CLOSE
Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images
Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

EasyJet Starts Work on a Cheaper, Cleaner Plane That Runs on Electricity

Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images
Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

To get a plane from Point A to Point B, airlines need jet fuel, and lots of it. But soon, there may be an alternative that would take fossil fuels out of the equation. As The Guardian reports, the British airline easyJet is working with a U.S. company called Wright Electric to make electric planes for short-distance flights a reality within the next decade.

The proposed battery from Wright Electric could power flights up to two hours long, making it fitting for quick trips between cities like London and Paris, or for domestic flights within the UK. According to easyJet, about 20 percent of their current flights fall within the 335-mile range this new technology aims to cover.

The benefits of electric planes would extend beyond decreasing fossil fuel consumption. The battery-powered aircraft would be half as loud as easyJet's current planes. The new planes would also be 10 percent less expensive to purchase and fly, a cost reduction that could end up bringing down ticket prices.

EasyJet isn’t the only company working to get electric planes off the ground. Earlier in 2017, Eviation Aircraft unveiled a prototype for their Alice Commuter plane, an all-electric jet designed for private air travel. But if easyJet’s new planes are runway-ready within the planned timeline, they could be among the first electric planes for commercial flights. Wright Electric already has a two-seat prototype built, and their long-term goal is to make a battery strong enough to run a 120-passenger plane.

A fossil-fuel-free airplane would be a major development for the aviation industry, which currently produces hundreds of millions of tons of carbon emissions each year. And easyJet already provides a great example to companies looking to reduce their footprints: Between 2000 and 2016, the airline reduced its carbon emissions per passenger-kilometer by 31 percent.

[h/t The Guardian]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
REM-Fit
arrow
Live Smarter
Stop Your Snoring and Track Your Sleep With a Wi-Fi Smart Pillow
REM-Fit
REM-Fit

Everyone could use a better night's rest. The CDC says that only 66 percent of American adults get as much sleep as they should, so if you're spending plenty of time in bed but mostly tossing and turning (or trying to block out your partner's snores), it may be time to smarten up your sleep accessories. As TechCrunch reports, the ZEEQ Smart Pillow improves your sleeping schedule in a multitude of ways, whether you're looking to quiet your snores or need a soothing lullaby to rock you to sleep.

After a successful Kickstarter in 2016, the product is now on sale and ready to get you snoozing. If you're a snorer, the pillow has a microphone designed to listen to the sound of your snores and softly vibrate so that you shift positions to a quieter pose. Accelerometers in the pillow let the sleep tracker know how much you're moving around at night, allowing it to record your sleep stages. Then, you can hook the pillow up to your Amazon Echo or Google Home so that you can have your favorite smart assistant read out the pillow's analysis of your sleep quality and snoring levels the next morning.

The pillow is also equipped with eight different wireless speakers that turn it into an extra-personal musical experience. You can listen to soothing music while you fall asleep, either connecting the pillow to your Spotify or Apple Music account on your phone via Bluetooth or using the built-in relaxation programs. You can even use it to listen to podcasts without disturbing your partner. You can set a timer to turn the music off after a certain period so you don't wake up in the middle of the night still listening to Serial.

And when it's time to wake up, the pillow will analyze your movements to wake you during your lightest sleep stage, again keeping the noise of an alarm from disturbing your partner.

The downside? Suddenly your pillow is just another device with a battery that needs to charge. And forget about using it in a place without Wi-Fi.

The ZEEQ Smart Pillow currently costs $200.

[h/t TechCrunch]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Design
Forget Horns: Some Trains in Japan Bark Like Dogs to Scare Away Deer
iStock
iStock

In Japan, growing deer populations are causing friction on the railways. The number of deer hit by trains each year is increasing, so the Railway Technical Research Institute has come up with a novel idea for curbing the problem, according to the BBC. Researchers there are using the sound of barking dogs to scare deer away from danger zones when trains are approaching, preventing train damage, delays, and of course, deer carnage.

It’s not your standard horn. In pilot tests, Japanese researchers have attached speakers that blare out a combination of sounds designed specifically to ward off deer. First, the recording captures the animals’ attention by playing a snorting sound that deer use as an “alarm call” to warn others of danger. Then, the sound of howling dogs drives the deer away from the tracks so the train can pass.

Before this initiative, the problem of deer congregating on train tracks seemed intractable. Despite the best efforts of railways, the animals aren’t deterred by ropes, barriers, flashing lights, or even lion feces meant to repel them. Kintetsu Railway has had some success with ultrasonic waves along its Osaka line, but many rail companies are still struggling to deal with the issue. Deer flock to railroad tracks for the iron filings that pile up on the rails, using the iron as a dietary supplement. (They have also been known to lick chain link fences.)

The new deer-deterring soundtrack is particularly useful because it's relatively low-tech and would be cheap to implement. Unlike the ultrasonic plan, it doesn’t have to be set up in a particular place or require a lot of new equipment. Played through a speaker on the train, it goes wherever the train goes, and can be deployed whenever necessary. One speaker on each train could do the job for a whole railway line.

The researchers found that the recordings they designed could reduce the number of deer sightings near the train tracks by as much as 45 percent during winter nights, which typically see the highest collision rates. According to the BBC, the noises will only be used in unpopulated areas, reducing the possibility that people living near the train tracks will have to endure the sounds of dogs howling every night for the rest of their lives.

Deer aren't the only animals that Japanese railways have sought to protect against the dangers of railroad tracks. In 2015, the Suma Aqualife Park and the West Japan Railway Company teamed up to create tunnels that could serve as safer rail crossings for the turtles that kept getting hit by trains.

[h/t BBC]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios