walking, cycling, by car or by bus. Not only that, it also calculates the price of the trip, how much CO2 it will emit – alternatively how many calories it will burn, if you are using your own muscles as fuel.
Everyone can contribute
One nice thing about it is that it uses OpenStreetMap, which is like a global Wikipedia for maps. The idea is everyone who lives in the area and uses the roads can share their best routes. One of the developers of the service says in a press release that it took just a few hours after the launching of the site before someone had added a new route.
The bike won
In the example above, where I just chose to go from a random spot to the central station in Lund, you can see that the fastest alternative is actually to go by bike (The column at the top is time, after that distance, price/trip, price/year, CO2 emissions/trip, CO2 emissions/year, and calories.)
As someone has pointed out, the calculations do not take into account for example steep hills, which would make cycling a bit harder. But maybe the OpenStreetMap will have functions for that as well, in time.
Waiting for green light in Stockholm. Photo: Sara Jeswani
Today I read that that half of all car journeys in Sweden are no longer than five kilometers. A study in the city of Malmö in the south of Sweden shows that for distances this short, going by bike is actually faster than taking the car, if you include driving out of the garage and looking for a parking space. Adding the fact that almost half of all Swedes live less than 15 minutes away from where they work, it doesn’t really make sense that so many go by car.
Several Swedish cities are now running campaigns to encourage people to go by bike instead of taking the car. In Umeå in the north of the country, the campaign “What’s your most ridiculous car journey?” hands out cinnamon buns to everyone who cycles to work in the morning. Bicycles can be won by those who have the best examples of a ridiculous car journey.
Here some of the stories:
“Once we played football. I missed the goal and took my car to fetch the ball 50 meters away”
“That must be when one of my friends drove to a shop, although the car was parked further away in one direction than the shop was in the other direction.”
“I take my car to the gym 400 meters away and then I warm up at the exercise bike there. That’s a really ridiculous car journey”.
Go for a bike ride in Umeå: