March 17, 2017: Big Changes Coming

Happy St Patrick’s Day! I have nothing to write about that relates to anything Irish or alcoholic but some of it might be green. This week I want to talk about some major changes that seem to be heading our way and might have a big effect on the way we work, drive, build and live. One is electric vehicles and the other is 3D printing.

I’ve been reading lately that India now has a plan to change it’s ENTIRE car fleet to electric vehicles by 2030. According to this article from Green World Investor, which is based in India…

‘Last year the NDA government proposed a plan to transition to 100% electric vehicles by 2030. It is a huge target set by the Indian government. … The launch of electric vehicles in India will not only reduce the country’s dependence on oil imports but will also help in fighting the increasing level of air pollution in the Indian cities. This will in turn help India achieve its target of reducing the emission intensity of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030.’

It’s amazing to think that India might be contemplating such a revolutionary transition while our ‘Innovative’ Government is still talking about ‘Clean Coal’ and upgrading the Snowy Hydro Scheme. I’ve said for a long time that someone needs to come out with a really simple and affordable electric vehicle. Sure, a $150,000 Tesla would be nice, but most people just need a cheap and efficient way to get from A to B. We don’t need SUV’s with reversing cameras and satellite navigation systems, just something that works. Ideally a small electric vehicle covered with solar panels that can charge itself while it’s parked in the Aussie sun. So it seems to me that, if India is serious about their 100% EV goal, they will be pouring a lot of money and effort into developing really affordable and practical electric cars. This could well put them at the forefront of a huge global market and one day soon, we might all be driving one of these.

170317 Solar EV india

The SERVe (Solar Electric Road Vehicle) from Tata Solar Power and the Manipal Institute of Technology

Of course our ability to afford one might depend on whether or not we still have a job.

I’ve been in the building game for about thirty years and I’ve always been struck by the inefficiency of our western building systems. On the other hand, they do employ a LOT of people. As in many fields where technology and artificial intelligence are taking over and taking people’s jobs, there is a very real prospect that carpenters and bricklayers might soon be replaced by printers.

Here are a few recent articles from New Atlas that illustrate the point.

The Apis-Cor 3D-printed house

The Apis-Cor 3D-printed house

This first article describes a recent project in Russia where this little house was printed in place in 24 hours under a tent in brutally cold weather…‘The machine didn’t do all the work, though. The roof, insulation, windows, and other components were all added later by humans. The total cost for the project came in at just US$10,134, not including furniture or appliances.’

That’s an impressive price for an impressive little building. The two things I don’t like about it are 1) it’s likely to put builder’s like me out of work and 2) it was printed using cement. As you probably know, Portland cement is an environmental nightmare being responsible (by various estimates) for somewhere between 6 and 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. So that’s where the next technology comes in which is all about 3D printing with cellulose.

This next article describes recent work at MIT to develop a new method of using cellulose as the feedstock for 3D printing… ‘providing another renewable, biodegradable alternative to popular petroleum-based polymers like ABS currently being used. The researchers also believe printing with cellulose could be cheaper and stronger than other materials and even offer potential antimicrobial properties to boot.’

Imagine the little house shown above but printed with cellulose so that it is lighter, stronger, better insulated, cheaper and made from a renewable resource. It’s enough to scare the brickie’s smile right out of his pants.

170317 plumbers crack

As Nancy Reagan put it…’Just say no to Crack!’

Add to this the further development of a 3-D printing system that mimics the micro-structure of plants, bones, corals, shells and other natural materials that have very high strength-to-weight ratios as described in this final article….

3-D printed Bio-mimetic structures offer exceptional strength-to-weight

3-D printed Bio-mimetic structures offer exceptional strength-to-weight

And a picture starts to form of a future where extremely light, strong and affordable buildings can be printed on site in a very short time using renewable and highly insulative materials by machines that can work 24 hours a day.

It’s hard to see how our current building industry is going to survive…. maybe that’s not such a bad thing but who’s going to be able to pay for these wonderful buildings when all our jobs have been taken by robots?

Beats me!

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