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To prevent rollover accidents, new cars sold in the United States since 2004 have been outfitted with tire-­pressure monitors that warn the driver when tires are going flat. But the battery-­powered ­initial version of the technology has proved expensive. A consortium of tire ­manufacturers hopes to cut the cost. It’s testing a sensor embedded in the tires that needs no battery and can radio pressure data from the tire to electronics inside the car. The secret is a cheap, coin-size device called a PZT bimorph that harvests energy from the tire’s motion via a miniature piezoelectric springboard. The tire makers are working with EoPlex Technologies, in Redwood City, Calif., which has tuned its three-­dimensional printing technology to construct the complex devices on the cheap. If the new power source passes its multiyear tests, carmakers may start to use wireless sensors to cut back on the ­kilometers of wiring in today’s cars. For more, see /feb08/bimorph.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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