On an early afternoon last month, the Eugen Maersk (the world's longest ocean freighter at 1,300 feet) has left
Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on the tail end of a journey from Shanghai.
But the giant freighter is cruising at 10 knots, well shy of her
26-knot top speed. At about half speed, fuel consumption drops to 100-150 tons of fuel
a day from 350 tons, saving as much as $5,000 an hour.
The German Preussen (picture above), the largest sailing ship ever built, was launched in
1902 and travelled mainly between Hamburg
(Germany) and Iquique (Chile). It was rammed by a large steam vessel
1910. A one way trip between Germany and Chile took the cargo vessel between 58 and 79
days. The best average speed over a one way trip was 13.7 knots. The lowest average speed was 10 knots.
Can you create a website like Low-tech Magazine and then hop on a plane to visit your family for Christmas? I don't think so. This year my girlfriend and I will travel from Barcelona to Brussels by train. An expensive business.
If we cut the average speed of all vehicles by half, fuel consumption would decrease by a whopping 75 percent.
Breaking speed records was an almost daily occurence throughout the 20th century. Cars, ships, planes and trains became faster and faster, year after year. Because the power needed to push an object through air increases with the cube of velocity, this race to ever higher speeds raises energy consumption exponentially.
Engineers treat velocity as a non-variable, while in fact it is the most powerful factor to save a really huge amount of energy - with just one stroke, at minimal cost, and without the need for new technology. Lower speeds combined with more energy efficient engines, better aerodynamics and lighter materials could make fuel savings even larger. Picture : Mando Maniac
These are all original, scanned leaflets of the legendary French hippie car "2CV" or "Deux Chevaux" (known as the "duck" or the "goat" in several European countries). In spite of all the high-tech that has been squeezed into cars since then, the 2CV from 1949 is still more energy efficient than the smallest model of the French car designer today. Why?
Flying has become cheaper than taking a train or driving a car. Yet, environmental concerns, dwindling fuel reserves and fast rising kerosene prices are threatening to turn airline travel into a privilege for the rich again. This should not mean the end of mass travel or tourism, however.
Before mass air travel took off in the 1960s, people crossed the globe in majestic passenger ships. Reintroducing ocean liners would be more than a nostalgic move: it could be a much more energy efficient (yet slower) way to travel.
If water, sewage, gas and oil can be transported through underground pipelines, why not consumer goods as well?
Some Western European countries are getting serious about transporting consumer goods through automated subterranean networks – introducing a fifth transport mode next to road, rail, air and water. This rare combination of low-tech sense and high-tech knowledge could lead to a further economic growth without destroying the environment and the quality of life. Super fast underground cargo transport is a favourite subject of futurologists. Yet, the key to the feasibility of the proposed systems is their very low but constant speed.
The Museum of RetroTechnology has an amazing collection of pictures and drawings of motorized monowheels. These one-wheeled vehicles (the driver was placed inside the wheel) evolved from pedal-powered monocycles at the end of the 19th century. They became sort of a wet dream for boffins during the first decennia of the 20th century.
Hand powered drilling tools and machines The drilling tools that appeared in the late 19th century were not only a vast improvement over earlier tools; they also have many advantages over their present-day successors, the power drills.
Firewood in the fuel tank Wood gas cars are a not-so-elegant but surprisingly efficient and ecological alternative to their petrol (gasoline) cousins, whilst their range is comparable to that of electric cars.
The Citroen 2CV: cleantech from the 1940s In spite of all the high-tech that has been squeezed into cars since then, the 2CV from 1949 is still more energy-efficient than the smallest model of the French car designer today.
The bright future of solar powered factories To power industrial processes like the making of chemicals, the smelting of metals or the production of microchips and solar panels, we need a renewable source of thermal energy.
Trolley canal boats For many centuries, canal boats were propelled by men, horses or mules on the towpath beside the water. Before diesel power took over, engineers developed several interesting methods powered by electricity: trolleyboats, floating funiculars and electric mules.